Let’s face it: part of parenting is lying. It’s a small part, but it’s definitely a portion of the job.
When they aren’t ready to know about penises and where they are inserted, we tell them a stork brings babies to mommies. When they aren’t ready to deal with the trauma of death, we tell them their bunny went to live on a farm forever. And then sometimes, we just make whole people up. Santa Claus? We’ve created an entire alibi for the guy. We’ve made the plot of the Tooth Fairy so thick, kids are fine with her sneaking into their bedrooms at night and stealing a piece of their mouth.
Little, harmless lies here and there that end up hurting us more in the end. No parent likes explaining that Santa Claus was completely made up and that all their presents came from Target. It’s not easy seeing a child cry when they learn Grandpa didn’t join Bunny Foo Foo at the farm.
However, the biggest lie we tell our children, the hardest one there is to tell, and the one that breaks our heart when it becomes untrue is:
I’m not going to let anything hurt you.
Why shouldn’t they believe us? Parents are the ones there to protect them. If we don’t keep them from ever being hurt, who will?
The truth, and boy does the truth suck sometimes, is that we can’t keep them from getting hurt no matter how hard we try.
O and I had the worst week of both of our lives a few weeks ago. The last thing I want to do is relive it, so here is the short version:
O had an abscess on her butt that was diagnosed a staph infection. However, after ten days of antibiotics and no results, we took her back to the doctor. That night, they learned it was a MRSA infection the size of a clementine under the skin. She had to get it removed, and then packed, and then unpacked, and then packed again…all week long. She had never experienced pain like this, and I knew I couldn’t stop it. I knew I had to take her to the doctor again each day, and while she screamed and cried and lost her breath, everything in me wanted to tell her:
“I am not going to let anything hurt you.”
I had said it so many times before. In fact, I typically meant it. I’d make sure bath time didn’t make her skinned knee sting, or assure her that I could remove the splinter without any pain. Sometimes, it was a lie. A little white lie to get her to let me remove her Bandaid or get her vaccines. Sure, she’d realize there was pain, and that I had lied, but her mouth would be so full of MnMs, she couldn’t yell at me.
But I knew that this time no amount of candy in the world would let her forget the kind of pain she was in that week. So, I chose to tell her the truth instead of make her feel better.
“This is going to hurt,” I told her. “But it will all be over soon.”
Dang it! Another lie! Whatever, “soon” is a relative term. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: it was so much easier when they lived in our stomach. No one could touch them without going through us. Only we had the say in what would hurt them (usually, spicy foods and well, labor.) If only we could wrap them in our gooey insides for the rest of their lives.
For the next two weeks, I have to dress her wound everyday. In order for the gauze and bandage to fit perfectly on the wound, she must stay completely still during the process. This is not an easy task when the patient is traumatized about anyone going near her butt. So, what do I do?
What any good Mom does. I lie.
“I’m your Mom,” I say. “I’m not going to let anything hurt you.”
And when it’s all over, I give her chocolate.
She’s only two and a half, after all. I figure she’ll forgive me when I tell her there is an old man that spies on her throughout the year, comes down our chimney, eats our food and leaves toys under a dead tree.