Thursday, December 20, 2012

What is a Lie?

I straight up lied to my son last night.  Sigh.  I don't like to do that.  Sometimes need for sleep leads to desperation.  I'm all for playing pretend, but I don't like lying.

This is the thing.  My little man is the fiercest fighter in the world.  He will never turn his back on danger.  Dragons? No problem.  Bad guys?  Taken care of.  Wild amimals and monsters?  So easy.  Supervillains?  Bring 'em on.  But there is one thing he is deathly afraid of:  Bugs.  He always has been and I don't know why.  I can think of no negative bug experience in his past, but every flying insect is greeted with, "Bee!" and crying and running away.  Every creeping insect is hailed, "Spider!" and I am ordered to smash them on sight.  I remember him having terrifying dreams of spiders crawling on him when he was really little, and of imagining spiders in every shadow, but I had largely forgotten about it.

For the last little while R has been getting up in the early/very early morning and coming to my room.  Typically I just let him in and snuggle til morning.  Last night, however, I was up past midnight working on a project.  I heard little feet upstairs after I knew all the kids were asleep.  I finished my project then went up to bed and R was standing in the middle of the hall.  When he saw me, he started crying.  He said he was scared, but I brought him back to bed anyway (I still had things to clean up downstairs).  He clung to my neck and said he was scared, scared, scared.  I tried to get out of him what he was scared of--the dark isn't enough for me.  Finally he explained that there are bugs waiting in the shadows to come get him.  He went on and on about how he is terrified of the bugs.  I first tried the never-successful scheme of telling him there were no bugs.  As expected, it did nothing to assuage is fears.  So I tried to expand upon his imagination to get rid of the problem.  I asked him if he wanted me to shine a special laser into all the corners that would kill all the bugs.  He said yes, so I went to get the flashlight that can have a red glowing handle.  I really hoped that all he would be able to see in the mostly-dark was a red glow.  I went all along the baseboards and shined the red light everywhere.  Then I said, "There.  No more bugs!"  He smiled and laughed.  And when I tried to leave he complained, "No!  The bugs will get me!"  "But I just killed all the bugs!"  "No!  The bugs are real!"  "This is a real laser."  "That is a flashlight."  Shoot.  Caught.  Maybe it was the jzuuuurrrrrr sounds I made with my mouth while I shined it around.

Well, what do I do for a kid with a tenuous grasp on reality--the bugs are real, but the powers to defeat them are not.  I tried to talk with him through what could defeat them.  Finally he said we needed a shoe to stomp them.  Awesome.  I can let the kid sleep with a shoe and go to bed myself.  So I went to get one of Kevin's shoes and ended up with a pair of his slippers that he never uses.  I brought them to Rhys and asked if he wanted them on the floor by the bed or on the bed with him.  "You hold them."  "No, I am going to my own bed." and he cried and fussed--he needed me there to used the shoe to stomp the bugs while he slept.  Then came the big, big lie.  I don't count the laser as a lie.  That was a pretend.  But this time I made up a great big fib about those slippers.  "Rhys, these are magic slippers.  Santa Claus gave them to Daddy and he put magic inside.  They stomp bugs all by themselves when you are asleep."  Rhys brightened all up, "Really?  They are real magic?"  Big lie #2: "Yes.  They are real magic."  He giggled and was very excited.  I was excited, too, to leave him.  But I was ahead of myself.  He loved his magic slippers, and he still didn't want me to leave.

I laid down and cuddled him for a while, then woke up cold and stiff with no blanket on at 7:20 am.  I gently slid my arms out from around the sleeping him and as soon as I stood he sat up and started to cry.  I thought I was through with this when he graduated from his crib.  I finally said, "Do you want to sleep in Willow's bed?" "Yes."  So Willow got a surprise visitor to cuddle with her for the rest of the morning while I hurried downstairs to hide the evidence of the previous nights workshop before kids got up.  Then I turned up the heater in my room to thaw out before climbing in my own bed and praying the kids would let me sleep for a couple of hours.

I thought that would be the end of things, until I found Willow bringing this strange pair of Daddy's slippers that had mysteriously found their way into her room downstairs to put them away.  I then had to explain to her and Delilah, who was helping them clean their room, what they were doing there.  Agh!  Multiplication of lies!  As I tucked Rhys in, I made sure that he was content with the slippers on his bed with him, and Willow asked, "Are they really real magic?" and I said, "Yes!  They are really real."  "And they only work when we are asleep?" "Yep."  "I don't know about this," half smiling, half unsure.  Willow is one smart cookie.  I sat down by her and she asked me, "is this really real magic?"  "Yes."  "Really?"  I leaned down and whispered in her ear, "What do you think?"  We had a conversation of whispers and meaningful looks, concluding with, "Rhysie needs to believe it so he can sleep tonight.  OK?"  "OK."  I said good night again as I left the room and she said again from her bed, "I don't know about this."

What have I done?


Thora said...

That's a difficult one. Avram and I put dinosaur magnets all over Lydia's room and told her they would keep away the ghosties (as she called them). It worked for a while, and I always felt a little bad making up crazy things, but sometimes the only thing that can combat imaginary demons is imaginary answers. Unless there really are huge buggies that are out to get him, and someday when you wake up he'll be carried away, and then you'll have learned your lesson. (In all seriousness, I'd probably take the older kids aside, and tell them what's going on. They may even be willing to help you help Rhys - and then you'll be doing a lot less of lying and a lot more of pretending with a cause.

Mom4ever said...

I can't tell you what to do, but personally, I'd backtrack and apologize for saying something that wasn't true and then set the record straight. There are several benefits to keeping things honest. First, no parental guilt. Second, as I was taught in the MTC, it is important to "build a relationship of trust" with investigators - and of course, children are our most important investigators. I know that children are resilient and nobody that I know of has been permanently scarred by finding out that Mom and Dad fibbed about Santa or any other figurative being, but I chose early on to be clear that we were pretending about those guys. I wanted my kids to trust me when I told them about Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost, and everyone else on the other side - that they are absolutely not pretend. Another good reason to apologize is that it is a great lesson that can be referred to when it is the child's turn to have to confess as they learn the repentance process. If Mom (and Dad) can do it, so can they, because that relationship of trust is in place.

As far as the bug thing goes, would your realist feel protected by some bug netting around his bed? It's not too terribly expensive, especially if you buy the material and rig it yourself. (Fine netting suspended over the bed by hooks on the ceiling.) Good luck!