When is it okay to lie to a child? Sometimes? Always? Never?
Children, even young children (say, age 5), are resilient. They can accept straight talk. So what would lead a guardian to lie to a child and to persist in the lie?
What prompted these thoughts was the recent Northwest Herald article about Woodstock’s infamous ducks, Jenny and Bean, who were the subject of a special-use ordinance by the City Council last fall. As you may recall, the City Council voted to allow the ducks to be in the City Limits if (and only if) the Savanna Grove Homeowners Association voted to allow them.
And then the Mayor immediately said that the City would no longer take an interest in the presence of the ducks! In other words, in spite of the City Council’s having just said that the ducks could, in effect, come back (they were already back) after the Homeowners Association said they could, if it ever did, the Mayor ordered the City to desist from enforcement efforts.
The ducks were already back when the Council voted and they remained. However, they apparently were moved from the Woodstock property, because sometime around Christmas a coyote reportedly dined on one of them and the other went on a hunger strike and died.
And then, by vote of the property owners in Savanna Grove, the Homeowners’ Association did not approve the proposed change in the Covenants that would have allowed Jenny and Bean to return to residency in Woodstock.
Being dinner for a coyote would be no fun for the duck. But consider now the dilemma facing the child whose ducks they were. The guardian has apparently told the child that the ducks “flew south.” Okay, so that’s a nice easy “out” and only a temporary one.
The child will learn the truth one of these days. Either the guardian will tell her, a neighbor will accidentally let it slip, or a mean child in the neighborhood or school will lay the truth on the child. Imagine now the greater dilemma. The trust factor between the child and the guardian will be broken. To the guardian it will seem a small matter. To the child it may leave a lifetime mark. The child may never forget the lie and may wonder at future statements by the guardian.
Will the lie wash over into other areas of the child’s life?
How much better it would have been for the guardian to sit down with the child and explain what happened. Children are resilient. Yes, there would have been tears. Yes, there would have been grief. And, yes, the child would have lived through it.
Death is as much a part of life as birth. The ducks were apparently allowed to be humanized in that household, which is questionable to me. Pets are nice, but they are pets. They are not household members. Pets should be treated as pets.