It is a family tradition of ours to never knowingly tell the truth to a youngster if there is a chance of getting away with inventing a preposterous lie.
I was thinking about this yesterday when I was waiting for the bus with my daughter. It was overdue and I was bored so I started telling her about when I was her age (fifteen), which was in the dim and distant days before the internet. I more or less managed to convince her that if we saw something pleasing back then we would look at it and bellow “LIKE!” at the top of our voices. She initially seemed sceptical but I think I helped my case by shouting “SAD FACE!” at an old and somewhat decrepit stray dog that walked passed the bus stop as we were having the discussion.
We were on our way to see my Dad who had been a master of this art when I was growing up. He would never answer a question truthfully if an amusing falsehood sprang to his mind. And thus, I can remember the day I told my primary school teacher that my Dad was bald because the hair had rubbed off his head when he was crawling through tunnels to escape the Nazi prison camp he was being held in. This was no doubt when he had been captured after bailing out from his Spitfire over enemy territory. I can’t remember at what exact age I figured out that he was too young to have fought in the war, let alone have been a fighter ace who had also managed to escape from Colditz, but it didn’t annoy me. It just made me resolve to tell similar stories to my children when I grew up.
When I related this story my friend told me how he had convinced someone else’s child that the world was black and white before 1974 and advised them “For proof go and check your Gran’s old photos.” As I chuckled at this I began to see a pattern emerging – it is always men who are doing this. I immediately cast my mind over my own family and realised that it’s me, my Dad and my brother who all do this. And it dawned on me how difficult we have made it to raise a child. If my family is just one example of a wider phenomenon then perhaps all over the country, and possibly the world, women are doing their best to raise children who are equipped to deal with all the challenges that the world may throw at them, while men are seeing what’s the craziest nonsense they can get the child to believe.
It struck me that men are determined to have a laugh at the expense of the gullible wherever possible. As I pondered this fact I realised that it’s not just children who I have lied to over the years. I used to work with a very gullible woman who I would invent spur-of-the-moment nonsense to whenever I spoke to. I once told her that Kenny Dalglish’s full name was Kensington Dalglish and when she dropped this nugget of information in a conversation with her husband he nearly had a hernia laughing and yet just two weeks later I persuaded her that Harry Kewell’s full name was Harrington Kewell. She revealed this gem to her husband halfway through a pub quiz to which he responded “You’ve been talking to Regan again, haven’t you?”
I used to put more effort into my lying. When my kids were both under the age of seven I would sometimes take them to the pub for pop and crisps on the way back from picking them up at school (yes, I realise this entire column could be shown to Social Services). Once I’d plonked them down with their diet cokes and ready salted I’d text my friend and ask him to ring me in a couple of minutes. This gave me time to put the phone on vibrate but no ringtone and to tell the kids how I could make objects move via the power of my mind. I’d then put the phone facedown on the table and stare at it until my mate rang, at which point it would start shaking and moving around. The children would stare wide-eyed at the phone and then look at me with a mixture of awe, respect and fear. “Don’t worry,” I’d tell them, “I only ever use my powers for good.”
It was only as I was typing that that I recalled my older brother doing a similar pre-planned trick on me. He took me in the garden and told me he’d caught a blackbird in a small box. He then fired his air-pistol at the box and “blood” poured out of it. I was so horrified I started screaming and he had to show me that it was only a box with red paint inside. If you’re read this far I hope you are diverting Social Services to my brother’s house and away from mine.
Obviously some people take it too far but for the main part there are few things more pleasing than passing off an ridiculous untruth as fact to gullible children. Trust your Uncle Frankincense Regan.