fingers crossed


One of my mom’s favorite expressions was to say that someone “lies like a rug.” 

One of our old babysitters used to say to my boys, “The one thing I will NOT tolerate is for you to tell a lie.”  She would prod them with “Are you FIBBING to me?”  Whenever I overheard something like this, I would roll my eyes and pull her aside for a sidebar conversation on the topic of how everybody lies, and how she needed to focus on things like the consequences of whatever clear actions had taken place.  She never budged from her black and white position, nor did I, from my field of gray.

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal had an article headlined Survival of the Fibbest: Why We Lie So Well.  It all begins with motive – children as young as two will lie to get out of trouble and to get what they want.  Adults lie for purposes of self-preservation, to be polite, and to make others feel better.  As early as age 5 or 6, children learn behavioral tricks, like maintaining eye contact under cross-examination, which makes them appear to be more honest. 

Telling a lie, the article points out, involves multiple brain processes in the more developed frontal regions of the brain (in adolescents and adults):  the better to bluff, my dear.   Here’s some good news for those of us who are parenting skilled truth-benders:  cognitively advanced kids lie more frequently!  Hey, school administrators, my child is gifted, after all!

I’m not saying which of my kids is most gifted, but when one of them whose name begins with M was just a tiny toddler, barely able to reach the counter, I was called out of the kitchen to handle a crisis in another room.  This meant leaving all the ingredients for chocolate chip cookies untended.  When I returned to the kitchen, I found my little guy standing on his tip-toes, an egg in each hand, and a mess of yolk, shell, and eggwhite goo at his feet.  Caught white handed, he beamed at me adorably and said “Sorry Mom!  Eggs fall out!” 

In a world in which our leaders say things like ”Mistakes were made,” we knew this child had a very bright future indeed.  I predict a career in Washington or on Wall Street.

What is the most egregious lie you ever told, or were told?  Are you into full disclosure on everything, or is truthiness OK?
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