Monday, July 21, 2008

Mendacity

This is one of my favorite words in the English lexicon. Lexicon is another favorite word. I have no idea what the official definition is for mendacity, but it'll forever be defined for me by "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof".

If you haven't seen this movie, do yourself a favor and watch it. It has Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman in their prime and is inexplicably enjoyable.

Mendacity. Something about lying and the hypocrisy that often accompanies it. It is a subject we're currently dealing with at the Jackson house.

Our eldest has been caught lying. Not just fibbing a little, but an active attempt at deception. He hid some food he didn't want to eat behind a dresser. When he was discovered, he attempted to lie his way out of it by telling more lies. Crazy, drunken crack addict type lies. People broke in and placed it there, no it was put there by aliens or it has actually been there for over 100 years. Amazing.

Now before everyone cringes, we're not going to be too hard on him. Corinne and I understand that being caught in a lie is part of growing up. Coincidentally, so is being grounded. We haven't figured out yet how to handle this, but I guarantee you it will be a measured and rational reaction.

Back to the lies. I have a personally issue with lying. I used to do it a lot. When I was in the first through third grade, I started lying about homework and just about anything I could think of that would make my life easier. However, it never helped, just made things worse. The lies would stack on top of the lies until I felt so much guilt, fear and pressure that I thought a giant rock was crushing me into the bottom of the ocean. It was horrible.

I vaguely remember one night staying up after not doing homework for weeks trying to cope with everything and completely breaking down. There was no more room to lie and I was trapped. I started crying to my dad trying to explain everything and the sense of hopelessness I felt because I was so far behind. He was patient and let me stay up all night to work on as much as I could. I remember sleeping with an incredible sense of relief offset by small twinges of guilt. Never again, I told myself. I will never again be a prisoner to guilt.

I still lie. My lies are different then before, they're much more acceptable, but I can't say that I don't lie, that would be an unacceptable lie. I tell my kids about the tooth fairy, I tell them that I'll always be around. There are certain truths kids just shouldn't be told.

So how does one teach a soon-to-be 6 year old the difference between good lies and bad? How do you teach them that their life will be much happier if they don't lie; if they live up to the consequences of their actions and put out the small fires before they become raging infernos, they won't cry themselves to sleep one night because of something completely preventable and inconsequential?

Parenthood is complicated sometimes.

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