My Kids Won't Lie For Me

I've made a terrible mistake with my kids. None of them will lie for me.

Don't get me wrong. I'm pleased that they value honesty so highly. But I can't get them to lie on my behalf even a little bit.

When I was a kid, I didn't like lying, but I did it out of a sense of self-preservation.

"Yes, I was at Mike's all day. No, we didn't go to the mall. No, we didn't get Mike's mom to buy us tickets to Caddy Shack. I'm only 13, and that would be wrong."

Then I would get found out and get grounded for lying. So I only ever did it when it really counted. Like denying that it was me who stuck 15 or so For Sale signs in front of my high school for a senior prank. (I still got caught, and was grounded for an entire month.)

As I grew older, I learned to value honesty and to tell the truth even when it hurts. I hold other people to that same standard. If you can't be honest with me, and be a person of integrity, I'll have nothing at all to do with you anymore.

But that doesn't mean I won't tell little fibs for fun.

I like to play small jokes on my wife. We sometimes play these little tricks just to get a momentary shock of surprise out of each other.

For example, she doesn't like Scottish food, and never wanted to go to the Scottish restaurant in downtown Indianapolis. So I used to ask my kids to help me play a little joke on her

"Go tell Mommy you want to go to MacNiven's for dinner." Of course she would say no, but I thought the momentary surprise would make for a good laugh.

Except they never did it. Never, not once, not at all.

My son hates practical jokes and thinks they're dumb. Even when he was little, I'd try to get him to understand the humor of our little game, and he flat out refused.

"Oh come on, Buddy. It'll be funny."

"No, it won't."

"You're five and you still think the word 'poop' is funny. How is this not funny?"

He'd shoot me a stink-eye that would make a Baptist preacher's wife green with envy.

Whenever I got him to play along, which was rare, he'd say "Daddy wants me to tell you I want to go to MacNiven's, but I really don't."

My older daughter wouldn't even consider it. I don't know if it was out of a sense of loyalty or if she was playing favorites, but I couldn't get her to help me with this if I was on fire and telling the joke would release a deluge of water.

She'd just say "No" and walk away.

My youngest daughter thought it was lying.

"Sweetie, tell Mommy you want to go to MacNiven's for dinner."

"I don't want to go to MacNiven's," she would say. "Mommy doesn't like it either."

"We're not actually going there. I just want to play a trick on Mommy."

"But that's a lie."

"Well, no, it's a joke. We're only playing a small joke on her. We won't actually make her go to MacNiven's."

"You told me lying was wrong."

"It is wrong, but jokes are okay."

"Your jokes make Baby Jesus cry."

On the other hand, they seemed to have no problem doing this to me.

"Daddy, Mommy wants you to go out for Thai food on your birthday."

"Daddy, Mommy wants to get a nose ring."

"Daddy, Mommy wants another child."

And they would laugh and laugh at my momentary discomfort, reveling in the feeling of pulling one over on me.

But when I would ask for a return favor? Suspicion, apathy, and a Mother Theresa-like devotion to truth and righteousness.

They're such sticklers for the truth that not only do they refuse to help me with a joke, they'll rat me out in a heartbeat.

"Who ate the last piece of birthday cake?" my wife will ask, loudly. Before the question is completely out of her mouth, the kids all point and shout, "Dad!"

I don't even get a few moment's grace of them saying, "I don't know. It wasn't me." I don't want them to lie for me, I'd just like a few minutes' head start for once.

They've even texted my wife from a friend's: "Dad ate the last piece of cake." And they'll upload security video from the cameras they installed in the kitchen.

Look, I appreciate that they're so honest and generally don't give us any trouble, but I've come to realize that when it comes to our family dynamics, I'm the immature and irresponsible one, and my kids all assumed the role of responsible adult.

So now I'm just waiting for their own kids, when I can teach them how to be proper troublemakers.

The 3rd edition of Branding Yourself is now available on and in your local Barnes & Noble bookstore.