"Oh that's a shame, darling. See, I'd love to buy you an ice cream, but when the van plays his tunes, it means there are none left."
So goes the urban myth I heard about someone's mum and ice-cream vans. In fact, I once quoted this story to a friend right after she'd told me, yanking on a stiff, scratchy jumper, that her mum claimed not to use fabric conditioner as it "wrecked the fibres".
Parents and their tall tales, eh, often used to save cash, time or effort somehow. But now I have become a parent, I have learned of various other motives for such small-child deception.
For instance, we're more inclined to lie to them when they're just being little bastards. Take following basic commands. So often am I carrying Daughter or lots of shopping upstairs to our apartment and Son is simply refusing to follow suit. Despite my attempts to woo/threaten him up there, he happily arses about in the stairwell, inconveniencing me and any passer-by.
So "Big spider on the landing!" it is. And we live in Australia so we're talking big, sweaty ones. When they're real, of course.
I lurch upstairs with my heavy load, craning my neck up to the landing. "Ooh, better come quick, he's moving, he's running away. Quick!"
It's just as well, of course, that spiders -- even big, sweaty ones -- are shy creatures. This allows my hoax some plausibility, evident in Son's disappointment when he finally arrives and sees no arachnid anywhere.
"Gone," I tut. I also gently sigh. I might even ruffle his hair to hammer home the fake solidarity, before toeing him through the front door.
And it's not just spiders that disappear in our web of untruths. In our house, inanimate objects -- namely ones that I don't want sticky mitts on -- vanish when 'sleeping':
"Daddy's phone sleeping."
Hell, we even have "Peppa Pig sleeping", which calls for an existential belief, if you will, that cartoon characters hit the sack when not being watched. Son seems okay with this, so that's great. I thank 'Toy Story' for weaving this idea into his tiny mind.
Another favourite fib is the "follow your idol" fallacy. This time I use anyone Son looks up to and claim that they exhibit whatever behaviour I desire from him. Usually this is associated with trying to put something on him; clothes or the like.
"Don't want to wear these? Oh but X wears these all the time! In fact, yours are better ones."
"Y always has his straps done up properly."
And don't think this is just confined to his junior peers:
"I know you don't want to put your nappy on for bed. I know you normally wear big boy pants all day." (Inner monologue: oh s**t, I'm running out of ideas.)
A visiting Uncle P pops his head round the door. "Hey, I wear a nappy for bed."
Shock passes over Son's face. "Huh? Do you, Uncle P?"
"Every night! Love it."
One day Son will learn about the necessity of evidencing one's claims, but hopefully at the same time as learning perspective and maybe how willful toddlers can be. Or let's hope he may just have forgotten my porky pies altogether. In any case, they work now and I make no apology for them.
But perhaps fibbing to my daughter is a different story with a different motive still. The scene goes like this: she's 13 weeks old and I have, as usual, left her on the floor/bed for long enough that she starts inconsiderately fussing or crying for actual human contact.
So I feel urged to utter, in a silly singsong voice:
"Mummy's coming, I just need to finish my shower/the washing/the vacuuming." (True)
"I'll be right with you." (Untrue)
Deep down, I know that I am fobbing off my non-verbal baby with pointless noises. I do not need compliance from her; I need reassurance for myself. I feel a bit bad.
One thing's for sure, though: at least she won't remember these moments. I hope. And when she's older, I have a plethora of ice-cream-van stories all ready to go.