Wednesday, April 18, 2012

White Lies and Child Abuse - The Thin Line

I recently commented on an article over at InThePowderRoom, about the white lies we all tell our children from time to time, usually for their own good. OK, sometimes for their own good and more often to get them to shut up and/or stop fighting.

My comment, in a nutshell, was that although it was never said to me, I always hated overhearing those stupid parents who pointed to another adult (usually a middle aged man) and warned the recalcitrant child that "That Man" would take them away if they didn't behave. Outrageous really isn't it? I thought I'd been imagining it all until I overheard the very same warning issued a few years ago in Heathrow Airport. Apart from disobeying the golden rule of parenting (don't issue a threat you can't carry out), how about not painting a perfectly respectable citizen as some kind of peodophile?

And then I thought about all the other daft things parents say to kids, or in my case, used to say to kids.

The Sand Man - According to my gran, who babysat for us almost every Saturday night that I can remember (well, until I started pub crawling that is), if you didn't go straight to sleep, the Sand Man would come and put sand in your eyes. Wha? And then your little 8 year old self is expected to slip straight into a warm, fuzzy sleep and totally not lie wide awake, scared out of her wits until 3am.

Running Away With the Gypsies - Of course, it's far too racist and non-PC to say that these days, but this is what my mother would say when we asked her (probably for the hundredth time) where she was going. She even says it to my kids who, having no knowledge of "gypsies" have been known to report that grandma's running away with the cheapskates! I remember one night, having been put to bed and not being able to sleep (Sand man issues) I heard the front door open and close. My mother had gone next door to borrow something from a neighbour, but as far as I was concerned she had finally succumbed to the tantalising lure of the gypsies. When she exited the neighbour's house (a whole 5 minutes later) she was greeted by three young children in nighties and pyjamas, wailing in the front garden!

It'll Drop Off - OK, that sounds a bit rude, and I'll admit I may have said it to my own offspring from time to time, but really! "Just leave your finger/ear/little toe alone or it'll drop off", is actually a very useful means of preventing potentially fatal infections (wouldn't you say) and can be shoved under the "for their own good" umbrella, but still..... . Have we ever known anything to drop off?

Anything you remember from your childhood? More importantly, any daft things you say to your kids now?


  1. I have just written a similar post - 10 lies I tell my child (that I think are OK!) And I admit on it the "it'll drop off" one (oops!)

    I'm wondering what inspired you writing this post? For me, it was my little one fibbing that he hadn't sneakily eaten all of the chocolate from the litchen cupboard and it got me thinking about the fibs I tell him...

  2. My kids are the ones telling me white and not so white lies these days....especially the teenager who is the master

  3. "If uou hit your mother, your hand will stick out of your grave." I thought my death was immenent.

  4. Jenna - I had commented on a piece over at InThePowderRoom and it went from there.

    ALW - oh yeah. Although mine gets busted quite a bit too. I can usually tell, although I can't always figure out the details.

    Irene - Ye gads. I've never heard that one before. I would never ever get to sleep with that threat! (Mind you, I wouldn't have dared hit my mother either!)

  5. Having a good laugh at this as, naturally, our mothers used the same threats. My mum was always going to run away with the gypsies if my brother and I were driving her mad. She also said, when we pulled a face, that if the wind blew it would stay like that.
    And God was always watching!

  6. Oh yes - I had forgotten about "It'll stay like that". And yes, the ever present God! Sheesh - it's a wonder we turned out normal! ;-)

  7. "If you carry on like that, you'll end up in a boarding school/naughty girls home" (whichever my mother felt like saying.) Also "You wait till your dad gets home."
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  8. If we stuck our tongues out or crossed our eyes, our mother used to say, "You'd better watch it, or it'll stay that way." We also heard the "it'll-fall-off" line, too.

    When my son last week was giving me a hard time about going to school (he was "sick" ahem), I blurted out I'd have to call the truant officer if he didn't in the car like NOW. I started giggling, because my grandmother used to talk about the truant officer when I was a kid. It came out of nowhere!

  9. Maggie - oh god, the "home". How cruel was that?

    Diana - Truant officer. Ha. Actually we have a teen curfew in Chicago which is 10pm on weeknights. Great excuse for making sure they're not out roaming the streets.

  10. And of course, as the Queenager (who regularly reads the blog these days) has just reminded me, if you watch TV for too long "you'll get square eyes".
    Thank you Q

  11. "Dont pull that face, if the wind changes you'll stay like that" and stories of running away with the gypsies too. Both my grandmother. The gypsies were rather romantic and exciting to me as a child, definitely not scary. But I honestly can't remember my mother ever coming out with any white lies. I'm sure that can't be true!

  12. My mum always threatenedd to change her name and not tell me what the new one was. Confused me a great deal. She was never running off with gypsies but I know she was in constant discussion with them about whether they would take me. Think I was too naughty for them to want though.

  13. My grandmother told my mum would be snatched into the white slave trade if she went out and about alone.

  14. Where I come from it's more like 'close your bag/don't leave your bicycle outside/... or it gets nicked by the gypsies'. Apart from that I was brought up with real, cruel facts. My grandma plunked me down in front of the TV and made me watch a Hitchcock-esque film about child abuse and abduction. I was 5. My mother wasn't impressed. On the upside, I never took chocolates from strangers.

  15. Btw, do you plonk or plunk someone down? Mhm, confused...

  16. I think it's plonk in England, and plunk over here in the States.

  17. If you keep playing with your willie it will drop off.

    Leave your tooth under the pillow and the tooth fairy will come.

    If you keep picking your nose your finger may get stuck.

    If you pick up your rabbit by the ears it's eyes will drop out.

  18. With the exception of 'don't make that face, it'll freeze that way,' my parents didn't really tell us anything like that. The only one I heard growing up was, "Don't forget to shut the gate. If the dog gets out, he'll be caught and eaten and you'll never see him again."
    Of course, since I grew up in Asia, this was not actually a lie. I guess I was pretty lucky, huh? ; )

  19. Like Mud - 'Don't pull a face, if the wind changes, it'll stick like that!'

    'Don't pull your lip, you'll get cancer'...

    'A blind man on a galloping horse will never notice...' - About anything that you'd rather we skim over, than look closely at!

    I think I'll stop now, my head is starting to hurt ;)

    Fhi x

  20. Ms Caroline - I just hope you never did leave the gate open!

    Fhina - My mother just says "A man on a galloping horse", and leaves it at that.

    The other one was "Might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb", which was always just "sheep as a lamb" in my family.

  21. Good lord. Speaking as an lurking American, this explains a lot about why you Brits (like my mother) can be so ornery sometimes!


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