I lie to my kids all the time. On the morning my son was born, I remember my girls standing in the hallway, wide eyed and stunned, as I alternately panted and wailed, desperately trying to hang on to my composure until the ambulance arrived. When they asked me what was wrong, I was tempted to tell them the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, down to the denouement that it was all their father’s fault. Instead, I told them that the Pistons had just gotten knocked out of the NBA playoffs.
Having to choose which lies to tell my children even factored into my conversion to Judaism. It is not easy having to come up with a convincing reason for an obese retiree to perform serial home invasions faster than the speed of light, especially with all the science shows young kids watch nowadays. At least Eliyahu Hanavi is invited into the house. Much better to avoid the situation completely, and focus on mythical beings that covet teeth like meth, and barter for them by leaving a sum just large enough to buy a handful of candy, which incidentally is likely to lead to the loss of more teeth. If the tooth fairy were real, I bet that eventually she’d have gone on to bigger stakes like running an underground poker game.
The first lie I remember being told by my parents was that bumblebees can only sting once. Technically, that statement was a corollary to the truism that a bee doesn’t want to hurt you, unless it feels threatened. I don’t count the second statement as a lie, although I do find it to be incredibly naïve. I mean, how does anyone know with certainty what a bee finds threatening? With my luck, I get the bee with the Napoleon complex who would be offended at being ignored, and who would go off like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas, except I wouldn’t understand what it was saying, because he would be talking like Jerry Seinfeld in Bee Movie, and I just can’t comprehend when bees sound all whiny like that. Basically when bugs from New York or New Jersey speak to me, I’m smiling and nodding and doing my tax return in my head.
Still, it was comforting to know that in this cruel world, if I were to have been attacked by the Hindenburg of the insect world, the pain would have had a definite limit. And while it didn’t exactly endear me to the great outdoors, it kept my panic in check. Until the day I rode my bike in front of a field of flowers and a bumblebee got stuck in my hair; a buzzing time bomb caught in my bountiful afro, my Angela Davis-esque mane. While I stood in the middle of the street trying to decide whether you can actually snatch yourself baldheaded, the little kamikaze managed to extricate himself, and I went to the house of a friend who lived nearby to recover. I expressed a sigh of relief relating my near death encounter, and noted that at least the end would have been quick, if not exactly painless. Which is when my friend pulled out an encyclopedia (yes, I am that old) and showed me that a bumblebee has the capability to sting, and I quote from the text, “again, and again, and again.” I never quite trusted my parents after that.
But I eventually did feel a drop of empathy for my parents when my daughter came home with her first bee sting. I have a huge phobia of stinging insects, and a bee triggers my flight response before my brain can even register how to pronounce “fight”. When I want to watch a scary movie, I pull out my copy of the National Geographic Natural Killers DVD entitled “A Sting in the Tale” which goes on at length about the dangers of the huge hornets (Vespis orientalis) which make my life a living hell between March and November. But all ideas of honesty left me when my daughter turned up her big brown watering eyes at me and said, “You would have saved me if you were there, right, Mommy?” I promised that of course I would have, although in truth, I would have been doing some serious weighing of actually how much danger she was facing. But being the mommy is a license to tell those kind of lies to your child, where kisses work better than morphine, not thinking about the pain makes it magically disappear, and where mommies always come to the rescue. Although I did have to fight the urge to be a little less chivalrous after I heard my older daughter whisper to the sobbing victim conspiratorially, “I told you it wasn’t dead yet!”