My seven-year-old daughter loves to sing. She makes up adorable little songs with lyrics that make no sense and choreographs some crazy dance moves to go along with them.
She asks me every time she’s finished her mini-showcase if I liked it; I always tell her it was great.
It’s not a total lie — it is great. It’s great that she’s creating something unique. It’s great that she’s expressing herself through art. It’s great that she’s confident enough to put herself out there so vulnerably.
But she’s not a great singer, nor is she a great dancer.
Every time she asks, though, I smile — and then I lie through my teeth.
But isn’t that wrong?
I don’t lie to her about important things. I don’t lie when a beloved pet dies. I don’t pretend that Great Grandma has more than a decade left with us. I don’t tell her that all families stay together or that children don’t die of hunger in some places or that there aren’t serious injustices in this world.
I’m honest about most things. Honestly!
I promise: if she grows up with a strong desire to become a famous singer (something that all tweens aspire to at some point in their developing years, let’s be real) then I’ll gently steer her in another direction if I can.
She’ll learn the truth eventually anyway, unless she learns to sing like an angel in the meantime. In fact, she’ll learn more than a few hard truths from people who aren’t me, and I’m okay with that.
Some people might say that as her parent, that’s my responsibility; that if anyone’s going to let her down, it should be me, and it should be done gently.
The TRUTH is, the world is a harsh place.
I don’t think that we should coddle our kids — or at least, not all the time.
I do think that we should nurture their confidence and help them to see their good qualities. We should help them grow in all conceivable ways. We should support them in their dreams — and hey, I’m happy to put my daughter in voice lessons if she wants to pursue this particular dream, and I’ll still be her number one fan.
In fact, I don’t think there’s a better way to make the reality of her talents obvious to her than by encouraging her to get serious about it. No one breaks the truth about any ineptitude you might have as a singer quite like a vocal coach — but that’s the right person to dish out that truth. A vocal coach won’t coddle anyone in that situation, child or not — it’s just not their role. Too nasally? The vocal coach will share that with her. Too tone-deaf? Vocal coach, do your thing.
The world at large won’t coddle our kids, either. It’s important that they learn that — and when they do, their parents are their ultimate safety net.
That’s why I lie to my kids. I’m there to cushion life’s blows, not to dole them out.
I am her safe place.
When she learns that she is, in fact, not Princess of the World, or a better singer and dancer than JoJo Siwa without a fraction of the training, or any other fantastical ideal that pops into her beautiful brain, I’ll be there. I’ll hold her tight and promise never to let go.
Because I’m her mother. Not her judge, jury, and executioner.
“Mama” is a role that comes with so many complicated caveats that I don’t know where I am half the time. But I know that one important piece of that puzzle is to be there for my baby when she needs a shoulder to cry on; when she needs someone to curl into.
Someone she knows is safe.
Kids need to take a few knocks in life — it builds character. It teaches them to be humble. It teaches them that the world doesn’t revolve around them (and that’s good, because to their moms, the world has been revolving around them since before they were born.)
I just don’t need to be the one to deliver those knocks, in my opinion.
To me, she is perfect.
I may realize that she’s not the world’s best at anything right now because she’s just a kid! But to me, she’s perfect.
To me, her little voice, while it won’t be winning any competitions anytime soon, is still so sweet and beautiful. Her dance moves are full of energy and fun. Sometimes, every single move she makes or song she sings has me in awe of this little person who, not so long ago, grew inside of me.
From nothing. I think that’s really something, sometimes. I just can’t help but admire her.
So when I tell her that her performance was great, I’m not really lying. I’m there to hold her up and keep her dreams alive. The little lies help our kids stay just a little longer in the magical phase of their childhoods.
Be their biggest fan, and lie just a bit.
It takes time and practice to get the hang of our dreams and pursuits. Parents are a huge part of that foundation, if you ask me.
My husband told me once about his experience playing hockey as a kid. He started later than the other team members and sucked at the start, understandably. Once he started getting better, his dad came to a game, and my husband was thrilled to see him filming his son playing.
Later, he asked his dad about the video. His dad laughed and said, “well, I realized that if I was going to film the game I’d have to follow the puck, and you were never anywhere near it!”
That “funny” joke was the first tug of the thread in my husband’s confidence in his budding hockey skills. He played the rest of that year, and unceremoniously quit, since, quote, “no one cared whether I was there or not.”
Now, I wasn’t there, and I can’t comment or judge this particular situation beyond what my husband told me. I can say, however, that he, like so many before him, needed some encouragement at that age. He needed to know that even if he sucked, his dad was his biggest fan anyway.
Was his dad honest with him? Yeah, probably. He likely did suck.
He was learning. We all start somewhere, and usually, that’s with a healthy dose of suckage.
But he should have lied, just a little.
What my husband needed were little nuggets of hope from his dad; a dash of encouragement that he would get better. Because he probably would have, in time.
My advice is this: don’t lie to your kids so much that they think they’re amazing at everything they do, because they’ll get a big head and their disappointment will be real. They should lose — a lot — when playing games and competing. They should know that there will always be people better than them at doing the things they love.
That’s life. We need to teach them all about life.
But, lie a little. Lie if it keeps a brave smile on their faces. Lie if the truth isn’t that big a deal. If my daughter decides that singing is it and finds herself in line to audition for The Voice, I’ll kindly tell her she isn’t ready.
Lie smart. Lie with kindness. And make sure you tell the whole truth when it matters most.
This post was previously published on MEDIUM.COM.
You may also like these posts on The Good Men Project:
|White Fragility: Talking to White People About Racism||Escape the “Act Like a Man” Box||Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race||What We Talk About When We Talk About Men|
Join The Good Men Project as a Premium Member today.
All Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS.
A $50 annual membership gives you an all access pass. You can be a part of every call, group, class and community.
A $25 annual membership gives you access to one class, one Social Interest group and our online communities.
A $12 annual membership gives you access to our Friday calls with the publisher, our online community.
Register New Account
Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.
Photo credit: Shutterstock