Yes, of course there’s a tooth fairy.
No, there aren’t any Oreos left.
Yes, I love listening to you learn to play the cello.
No, I wasn’t looking at my phone when you were going down the playground slide for the 47th time screaming, “Mom, watch me!”
Lies are a necessary fact of life and parenthood. We tell our kids untruths to protect them (I’m sure that our cat that ran away is alive and well and living with a wonderful family), to preserve their innocence (of course a fat man in a red suit can visit all the children of the world in one night) and maintain our own sanity (it’s against the law for kids to have cookies for breakfast).
Sometimes, I’ve been known to lie to my kids just for fun. The first time my older two tried mint, they decided they hated it. From that moment on, if there was any food I did not want to share with them, I just told them it was mint. I was able to hoard a lot of Milky Ways and potato chips that way. Damn the kid who gave them a piece of DoubleMint gum during a playdate and helped them decide that mint is now their favorite flavor.
My husband and I would laugh over some of the lies we told when the kids were younger. They were cute and funny and usually told only to either keep us from doing something we didn’t want to (toy stores aren’t open on Tuesday mornings) or keep them from getting something we didn’t want them to have (ice cream from Dairy Queen tastes like broccoli).
The thing is, the lies are getting bigger and they’re not at all funny anymore.
We still haven’t told the kids that I have Stage 4 breast cancer. It’s been almost a year since I was diagnosed with a breast cancer tumor in my liver, and I still look basically the same. My treatment, which is working well, hasn’t caused any outward changes. I haven’t lost my hair and you can’t see the arthritis in my hips or the neuropathy in my feet or the sores in my nose. So I haven’t seen a reason to tell them.
Lying by omission? Most definitely.
They’re kids and they’re curious and they still ask questions about my cancer. They know that cancer never really goes away. That it can lurk around in your body and that I take a fistful of pills every day to make sure that it doesn’t take up residence again. But that’s a lie. I take a fistfull of pills every day to make sure that it doesn’t find a third home after my breast and my liver.
My youngest told me the other day how proud he was of me because I beat cancer and it’s never going to come back. How am I supposed to respond to that? I thanked him and quickly changed the subject, lying by omission because I can’t tell my nine-year old that I wasn’t done with cancer and never will be.
I hosted a big family reunion and surprise 70th birthday party for my mom a few weeks ago. My kids sat in the back of the car yesterday and talked about how great it would be to throw a similar party for me when I’m 70 and asked me whether I’d like that. Of course I’d like that – because the likelihood that I’m going to be here at the age of 70 is a pipe dream. But I can’t tell them that. I just nodded, bit my lip to keep the tears from coming and told them I would like a silver and navy blue color palette.
The lies are easier during the school year, when I can drop them off at school and take up residence in the recliner or go back to bed on days when the side effects of my treatment leave me feeling as if I can’t move one more muscle. These long summer days are so much harder. They want to go places and do things and I cannot bear to disappoint them. I’m trying to create memories here – I don’t want these memories to be about how mom couldn’t do this or was too tired to do that.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – this cancer thing really fucking sucks.
I have no idea whether I’m doing the right thing. Lying about Santa and the correct number of remaining Oreos was so much easier. I’m glad my kids still trust me and believe everything I say. I can only hope that it’s not going to come back and bit me in the butt when they find out the truth. When I lie, it’s only to protect them.