I'd like to preemptively apologize to parents, because I'm about to give away some of our most tight-lipped secrets. I'd also like to apologize to people who aren't parents yet, because a lot of what I'm about to say can come across like I'm giving the finger to your future parenting plans. Trust me, I'm not doing that. I'm giving those plans both fingers, and following it up by slapping them with my big ol' flaccid hog.
See, the thing they don't tell you in all those parenting advice books is that the most powerful weapon in a mom or dad's arsenal is bold-faced lying. We don't do it because we're cruel, sadistic assholes. We do it because it works. Tell yourself, "I'm going to be an open and honest parent" all you want -- you will eventually find yourself bullshitting your own children with statements like ...
#5. "You Can Be Anything If You Just Set Your Mind To It!"
Your first-grader comes home from school and tells you that she had an awesome day, beating up the weaker children and learning about jobs. She learned how adults work in order to pay the bills, and how every kid should have a dream job in mind before age seven. You congratulate her on the beatings and ask, "So what do you want to be when you grow up?" She responds, "Either an astronaut or a professional child puncher."
You know from your many years of astronaut research that you have about a 0.6 percent chance of getting in, but you still find yourself smiling and telling your child, "You can do anything you want in life. You just have to set your mind to it and believe in yourself." All the while, you know damn well that your little psychopath is more likely to serve time in a prison than on a space station.
"I even asked if he was a cop, and he said no. Isn't that illegal?"
If you were being honest, you'd explain that on top of believing in yourself, you also have to have at least a master's degree, which is going to cost tens of thousands of dollars, even at a shitty school. You're also going to have to exceed rigorous physical standards. Both of those points combined mean that you have to be one of the smartest, most physically fit people in existence. You need to be able to repair everything, from engines to computers, because if something breaks in space, you're the only one around to fix it. And on top of all of that, you will have to be a suitable public face in order to represent NASA.
So you lie. You lie your sweet little ass off without giving it a second thought.
Why You'll Say It Too:
This is going to sound obvious, but I think it needs to be said, because I have met so many people who have the pre-parent philosophy of "I will never lie to my children. I am going to be an open and honest parent, because that is the only way they are ever going to trust me." And that's horseshit. You don't have to be a manipulative con artist douchebag to raise good children, but there are absolutely times when lying is necessary, and this is one of them.
"No, seriously, you can be anything. I'm not giggling, I'm coughing."
No, your child is not going to become president of the United States, but supporting those goals teaches them that it's a good thing to aim high. Becky Kidbeater is probably not going to become an astronaut, but a lifetime of following that path gives her a much higher likelihood of landing a pretty damn good job along the way. As an adult, it's easy to look back and recognize that you aim for the moon so you can land on mountaintops. That's not really something you can teach; it's something you learn through experience.
Of course, you could always attempt to explain this to a child. You just have to be prepared to handle their look of dumbfuck bewilderment, because they can't grasp complex ideas like that yet. Or you could wait until they're teens and watch them either give up their dreams because of your honesty or roll their eyes with that universal expression that says, "You are impossibly stupid. Just because you never made anything of yourself doesn't mean you have to shit on my dreams!"
You will lie, because it will make them a better person. Doing anything else makes you a dream-crushing nutsack.
#4. "You're Great At That Thing You Just Did!"
Your toddler walks up to you, his little hands thrust outward, proudly presenting you with his latest masterpiece. "Look, Daddy! I drew a wolf!"
You look down at the paper, which is covered in waxy crayon scribbles. The outer edge of the drawing is a tangled mess of huge multicolored loops woven together like an explosion made out of yarn and intestines. The center is a nauseating shade of puke brown, where all of his different crayons converged into an abomination of color that you would most accurately describe as "filth." There's anger in that drawing. Desperation. Hate.
"What the shit is this," you ask in your totally honest parent voice. "This isn't a wolf. It's closer to demon shit. Is this what a wolf looks like in your head? Because if it is, we need to get you to a psychiatrist right away. You can't just smash crayons into a piece of paper and call it a 'wolf.' That makes you a liar and a fraud. I'm ashamed of you. In fact, this drawing singlehandedly made me hate the very idea of art. Go to your room and think about what you've done. I'm going to go burn down a museum."
"FUCK YOU, PAINTINGS!"
But somehow, somewhere between your brain and your speak hole, the words change into, "Oh, honey, that is a beautiful wolf! You are a great artist. I'm going to hang this on the refrigerator and show your mom when she gets home!"
Why You'll Say It Too:
Let's not dwell on the obvious here. Yes, you're going to tell them it looks awesome, because what kind of fucking psychopath doesn't? And yes, all parents support their kids' crappy attempts at a hobby because they want to build up their confidence. But there's another, way more selfish reason we do it ...
We want them doing stuff. Specifically, we want them doing stuff on their own, without having their head buried deep up our assholes. Every parent knows that spending time with our children is one of our highest priorities in life, but it doesn't take that long for us to realize that there are limits. We cannot be their sole source of entertainment, because we'd go insane. And they cannot depend on us to be their saviors from boredom, because they'd go insane.
"We are assimilated. We are joy."
So when we tell a kid, "You're really good at that thing! You should go do that thing again!" what we're actually saying is, "I really appreciate the 15 minutes of silence that resulted from you doing something on your own. If you do that again, I could say that I spent the length of an entire TV show without having to touch a toy or speak in a funny voice."
Trust me, when you've had a kid glued to your hip for six hours straight, you won't care if his arts and crafts time is spent constructing a fully functional meth lab. You'll praise his meth-making skills and keep him in a constant supply of lithium batteries.
#3. "This Fictional Holiday Character Is Totally Real!"
It's three weeks until Christmas. You open the bathroom door to find that your beautiful, creative little angel has taken a liking to the game of "Shit In The Bathtub And Pretend The Turds Are Submarines." She's good at it, too. From what you can gather, she's recreating several naval battles from World War II, and it appears that she may have even given herself a brown Hitler mustache.
After your terror scream has subsided, you try to figure out the best way to explain to a three-year-old how this seemingly fun game is actually a horrifying affront to humanity, and that it should never be attempted again, lest she forever burn in the deepest bowels of hell.
Oh wait, Santa Claus! You don't even have to make a huge speech. All you have to do is mention his name and suggest that shitting in the bathtub will cause him to skip your house, and that kid will write a fucking letter of apology for her actions. In calligraphy.
"Dear Santa: About that whole shitting thing ..."
Why You'll Say It Too:
Some of you may be rolling your eyes, thinking that telling kids about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy isn't even an issue ... but I assure you that it is. Parents have been debating for ages about the benefits or damage that can be caused by letting kids believe in fictional holiday characters. So far, though, I've yet to see an argument from either side that wasn't a load of melodramatic, theoretical poppycock (that's fancy talk for "horseshit"). One side screams about "robbing kids of holiday magic" while the other rants about "destroying the bond of trust between a child and parent."
I've never seen a real-life example of either of those things. What I felt when I found out those characters weren't real was a sense of graduating into a private adult club. We were allowed some sacred grown-up information that the younger kids weren't allowed to know, and it felt pretty damn good. My own kids reacted the same way. My daughter was still young enough to believe without looking like a freak in school, but the boys were old enough that they'd be mocked for it. So when they found out that those characters weren't real, they didn't have traumatic breakdowns and question our sacred bonds of trust. They were excited that I trusted them with that information -- that they would keep that secret to themselves until their sister was old enough to be passed that heirloom.
"I'm about to fuck up your entire worldview."
But while the kid believes, those characters are an awesome parenting tool. You can't explain to a toddler the health risks of handling human shit. All they can really comprehend is "YUCKY!" And when your kid won't pull their dangling tooth because they're afraid of a drop of blood or a slight sting that lasts a fraction of a second, the idea of a mystical woman putting money under their pillow is a pretty good motivator.
Even if you decide to not let them buy into those stories, the rest of the world will. TV shows, movies, songs, every kid in their school, every adult during the holidays. Fucking NORAD has put on a "Santa Tracker" every December for over 60 years. You will either give in and play along, or in your kid's eyes, you will be the nonbeliever whom all the movies portray as the bad guy. You might as well use it to your advantage when the kid decides to give the cat a whirlpool bath in the toilet.