Overprotective Parents Raise The Best Liars
I was a big huge liar as a kid. Now I suck remarkably at it, and I maintain that I lost the skill mostly due to the fact that I lost the motivation-the warm, gentle, smothering, straitjacket-like hug of parental overprotection.
It is my firm belief that the best way to raise a big fat liar like me is to make sure that you follow your kid around, long after they need you to spot them up on the monkey bars and make it clear that you are terrified for their life/don’t trust them to make any decisions for themselves. To ensure success, make sure that your kids realize early that if they mess up even a little, they’ll be in deep trouble.
I have to say that I did not do bad things; instead I helped other people do bad things by lying my ass of for them. See? There’s a difference.
Which is why, when my brothers wanted to sneak into a Marilyn Manson concert but didn’t have tickets, it was my job to distract the security guard by crying and telling him I had lost my mom somewhere in the mosh pit so that they could merge inconspicuously into a crowd of fishnet shirts and JNCOs.
And let’s not forget Operations Big Lie (1-11) where I set the stage for a night of smoking what might have been pot in an empty trailer not far from my mom’s house by weaving a complex tale about how we were all going to go bumper bowling before having a fancy dinner at Applebee’s.
Ultimately, I wasn’t a bad kid, just a seriously dishonest one. Nine times out of ten, I wasn’t even participating in this stuff, just babysitting the morons that were so that if something that was profoundly stupid turned into something profoundly dangerous, I could call in an anonymous tip and get help. Being honest didn’t work in my interest because the few times I did fess up to what we wanted to do–staying late at a friend’s house or going to a party–I was severely punished for it, even before I had a chance to do anything wrong. When it came right down to it, I would have always rather gotten hurt than in trouble.
I am a protective mother. My husband is even worse-he still shadows our daughter on the playground like he did when she was three. We both cringe a little when she wants to see how delicious a microwaved mayonnaise and orange juice beverage is or test the durability of her bike helmet.
But we both make an effort to restrain ourselves and not smother her now, because later, if she really mucks it up, I don’t want her thinking she can’t find someone and tell them. I know firsthand how “awesome idea” can turn into “dumb idea” before reaching its final form: “monumentally dangerous idiotic idea”. She knows the difference between right and wrong, and for the most part, she sticks solidly with “right”, but kids are experts at finding and testing that line, and my kid is no different.
For now, we’ve instituted a “tell on yourself, don’t get in trouble” policy. As in, if I find out that she cut her hair off to make a guinea pig snack on my own, I’m going to be a little upset. If I find out she did it even though she told me she didn’t, I’m going to be a lot upset. If she comes to me first, and tells me that the allure of knowing whether or not guinea pigs are stupid enough to mistake blonde hair for timothy hay was too great to resist, I’m going to let it slide.
This isn’t an easy thing to stick to, but I have to. Not only do I feel like she needs to be able to tell me about the dumb stuff she does without having to worry that I’ll be too angry to actually have a conversation, if I go back on it then all I’m doing is showing her that lying is okay as long as I’m the one doing it.
Obviously, I’ll have to alter this strategy as she gets older. A phone call to let me know that she’s getting plastered before obtaining that “I Heart Unprotected Sex” tattoo she’s had her eye on isn’t going to fly. But for now she just needs to know that nothing she does will make me love her less, and that I’m human, too. I can understand the irresistible pull of idiocy. I wouldn’t want anyone to expect perfection from me, so I won’t demand it either.