As parents, we become masters of rationalization. Maybe I don’t tell her. Maybe I tell a little white lie but save her the angst and sleepless nights and let her enjoy the anticipation of her special day. Maybe I wait until the day before and then I spring it on her as if it has just been sprung onto me. That’s really the kinder thing to do … except that it’s dishonest. And it doesn't really matter because any second she’s going to ask. Parenting is full of reasons that justify decisions—especially bad decisions that have a bigger long-term impact than we realize in the heat of the moment.
So I am going to practice what I preach, which is easier said than done (just ask your own pediatrician sometime). I am putting sympathetic mom on hold and fully engaging in teachable-moment mom. I am doing it for the same reason that I believe kids should actually win and lose soccer games at age 6 and for the same reason that I think they shouldn’t get trophies just for showing up. I am doing it because over-parenting is easier (but usually not better) than under-parenting in the same way that saying “yes” is easier (but usually not better) than saying “no.” When we hover like helicopters and concede to our kids, we don’t have to explain anything; when we give them a taste of real life or set limits, there is more work involved for everyone—but there are also better life lessons.
Of course she asked, in precisely the sparkly manner I had fully expected. "Mom, I have been thinking about my birthday," she started, and from there followed a plan of activities for just the two of us, capped off with dinner at her favorite local restaurant and, yes, even the boys could come. When I told her about the trip, she burst into tears, and we have had several long sessions in the bathroom since. I have shed a few tears, too. But when I left the house the morning before her birthday, she was my last hug out the door, and she whispered, "I am OK, mom. And you go get 'em."
Lying is the easy way out. For you, and for your kids, too. Don’t forget that. It doesn't allow them to rally or to grow. Whether they are asking if you are going to be around for a birthday, or if you always wanted to go to school, or if you did stupid stuff when you are a teenager … the question doesn’t matter. But the answer sure does.
JOIN THE DISCUSSION: When Have You Lied to Your Kids?