When is It Ok To Lie To Kids? (The Secret Primer On How To Be Ballsy)

I am a six-time aunt and a zero-time mother. So unlike moms who have their excuses cut out for them like…

“because as your mother, it is my duty to protect you from the evils of this world for as long as I can” 
“because I carried you in my body for 9 months and If I told you so, it is so” 
“because I am too busy trying to earn a living to answer your questions”

… alas, as a mere aunt, I have no justified excuse to lie my way out of difficult questions.

A few years ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to prepare and see my 5 year old niece Arwen to school every morning.


I am not a big fan of mindless TV, so I forbade her to turn the TV on while we were going through our business of preparing. (At 5, Arwen is also forbidden to have her own FB account)

In exchange, I promised to answer all her questions truthfully. A “Q&A hour with Auntie Rowena” if you must.

Here, she gives me rules on how to tie her hair.

So she threw me some difficult ones and one question led to more questions. Some delved into science, religion, biases, sex, politics - all excellent subjects for lying.

So did I cave in and lie?  Naah, I stuck to my guns however difficult it was. (Well, maybe, except for one question- but read on and you be the judge).  

Ok Arwen, shoot me!  

10. Will I grow taller than my parents?

(explain the human genome to a 5 year old, I dare 'ya!)

Here I enclose a picture of Arwen’s family so you can appreciate the gravity of her concern. 

A simple 'yes' or 'no' question, you say?  
Adults are easy, we pretend to understand to avoid looking stupid. But with 5 year olds- there will be barrage of follow up “whys” until she REALLY gets it.
You are like a puzzle. Some parts came from your mother and some from your father.

The part of the puzzle that decides how tall you will be, adds the height pieces from your father and the height pieces from your mother. So, if you get all the height pieces of your father and mother, you will be taller than your parents.

That is why most children grow up to be taller than their parents. 

(And I continue on.  Because, note to self *Don't only give her education, but inspire her to wonder.*)
People who study the human puzzle call it human genome. Unlike most puzzles that is a flat paper, the human puzzle is long like a string. There is one string that comes from your father, and one string that comes from your mother and they are twisted together to make you.

They found that your genome is 99.96% the same with all the people in the world. 
The very small difference between us helps us survive diseases.  So when a virus kills some people, others survive. Our differences help humans survive sicknesses and continue living.
So when you see someone different from you.  Think more of what makes you similar than different .  And that your differences help both of you survive.  

What about you? 
When did you stop questioning so as not to appear stupid? 
When did you let that little girl who wouldn’t stop asking till she gets the answers be silenced?

Speaking of genome, may I recommend this excellent video documentary-

*The Search for Scientific Adam that will help you realize how alike we are as humans.

9. Why does Mickey Mouse like hotdogs when mice are supposed to like cheese?

To give you a perspective of this question, here is a video of little Arwen dancing to Mickey Mouse “HotDog Dance”.
Mickey Mouse is a mouse drawing by a man called Walt Disney. Showing Mickey moving like that on TV needs lots of drawings and Disney needs money to pay people to do that. 
The man who makes hotdogs gave Disney money if Disney will help him sell hotdogs. So even if mice are supposed to eat cheese, Disney made Mickey eat hotdogs. So if you keep seeing Mickey eating hotdogs, you will also eat hotdogs. 
If you see a lie over and over again, there will come a time that you just accept it without asking or thinking. It is called brainwashing.
Sting knows a thing or two about making a hit song

So, if you spot a lie, even if it is a small lie, ask yourself, why is the person lying? What does he want from me? Will it be good for him and bad for me? 

You should always find out more when someone is lying, so you can decide what is really good for you.
Me: So Arwen, do you want hotdog for breakfast?
Arwen : Is hotdog good for me?
Me: No, because … (I explained the food that makes her grow taller and what hotdogs are made of)
Arwen: No. I want food that will make me grow taller.

8. How did the world start?

You will hear two different versions: one from science and one from religion. I will tell you both.

Scientists looked for clues. They tested materials on the earth and found that it came from stars that exploded a long long time ago. They call this “The Big Bang Theory”.

They call it a “Theory” because it is still an incomplete explanation from all the things they tested. Scientists continue asking and testing so that they can find out more. Scientists always challenge what we know because they want to know the truth, even if it is not what they thought it to be.

Religion says that the world and the whole universe is created by a most powerful, most intelligent and most perfect God* (*Catholic religion calls it God but there are other religions who call it other names).

Unlike science, religion knew this from people who said they have been chosen by God to tell us about it.  These chosen people also said that God said you should believe them and not question or ask for proof, otherwise, God will be angry and punish you.

Arwen : Which one is true?
Science is sure of what they know but they still cannot explain a lot of things.  Religion has an explanation to everything but what they knew came only from chosen people who do not want to be questioned. 

Arwen: What do you think?
I want to believe that science and religion both mean good -  but try to find the answer in different ways.  
I think that a real scientist should discover but recognize that they do not have an explanation for everything yet and respect "non-scientifics" because we still know very little about it, not because it is untrue.  
When Einstein, the poster boy of science was asked if he prays,
his answer was that "God does not play dice with the universe". 
Let's meme that shit. 

I think that a real religious should respect others to find their own good and do their own questioning.  I think that we all can find the truth, not just the 'chosen ones', if we learn to listen and try to understand.   When faith is not questioned, it can be abused by the "chosen ones" and gives "God" a bad rep.  
Carol had.  But she ain't snitching.
Like a good Christian that she is.

When you find out more about the world, you will find that it is very, very smart - much smarter than we can understand right now. Even if I or other people have answers, you should always ask yourself and everyone should respect your right to ask.    
Faith gets stronger when tested, not when taken for granted.* 
(*tweet that shit)
Learn all versions. That is the difference between education and indoctrination.  Never stop questioning what you know.

7. Is my father really adopted?

Arwen’s father, my brother, is adopted when he was just 3 days old. It is a fact that we never hid from anyone so much so that neighbors thought we were lying. But I believe, I should rephrase the question here as asked by my brother, when he himself was 5 years old.

Why do people ask me if  I am “just” adopted? Why “just”?

People project to words what they have in their hearts.
When a person has love, an adopted child is a gift.  When a person has fear, an adopted child is a threat.  

When a person is ashamed, he will hide with a lie.  When he is threatened, he will fight and belittle.  When he is proud, he will shout it out to the world.
So when a person does not value the gift of an adopted child, that person does not speak from love but from ignorance.
So,  trust yourself and learn to listen only to people who have love.  

Tony Robin-esque inspirationally cheesy, but true.

6. Why is she lying to her father?

"She" is my nephew's girlfriend and has a different religion.  She is lying to her father because she does not want to be disowned .  I am not saying her name here because it is up to her to own up to her truth.  Me and Arwen love her.   

Arwen, it is the same way when you lie because you think you are going to be punished for something which you think you have done wrong.  Sometimes, old people make up rules that they want others to follow.  
I think that is very sad because love should not be something to lie about.  And if one's rules causes someone who loves to lie, maybe one should question those rules.

Before you do something,  always ask yourself one  question - "Is my motive positive or negative?"  Revenge,  showing-off, dividing people and making them fight are not good motives. Love, uniting people and learning are good motives.

When education interferes with learning.

So long as you act on good motives, even if you do not succeed, you know you are doing good and you do not have to lie about it.

And if someone or something will not accept your good motive and will cause you to lie, then you know you are in the right to stand up against it and question them.

Hold your truth.
No person, religion or institution should cause a person with good motives to lie.  Ever.

Who are we to say that we are better at crocheting than Radical Islam Terrorists? 

5. Is Santa Claus real?  (aka Will I be the one to "ruin" her Christmas by snitching?)  

Arwen, what do you know about Santa?
  1. He gave me a gift on Christmas because I was good. 
  2. He entered through the window while I was sleeping.
  3. He is an old fat man with white beard that wears a red suit. 
Let us investigate this together. 
  1. This is true.
  2. We don't know this because you were sleeping.  Your windows are high (second floor) and small, so no one bigger than a child can enter through there and no child can climb that high.  It is more possible that Santa entered through the door.   Maybe somebody let him in or maybe he was already inside when you locked the door before sleeping.
  3.  If you have not seen him yourself, we cannot be sure of this.  In Europe, where I am from, "Santa" is called "Saint Nicholas" and is thin and wears a long gown (different colors), but I also have not seen him. 
Arwen, all we know for sure about Santa is that he brings you gifts because you were good.   So he is someone who wants you to be a good girl.  That is one important clue. Concentrate on that.

But the rest, we have no proof.  Maybe Santa is an avatar,  you know, just like when you use an avatar when you play games online.  Or maybe not, we do not know for sure because we have not seen him when he left your gift.
Arwen:  So is he real? 
That is a mystery for you to solve (she can google at 5).  And solving mysteries yourself make you smarter.   Oh, look at the time! Time to go to school now. (Phew!)

 Weeks later, Arwen's mom, told me that Arwen got her to admit that she is Santa.
Arwen was really cool about it.   But Arwen's mom was pretty shaken - lolz

So my suggestion-
Santa is an avatar of someone who secretly wants you to be a good person.
The tooth fairy is an avatar of someone who secretly wants you to be brave after enduring pain.
The rest of the story is just noise.  And damn commercialism for blurring the message.

PS Never underestimate your 5 year old.  They are much smarter than you think.  And they can google the arse out of your lies.

4. What is anal sex?

Oh my oh my, I squirmed on this one.  How can I avoid without lying? Where did she hear this anyway?

Arwen, do you know how you feel when you see blood?
Arwen:  Yes, it makes my toes curl.  I hate it!
Well, ok, I can tell you but it might make your toes curl, do you still want to know?
Arwen:  Hmm, I guess not.

Weeks later, a variation of the same question...
Arwen, I prefer to answer that when you are older, like 60 years old.  Is it ok?
Arwen:  But that is a long time from now.  I will forget.
I can remind you.

In my defense, sex was a taboo subject in our household.  

By the age of 8, a neighbor tried to seduce me. Fortunately, my parents arrived in time, saw the neighbor alone with me in my room and started questioning me what happened.  
I felt something wasn't right but they didn't explain to me why.   So it got ingrained in my head that being alone with men is bad.  Heck, by the age of 16, I thought I could get pregnant by watching a movie with a boy. No shit.  

My apologies to my first boyfriend for being a crazy bitch.

Anyway, I think I could have done better here.  I think Arwen needs to learn it from parents/aunts because even if we want her to stay innocent, we cannot protect her from predators like *Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby,  Terry Richardson etcetera that way.   We need a different strategy.   If we learn to talk about it to our daughters, and to each other,  then we all can be better armed when faced with a predator.

So, I call on you dear readers for your wisdom and suggestions on how to handle this one.   You can criticize but let's be nice to our fellow sisters, shall we?  We all go through a lot of shit already.

3. Are kings good people? 

Arwen, I think it is too simplistic to judge people as either good or bad.  

People do things and react to what happens to them.  If they are angry or afraid, they tend to say and do "bad" things.  If they are happy, they do good things. 

I think it bad to give up on people.  But if they keep doing bad things to you, it is just better to avoid them rather than they affect you and you do bad things yourself because of what they did to you.

(So with that disclaimer,) kings got to be kings because they claimed land as theirs and declared they were chosen to do so.  The way they got to be kings was through a bad thought and a bad deed.

Because working yourself to greatness is sexier than being born to those who stole greatness y'all!

2.   Can I be a princess?

No you cannot.  Princesses get to be that way because they are either daughters of kings or marry a prince.  But you cannot marry a prince if you are not a princess.
I thought this was a simple question.  But for the first time....   Arwen cried.  
Arwen:  But I want to be a princess.  *More sobs*
But why do you want to be a princess Arwen?  All a princess does is think of parties and clothes and prince charmings.   You can do more than that, you will be bored.
But she kept crying.  She doesn't hear me.  And for the first time,  I felt bad for telling her the truth.  I broke her heart.  I shattered her dream.  Maybe telling the truth was a bad idea...  


Angelina Jolie, I want to thank you for making Maleficent.  I know, I know, haters will say, she isn't real either - but she is more real in that she gave fairy tale characters more dimension.  It is not just princesses are good, witches are bad narrative.  It is one step to progress.

Arwen and I watched Maleficent.  Twice.  Then she got to see "School of Rock" and wanted to be a drummer.  And a cook, and a manicurist, and a cashier, and a singer, and a scientist and on and on.  

So, with that admission, Arwen has gone from fairytale princess to badass.
In your face princess!

1. Do I sing well?

Hmm, how well does a 5 year old sing?  

She is no Taylor Swift but....

To me, she sings great!  But I will not put her in The Voice because they cannot see how cute she is.  And we all know how mothers and aunts think their child/niece is the bestest in the world so I will not bore you.

But I still tell her she is great!  All of us family think she is a great singer.  She basks in the sunlight of our total love and admiration.

And that is when her dad, my brother, stepped in.  With wise words from a dad that not even a bitch of an aunt can muster.

Don't praise her more than necessary.  If she starts believing  she is better than she actually is, she and the world will have a bigger problem.  And if she is determined to sing better, she will keep practicing to prove us wrong.
Then both ways, she wins.

So, my recommendation- When is it ok to lie to kids? 


Growth only comes when you know and face the truth, not when you deny it.

The truth will make her stronger. Protecting them from it does not help.

So let us please skip the "You are the most beautiful princess in the whole world" bullshit, shall we?

And as Arwen will prove to you - they will be ok.

Arwen gets the medal for best in class.  Yey! #proudaunt
Arwen teaches her grandma how to hashtag #seniormoments

BONUS:  So how to test if you are ballsy:

If your truths cannot stand the cross examination of a 5 year old, that she can reduce you to a lying, deflecting adult, start questioning the 'truths' you have accepted.  It is possible that you might be full of shit.

At the end of the day, there are no "necessary evils",  no "white lies" - just people not ballsy enough to stand up for what they feel deep in their hearts to be right.

There is mom's day, dad's day, sibling, sister, cat, dog, armpit and grandparents day.
Can we please have an aunt day?

But don't let it be a day where we buy our aunts something (I am so over consumerism right now).  Just a day when we get back to our 5 year old self and truly question.  

 Like a  #questionlikefive #askauntie What do you say?  May i suggest these questions to start with?
Why are teachers paid so little and politicians paid so much?
Who decides whose time is more valuable?
Who gives money its value? 
If tech is so advanced now, why not cut off the money and the middleman altogether and technify barter to give power to the producer and the consumer, base prices on its true cost to the planet?  Do we lack the technology,  or the imagination? Or are we just too deep into our bullshit now? (Ok, that is me asking)
If we take out the bullshit we have accepted in our lives, and learn to recognize our similarities rather than our differences, you will find that we have the power to shut down all these seemingly insurmountable evils happening now.

Unite as humans and question like you are 5.
Then the world is ours to change for the better.  Shall we start?

#asklikefive and Be Ballsy!