The right story could save the universe

Sometimes the grey area is beautiful.

That’s where we are right now, me and my girls, in the liminal place where the edges of truth are still blurry, where my version of how things are and how they should be still has a fighting chance.

As such, we continue to measure veracity in nose-lengths, and to date, their trust in my assessments holds firm. The power is bliss, if so very tenuous. Not to mention treacherous.

What’s the big deal, you scoff. Every parent greases the child-rearing wheel with a few white lies. No need for tortured soul-searching.

It’s true. The tooth fairy, Santa, the Easter Bunny. None of them would get by without a little help from deceitful guardians. And really, how could anyone begrudge them their children’s sweet, wide-eyed wonder and joy.

My lies are a little different.

The Dark Secret of the Evil Villain Who Invented High-Heels To Prevent Women From Outrunning His Nefarious Clutches, for instance, does not elicit so much joy. Nor, should I say, does The Sinister Fast-Food Plot to Put Poop in Your Cheese Burger.

It’s not that I worry about paralysing their budding sense of wonder with gratuitous fear-mongering. I was raised on a healthy diet of Gurguf, my mother’s family’s own horrific, mythical beast who skulked outside the house in the dark, waiting for children’s eyelids to droop so he could shape-shift himself into a fly, slip inside through an air vent, and re-assume his true self in order to savagely devour us. Puts hair on your chest, or so the saying goes.

I’m marginally more alarmed by the repeated busts.

To wit:

“MAMA! LOOK! [Insert name of friend/family sitting next to us] IS WEARING HIGH HEELS! DOESN’T SHE KNOW THE SECRET?”

“Mama, how come [See above] eats poopy fast food/hot dogs/cheese product?”

“Mama, [] has a Barbie/wears nail polish/ is allowed temporary tattoos, are the Health Police going to come and take her mama away?”

But overall, I’m less worried about how I might be scarring the kids, or who I might be shocking with my occasionally unconventional take on things.

What really gets to me is how pathetically thin my lies are.

Deep in my gut, I know that I only have a tiny window before the eye-rolling begins. And when that happens, I’ve got nothing. Don’t get me wrong, my arsenal is chock-full of hot-winded leftist rants. All of which I believe with all my heart. I’m just not sure how to translate them into English. Ideally, colourful and compelling English. Convincing English (or Urdu, or Arabic, or Kiswahili. Really, any human language would do).

Because let’s face it, once the runaway train emerges from this beautiful grey area, I’m going to have a bit of explaining to do.

The risk is not that they will arrive at different conclusions on these particular points. I’m prepared for some heterodoxy*. My fear is more a total loss of credibility by association. As in,

“What’s the harm in crossing a busy highway blindfolded?”

“Well, she said we could get hurt really badly…”

“Right. Remember the High Heels story?”

“I’ll get the blindfolds.”

Depleted of all weight, my words will float quietly out of the range of relevance, and the worst part of it all, the greatest shame, is that I will not even have spun a decent yarn in the process. It’s not a failure I’m willing to entertain.

Obviously, I need to revitalize my story-telling skills.

When I was younger, I imagined that I would just feed my future children a steady diet of gorgeous and subversive children’s stories, and everything would magically fall into place. And it’s actually not such a terrible idea. Just tonight, the four year old remarked, à propos de nothing at all,

“You know, Mama, I like Cinder Edna. She knows The Secret [*the high heel secret]. And she has a better life than Cinderella.”

Mini-victory, right? I would do a little dance of triumph, but it just seems so paltry, and so fleeting. For sure, the pen is mightier than the sword. But is the pen mightier than the patriarchal industrial complex? By which I mean,

Can’t…reach…pen/book/laptop…too…busy…care-giving…Must…make…(organic bio-regional) dinner…Must…save…universe…

Truth is, it takes a village. Or money. Or both. Good health doesn’t hurt. Dusted with a nice shake of good luck.

But if you don’t have those things, don’t worry. You’re not alone. You can join my club. We’ll fumble our way through the grey area together. We can share trade secrets. Dammit, we can invent some trade secrets.

Just come find me. Quickly.


*I’m prepared for nothing of the sort.


One comment

  1. I. So. Hear. You.


    As a parent of a now ten year old I want to reassure you that as your kids grow older they will understand that you were simply trying to creatively pass the message on…eg your poo burger dilemma, been there!!! But my daughter doesn’t think I lied, rather that I spelt it out in graphic melodrama that she would understand as a 4 yr old. Same with Barbie and fashion conspiracies….etc…now it is also with age and your personal guidance that kids will slowly start valuing that others may or may not ‘know’ but we have to respect their choices even if they differ from ours (oh the many, many attempts at advising others my daughter has made in her younger days, trying to save her loved ones from the ‘poo chemical called injected hormones’ at Macdo!!)
    Where I would say she knows I “invented truth” is for the dinner police’ ( ie the emergency gp who parked outside my mum’s house) and Wee Willy Winky at bedtime ( who according to the selectiveworldwidewebofmummy looked conveniently like Freddy Krueger!!! Awful!!!! But the kid looks back at all of that with humour and not as a lie but as a tool of necesity and my ass is saved!!!! They trust us El, and they trust our judgements so conserve your energies by dropping the guilt and use it on more beautiful grey matter!! 🙂

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