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Unicorns, on the other hand are real. All hooved animals have breeds with horns of some kind. Why should horses be the exception? If they googled rainbows to show you a picture then google unicorns too. Checkmate.
There is method in my madness. Allow me to explain…
For me, it started with Father Christmas. Father Christmas is a nice story to tell the kids. A little bit of magic to make a dismal time of year more fun. However, the feeling of telling a child an outright lie whilst they listen with total trust is rather unsettling. Perhaps, I thought, I should instead focus on the real? Surely dinosaurs, black holes and history are rich enough goldmines to stimulate any child’s imagination indefinitely. Perhaps they are. But something still bothered me. As parents and teachers we take on the role of authority figure. What we say is true because we say it.
That was my little epiphany. It was not lying to my children (albeit in a fun and harmless way) that had bothered me, it was that I was inadvertently teaching them to accept the wisdom of authority.
How often do you hear people say 'My parents brought me up to do X', or 'I do X because I was raised to do X', as though people were robots that could be programmed.
Perhaps they are. Perhaps that's the problem.
2020 has taken a huge luminous highlighter to this problem. People seem overly willing to believe what authority figures tell them. Whether it’s parents, politicians or teachers, too many people accept the emperor’s new clothes over and above what their eyes are telling them. Alternatively, they reject everything in favour of a conspiracy theory, which essentially amounts to an equal yet opposite form of gullibility. Either way, people seem more ready than ever to pick a side and swallow its narrative unquestioningly. X is true because goodman said it. Y is false because badman said it.
I will admit to being embarrassingly old (well into my 20s) before I realised that even science was not immune. While science was ‘true’, even that truth had a context. Certain ‘facts’ were favoured over others. Certain topics were researched to death while others were avoided altogether.
Ergo, I lie to my children. They know this and try to catch me out. It’s become something of a game. By lying to them I am teaching them that trusted authority figures can lie or can get it wildly wrong. If you want to know the real truth, don't take my word for it, do some investigation yourself. Truth takes effort and you don’t always like what you find.
Rainbows are real but unicorns aren't.
Teach kids to question your little lies and just maybe they'll grow up to question the big lies.