Parents, quick! Shield your young kids’ eyes! I’m about to reveal a guilty secret before you’re ready for them to learn it. And I’m not talking about Social Security.
Let’s try this: Hey, kids – grammar lessons ahead! Boo!
Okay, are they gone now? Just in case, I’ll write in “big word” code….
The aforementioned secret involves a parental cover-up. Many of us are part of the conspiracy, regularly lying to our young about a mythical triumvirate of nocturnal callers who reward good behavior and proper dental care.
The most well-known member is a portly fellow who travels via airborne caribou, dresses like an N.C State Wolfpack fan, and enters your home like a flue cleaner to leave playthings inside tacky footwear. Let’s call him Scanty Cause.
The second member, Cheater Rottentale (aka The FleecedYour Money), is a rodentlike mammal – specifically of family Leporidae, but let’s not split hares. He delivers confections in a fake grass-lined container made of interwoven veneer. Little is explained about him, making the lies even more outrageous. For example, how does he carry all that with such little appendages – is he a real Leporid, or is he human-sized? And how does enter the house? (Coincidentally, I wonder the same things about the squirrels in my attic.)
The third member is the most bizarre – the Truth Scary. She brings neither amusements nor delectables – just cold, hard cash. In exchange for fallen dental ware.
Parents, these are unconscionable lies. Needless, too – we could refuse to perpetuate the fantasy, but we pay it forward in a desperate attempt to reclaim our own lost joy. Even that makes little sense – the joy will only crash down on us again the second time around, bringing worse pain when our own kids learn the truth.
This almost happened to me last spring with my kindergartener. (Although his cynical tendencies actually started last winter, on a Florida vacation – he questioned whether Sicky Souse is real or “just a grown-up.”)
Five is way too young to find out your parents are blatant liars. Still, it shouldn’t surprise me – he’s already smarter than I am, and surprisingly worldly. He’s been boning up on his geography, which was my paternal grandparents’ downfall when it came to the first member of the trinity of lies – my father debunked the Scanty Cause myth with a globe, calculating the impossibly large scale of Scanty’s overnight task. At age seven. (Whereas I found out via conspicuous K-Mart tags on alleged “workshop” creations – I still suspect my parents left them there intentionally, to help me learn the truth before getting beaten up at my high school.)
Anyway, geography could be my downfall, too. The night before Easter, my son extemporaneously recited the U.S.A.’s 50 states and Canada’s, er, multiple provinces. Including Nunavut – although that’s technically a territory, he assured me. (I took his word for it.)
Such intellectual capacity is bound to produce skepticism, so it shouldn’t have surprised me Easter morning when my little Alex Trebek asked, “Daddy? Is the FleecedYour Money real?” My heart crumbled like a hollow milk chocolate bunny, but I played nonchalant and said, “I guess.” He accepted this with a vigorous “Kay!” and ran off in search of the goods. Whew! Lie saved, the Leporid received a stay of execution….
Several days later he came home from school, excited to show me his first loose tooth – perhaps a result of the aforementioned confections. He wiggled it with his tongue, then hit me with another doubt – “Daddy, is the Truth Scary real?”
I tried a different tack this time – more advanced deception. “I don’t know a thing about her, so maybe you should try a little experiment – when your tooth comes out, leave it under your pillow and see what happens. If she leaves you money, she must be real!”
“Kay!” was again the cynicism-free reply. I was congratulating myself for having bought his faith until he added, “Maybe I’ll get $10 for my tooth!”
I started to refute this, then realized he’d outsmarted me – I’d already copped to knowing nothing about her; I couldn’t now claim to know her going rate. (Which ought to be government-regulated anyway, to keep rich parents from setting the bar too high.)
So I’m stuck with the first of many overinflated dental bills, but it’s worth every penny, as it will keep the lie – and the joy – alive a little longer.
I’d give anything for that – heck, I’d even walk to Nunavut and back. Wherever it is….