Thursday, January 28, 2010

Lies we tell

My 10-year-old came home from school yesterday. "Mom! Amy [name changed] said her family is probably going to adopt a kid from Haiti." Now, I've been following the story of the Haitian orphans, and I know, at this point, a couple of things: (1) If you hadn't started the adoption process before the earthquake, you're out of luck for the moment. (2) People who are adopting need to have fulfilled certain criteria, one of which I know this particular family does not meet. That's not me judging them; it's just how the law works at the moment.

I told Owen, "You might want to hold off on believing everything Amy tells you."

Also yesterday, my 7-year-old, Emma, told me the list of presents her friend has told her she has gotten Emma for her birthday, which isn't until May. This same friend told Emma last year that she'd gotten her an American Girl doll. I had to explain to Emma several times before her party that, in fact, this friend had not gotten her a doll because they are very expensive.

I was laughing about all of this on the way to taking my kids to school this morning--this need children have to bring the attention back to them, to make you like them, love them, admire them. Simon, who will be thirteen in a few days, just shook his head. "Mom, it's not all kids. It's girls."

So I've been thinking about that since dropping him off, and it's kind of bothering me now. I have three sons, and I have to admit that I've never had to tell them, "No, Samuel isn't telling you the truth," or "Honey, try not to believe everything Andrew tells you." I'm not saying boys don't lie. Come on: I'm not that naive. But they do, in my experience, lie about different things.

They lie to get out of, stay out of, and altogether avoid trouble. But do they lie so their friends will say, "Yes, you're my favorite?" Do they lie so the other kids at school will say, "That's the one I was telling you about! Isn't that so cool?"

At what point do little girls think they have to be someone other than who they are to be accepted and, better yet, loved? Is it when they sit on the bathroom counter and watch their moms putting on makeup? Is it when their mom has had a near breakdown at home, yelling about the mess she has to clean up, only to put on her sweet voice when she answers the phone in the midst of the chaos? Is it when they hear her complaining about how much she hates the next-door neighbor, only to watch her smile and wave at her in the morning?

Or does it have nothing to do with their mothers? Is it watching commercials for face cream? Or being rewarded with a sticker at preschool? Or is it the fairy tales they read, the happily ever after of being loved because you weren't just good, but Good? Will these girls grow up to be women who are afraid to ever be themselves, either because they've forgotten who they are or because they're sure that without the perfectly lipsticked, pasted-on smile, no one would notice them?

I'd like to think I'm real. I'd like to think that the person people see when I step outside my door is the same person I was just two seconds earlier. More importantly, I'd like to think that the person my daughter sees when I step inside the house is the same one she saw on the doorstep.

Life isn't always rosy and picture perfect, even with the face cream. That's what she needs to know. And she needs to know that I'm okay with the fact that not everyone is going to like me. And she needs to know that not everyone is going to like her either. And that's more than okay: It's the truth. And the other great truth is that the right people will love her, and she'll always have friends, always have at least one good reason to laugh, and always be loved.


Ron said...

Lieing to attract/impress peers is a small price to pay for having more and stronger relationships later in life.

Great Post.

Liesl said...

I did this all the time and now I watch my daughter!

Sometimes there is a gap between what you know and what you feel. I would say girls generally have the bigger gap because we are physically and emotionally more complex than boys. I know it's a broad generalization, but that's been my observation. Girls are constantly trying to close that gap, always trying to find the evidence that what they have been taught (that they are beautiful, loved, and valued,) is true.