Friday, February 15, 2008

The Lies We Tell

I don’t know if anyone is following the Roger Clemens baseball trial, but in my opinion this is all sounding and feeling rather familiar. I’ll be honest and say upfront that before the Senate hearings, newspaper articles, and my husband’s explanations, I knew as much about Roger Clemens and his baseball legend-ness as my husband knows about Martha Stewart’s latest Good Thing. But after being informed and learning the basic in’s and out’s of the Mitchell Report and Baseball’s doping problem, I have to say, again, this is all sounding familiar. Anybody remember:
“I did not, at any time, have sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky.”

Over and over the phrase was repeated emphatically, hand gestures and fists and all.
And then there was the dress. That silly little thing that didn't get washed. Then the story changed. Suddenly, the man who ran our country wasn’t sure what fell under the “sexual relations” category. It’s an easy misunderstanding. Most 7th and 8th graders think oral sex isn’t really sex too.

This current issue is no different. Clemens emphatically denies ever using HGH. Even when his wife used. Even when his best friend not only used, but testified that Clemens admitted using. Even when the trainer says he injected Clemens. (Yes, the trainer is slimy. Yes, yes, yes.) And a dirty dress resurfaces in the form of used needles and gauze pads. So who to believe?

It’s no secret that people lie the most when they have the most to lose. Which I why I personally believe McNamee. He’s already a known liar. His reputation is already shot. He is already out of any decent job for the rest of his life. He has nothing more to lose by lying about Clemens. While Roger Clemens could still lose everything.

It’s not that I really care about losing a potential baseball icon. I really don’t. The bigger question is; When is it okay to lie, and when isn’t it? Is a lie considered only a direct and purposeful fabrication of the truth? Is a lie only a falsehood told with evil purpose? Is omitting details and leaving out parts of a story also considered lying? Is telling your grandmother that you love the brass statue of a sperm whale that she gave you for your birthday, the same as lying to your boss about why you were late to work? Or lying to your spouse about why your clothes smell like smoke? Or how much you paid for those new pants?

I fully admit that I lie to my children. There are times when the true answers to their questions are not something I want to go into. Or they are ready to hear. Questions like:
“Why can’t I use the public bathrooms by myself?”
“Why don’t we ever play with XXXX anymore? Can we call him?”
“How do you know you are never going to have another baby again?”
“You said you had to be married to have a baby, but a kid in my class, his sister is 17 and pregnant. How come?”
or, after mistakenly leaving on the news during the Bhutto assassination…)
“Why did that lady get shot in the head?”
or after seeing a trailer for a scary movie, “What if a robber breaks into our house?”

My obvious intention is not to mislead my children, but to save them (and me) from an explanation they are not capable of understanding on a deeper level.
Then of course there are the little lies I tell my children.
Kid: “Did you look at all the pictures I drew like you said you would?” (Yes, of course.)
Kid “Mom, were you listening to me sing my song?” (For the 100th time, yes.)
Kid: “Do you like the breakfast I made for you?” (The best I’ve ever eaten.)
And of course, Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny.

Yes, the kids still believe in these people. I have gone to great lengths (this year especially) to uphold the great lie of Santa and the Tooth Fairy. Especially good are the lies I tell about why the damned Tooth Fairy forgot to leave a dollar under the pillow. And of course you all know about how Santa fubar’d the pool table. Why do I go to such lengths to uphold these lies, when very soon my children will know the truth? Because honestly, there is something beautiful about believing that anything can happen. That all things are possible. That the Tooth Fairy doesn’t enter through a door, she “poofs in.” Because believing that there is a person out there whose entire purpose and job is to bring presents to girls and boys, in my mind offsets the knowledge that the local priest, coach, stranger in the bathroom and your best friend’s parent, could hurt you. So I lie.

I tell my children never to lie, that lying is wrong, and yet I lie to them. Does that make me a hypocrite? A female version of Roger Clemens? Are we wrapped in the same yarns deluding ourselves into thinking we are doing the right thing? As my kids grow up and their innocence is chipped at bit by bit, I will be able to divulge more truths to them. And it’s my hope and prayer that when they are older and facing the same shades of grey, they will know the difference between the lies you tell and the lies you never should.

Weigh in! Take the poll on the right. When is it okay to lie?


brandie said...

Do lies of omission count?

Rachel said...

my point exactly. Is leaving out information the same as blatantly changing or denying info? I think it depends upon the info being omitted,who it's being kept from, and why.

Anonymous said...

EVERYONE lies at some point, there is a difference, I think, between omitting information your kids can't handle (ie people could hurt you) versus lying to your children because it is easier than dealing with the tantrum when they are told NO.
My kids have never asked outright about Santa or the Tooth Fairy ...hmm...don't know what I'll say but I agree that it is magical. I want them all to have that sort of innocence for as long as possible...
Great Blog Rachel...

Liz said...

I think that if the lie makes you feel bad, it's bad. But, if you are attempting to protect someone it's ok. I lie to my students all the time because I know that the truth would cause a dozen parent phone calls.