April 22, 2014

When Is It Healthy to Lie to Our Children?

nissa and james easter

My kids with the Easter Bunny.

My daughter Nissa is seven years old.

I was the same age I was when I realized the Easter Bunny wasn’t real.

There wasn’t some grand ‘gotcha’ moment where I caught my parents putting eggs out in the yard—I just realized it one day. As soon as it occurred to me, the truth of reality was undeniable,  not unlike finally realizing the solution to a zen koan or riddle.

And soon thereafter I realized that Santa and the Tooth Fairy were equally imaginary.

In my house we found the exact same plastic eggs every year. I don’t know how I didn’t figure it out sooner. I also wonder how my brother, who is eight years older than me didn’t reveal the truth, either accidentally or intentionally.

Now my daughter Nissa seems to be getting suspicious. Her little brother is only four. He probably won’t start to wonder for a while.

So, I have to ask, is this a good thing? Should we be telling our kids about these stories?

I don’t know the answer. I’m doing it because I don’t want my daughter to be the weird kid in her class who doesn’t believe in the Easter Bunny.

People say, “We want the kids to have a sense of wonder, to see the world as amazing.”

Kids have a natural sense of wonder. It’s there already. And the world is amazing…if you just pay attention.

I know  that telling the truth is good, of course. I wonder if it can make our kids suspicious of everything we say.

I teach my kids to be skeptical of authority figures, of course I didn’t mean me.

I knew a kid in school who stopped believing in God when he stopped believing in the Easter Bunny. He reasoned that anything his parents told him about without evidence was probably a lie. I didn’t stop believing in God, but I did start to suspect that my parents didn’t know any more about God than I did.

I am still telling my kids that there’s an Easter Bunny. For as long as I can keep it up, I will. I think there are many things wrong about society that we should be rebelling against, but I also believe in picking our battles wisely. This weird tradition is mostly harmless.

But I’m curious about if we, as a society, should keep doing this.

How different is it from saying, “If you don’t listen, Goblins will come kidnap you.”?


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Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: courtesy of the author

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