It was raining. As we drove past a construction site I noticed a huge, wet pile of dirt, maybe 20 feet tall. It looked like chocolate.
I told my kids, “See that? That’s a big pile of raw chocolate. That’s what they make the candy out of.”
“Can we eat it?” they asked.
“Sure,” I said, and pulled the car to the curb.
My wife intervened. She said, “Children, don’t believe everything your father says. Of course you can’t eat it. Raw chocolate is toxic. Besides, it tastes like dirt until they add sugar.”
“If you don’t believe me,” she sighed, “go ahead and try it.”
“But you said it is toxic,” my son argued.
“Up to you,” my wife shrugged.
The car idled in the rain. Exhaust swirled from the rear of the car and over the windshield.
“Maybe next time,” my son decided.
I pulled away, satisfied that we had filled our children’s heads with quality nonsense.
It is the right and privilege of a good parent to provide a strong foundation of false information to their children.
And when your kids get too old? You can fool the neighbor kids.
My wife has a friend with children much younger than ours. We’ll call those children Prudence and Rowen. Prudence and Rowen were at our house looking at a chart depicting the geological strata of the Earth. We homeschool so we have stuff like that on the walls. It is a cartoony chart and each layer — Pleistocene, Paleocene, Mississippian — is represented by a different color.
I told those kids that each of those layers denoted a different flavor. I explained that in Utah there is a huge strip mine and that that is where Jell-O comes from. Orange from Oligocene, lime from Jurassic, blueberry from Cambrian.
My wife intervened.
She said, “Don’t believe everything he says. Jell-O comes from rainbows. There are specially equipped airplanes that fly through rainbows and scoop up the flavor crystals.”
My son piped up: “Don’t believe anything they say. Jell-O is made from gelatin which is rendered from animal products such as pig skin and cow bones.”
Sometimes the truth is the best answer.
Besides, lying to children can backfire. Once we told the neighbor kid that his parents found him under a rock. My own parents have been telling me this for years. We got an angry call.
On that note, while you may think it is a good idea to teach your kids how to light matches and build fires, in case they end up in a survival situation, it is not a good idea to teach the neighbor kids how to light fires. Their parents, apparently, do not want their children to survive emergency situations.
When my wife was a child, her parents took her and her sister to the Smoky Mountains. They were from the flatland and had never been in mountains before.
As they ascended, my wife’s sister said, “Oh, my ears just popped.”
Her mother said, “Oh, my ears just popped.”
My wife was chewing gum. Never having been at altitude, she had no idea that your ears pop as the pressure changes, nor did she know that the act of chewing gum keeps your ears from popping.
She said, “My ears have not popped. What will happen if my ears don’t pop?”
“Your head will explode,” her father said.
That’s just good parenting.
Eventually your kids will be out on their own. Across the breadth and spectrums of this world there are people who want to fill the heads of others with bunk and flotsam.
Parents who spend time deliberately exercising and expanding their children’s drivel detectors are enabling those children to better assess and synthesize information in the future.
Of course, none of that has anything to do with lighting matches. But I sleep easy at night knowing that if the hammer falls, my kids’ heads won’t explode, they will be able to add sugar to dirt to make chocolate, mine rainbows for Jell-O and build a fire to stay warm.