I am being scrupulously honest, or am I?

being scrupulously honest - on my mindI like to think of myself as scrupulously honest. I don’t lie to my kids. I’m proud of being an honest parent.

Well, to be scrupulously honest, I don’t lie to my kids on purpose very often. But I am guilty of telling them misleading truths.

Recently, I’ve begun asking myself if I’m really as truthful and honest as I like to think I am. Is there a difference between actual lying and deceiving people by choosing phrases that are easily misinterpreted? If my intent is to deceive, can I really say that I’’m an honest mom just because the words are technically true?

My inner editor rarely lets me tell an outright lie. I don’t tell my kids that Santa will repossess their toys if they are naughty. I refrain from telling them that eating green vegetables will grow hair on their chest. I would never tell them that an animal was “sleeping” in an effort to shelter them. In general, I believe that lies are wrong and that I should be truthful, even when it isn’t convenient to do so.  And yet at times I know I’m not telling the truth when I talk to my kids.

“I don’t see it right now” means “it’s in my purse, but you can’t have it.”
“There is no more candy for you” means “there’s one piece left, but I plan on eating it later when you aren’t looking.”
“I don’t have a dollar bill for the change machine” means “don’t ask about the five, or the quarters I know are in my purse.”
“I can’t see your shoes, you need to find them” means “I know where you put them, but am closing my eyes and making you learn responsibility.”
“There is no more for you today” means “I’m saving the last cupcakes for your lunch tomorrow.”

Even when the boys were little, I had similar conversations with my husband.

“I don’t think I heard the baby crying” meant “I’m not taking the pillow off my head.”
“I don’t smell anything stinky” meant “I’m not admitting that diaper stinks, you change it.”

My inner editor will not tolerate outright lies.  It balks at my attempts to tell big honking lies.  And yet, I have this little loophole. Somehow, I can slip the deliberately misleading statements past my inner editor. Sometimes, I think she is cheering me on.

“Ooooh, good one. It’s still technically true, while somehow failing to be honest in any essential way.”

Why do I feel a need to use these phrases? I think it’s an easy way out when I’m weary and not ready for confrontation or disobedience. There are times when I am more than happy to communicate more directly with my kids, even when I know that my words will bring unhappiness, sassiness, and tears. My twisty phrases seem to roll out most often when I am tired and worn down from a day of sass.

Perhaps some part of me is playing a twisted game of logic where getting away with these factually true (yet essentially dishonest) statements earns me points. I have no idea who I think I might be competing against, or what the prize for winning might be.

Perhaps the worst of these statements is the one I tell myself.

“I don’t tell lies” means “I’m free to make statements that are technically true even when I know they will be misinterpreted.”

I know lying is wrong. I’d like to think I’m not lying. But if I’m totally honest, I suspect that I am. Yuck.

Part of what has me re-thinking this whole truth game is that my oldest son is now capable of detecting my deception. He hasn’t confronted me yet, but I suspect he knows my game. It’s only a matter of time until he starts trying out his own “truths” with his friends (and me). When that time comes, I want to be able to call a lie a lie, and to discipline him accordingly. Yet right now, I can’t. I have no moral ground upon which to stand. Double yuck.

It’s your turn to sound off. Is there anything wrong with these kind of statements? Is there a favorite “truth” you rely on with your children? Do your children tell similar “truths” to you?

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Susan Baker
I have a passion for encouraging weary worn out mothers to find joy in everyday motherhood and peace in unlikely places. I have two elementary school boys, one nerdy husband, and two cats. I have a strange fascination for bad puns, the color pink, socks, and books. I worry about running out of toilet paper, wine, and chocolate.. I serve an amazing God. I live an ordinary life filled with wonder.
Susan Baker
Susan Baker

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  1. I tell those kinds of untruths all the time to my toddler…
    “Let’s go see what your monkey friend is up to” means “Let me trick you into thinking this nap was your idea”
    “Oops! How did that drain come open” means “I opened the drain on purpose in an attempt to get you to voluntarily leave the bath tub”

    The worst kind I tell though are to my husband…
    “It’s fine” means “I’m super annoyed, but I don’t want to talk about how your parents barged in unannounced, AGAIN, especially because they are in the other room right now.”
    “Whichever you want” means “I want to go to the place that serves killer fish and chips and not the salad bar, but I would rather it be your idea so I can blame my diet cheats on you”

    Note to self: Be more honest!

  2. i’m a southern girl… i was raised with “bless her heart” which pretty much means “she’s so stupid.” i do think men should universally understand that “it’s fine” means “it is NOT fine, and you should know why.” unless i mean it’s really fine and i don’t care… 🙂

  3. comeoverforcoffee says:

    Wow. You have really got me thinking! That’s a good thing – unless I discover something that will need to be changed. In which case I’m going to be very upset with you making look at myself honestly. 🙂

    My most often used line is “Go to sleep, and I’ll be in to check on you in a few minutes if you’re quiet.” That means “While you lay here and wait for me, you will unintentionally fall asleep. I’m going to wait until you do to come check on you.”

    I’m going to have to pay more attention. I do want to be honest with hubby and kids. Now I’m going to have to listen to myself talk to see how well I’m doing.

  4. oh wow… i’d forgotten about that one. i have definitely said “i’ll come check on you in five minutes” when i know full well i meant “i’ll check on you when you have accidentally fallen asleep waiting on me.” guilty!

    sorry if this messes with your mommy mojo.

    after mulling it over, i really think i use this as a way to avoid confrontation with my kids (when i know they are going to challenge my authority directly). i’m not sure i’ve done myself any long-term favors because what i really want is for them to respect NO without challenging me.

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