A reader writes:
While I truly despise the parents who followed Kimmel’s Halloween candy prank, I have to disagree with Sam Harris, who only lied to his kid once. I’m sorry, but I really did enjoy maintaining the fantasy of Santa Claus for my child. It was not only a lot of fun, but it provided great motivation when her behavior threatened to go to the dark side. Heck, I expanded the concept to include “Kenny the Birthday Kangaroo” who shared files with Santa. My best friend claimed to have Santa’s cell phone number on speed dial to report any last minute misbehavior. The Tooth Fairy paid ransom for teeth in both of our homes.
Those are all lies, and our children trust us. But it’s not the act of lying; it’s the intent behind the lie that determines if our children trust us. Our children know we would not harm them or cause them unnecessary pain (unlike the children who were tortured about candy so their parents could get a few minutes of fame). That’s what trust is about.
My wife once told our oldest son a good one.
When he was around 3, we went to Kauai for vacation and he discovered Fruit Loops at the hotel’s breakfast buffet. He fell in love and would make a beeline for them every morning. His mom and I weren’t happy about all of that sugar, but let it go as we were only there a week & hoped he would forget about it as soon as he stopped getting his breakfast at a buffet. Wrong. The first morning back home in Seattle, he started getting a little belligerent about wanting Fruit Loops. After a few minutes of firm no’s and trying to reason with him, he was still insisting. So she told him that unfortunately they were a regional food available only in Hawaii. He thought about it for a few seconds and that was it. He calmed down and ate his normal breakfast without further complaint. I thought it was genius.
I hated being patronized as a kid and always try to “keep it real” with kids. Judaism is my favorite Abrahamic religion because, in addition to revering scholarship and devoting a holiday to all-night Talmudic study, they avoid the Christian tendency to turn religious holidays into occasions for inventing impossible narratives (a flying fat man and a giant bunny delivering toys and candy respectively) and misleading children into believing them.