Lying to the Young

Aug 21, 2022 | Articles, Issue 1170

 by Sarah A. Hoyt

Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise

All societies lie to their young. You sort of have to, for the same reason that translation is as the French have “betraying a little.”

I had to make my peace with that last while trying to tell mom something funny the kids had done, only it wasn’t funny in Portuguese, so I had to change it around.

For years I felt guilty over it, but it was the only way to communicate how very funny her grandkids were (and they were.)

And that was before we got into trying to explain to her how… you got jobs in the US, say, when Dan was unemployed, or why I had six novel contracts one year (not because I knew someone) or– All of it involved some level of “lying” so she would get what was going on, without my spending months on a graduate course on “how things work in the US.”

It’s kind of the same with kids. You can’t explain to your kid why this or that doesn’t work without lying a little. “No, you can’t ever fly, because you don’t have wings. You can only fly if you were born with wings.” Or “I can’t let you cook because it’s against the law to let your two year old turn on the gas stove.” (As opposed to “I don’t want you to burn down the house, kid,” which would lead to an argument for an hour. They still did it, and by four both were cooking for themselves, but it put it off another day.)

And there are the lies you tell them inadvertently, like the first time our 5 year old came to us crying his eyes out because the police were going to come arrest him. You see, the computer had performed and illegal operation and shut down and–

Or until 18 my older son thought it as illegal to park in front of houses not your own. We figured this out as he was driving all over creation in the maze of little streets in Denver named after presidents, and we were going “Son, the lecture was back three blocks.” “Yes, but I’m looking for a place to park that’s not illegal.” Us: “Er…. what?”

How he’d arrived to this conclusion: We lived in a downtown neighborhood, and only had space for two cars in the driveway. This meant our friends often parked alongside the house, so he figured that was okay. It belonged to us. However, we had an insane next door neighbor whose favorite pastime was to park ACROSS OUR DRIVEWAY. And in such a way that it blocked both of us coming out. Now, most of the time that didn’t matter on weekends, but sometimes we did have to drive somewhere, and then we’d ring their doorbell and if they didn’t answer, we’d call the police. (They weren’t being annoying on purpose. They were just stupid. They were renting the bottom half of the house, which meant that the driveway was taken up by the other renters. And they were AFRAID to park in front of our house, because they came home at night, and they’d heard someone had got stabbed on that corner. Which absolutely was right. Sometime in the seventies. When we lived there, you had a greater chance of having the next door dog run up for pets than of being stabbed.) So, he deduced “parking in front of other people’s houses was illegal.” Add to that times like when we went to see fireworks, and neighborhoods near the park were fully parked, except for the areas with yellow stripes, and Dan would go “I’d park there, but it’s illegal” and he got “oh, parking in front of other people’s houses is definitely illegal.” We only caught this two years into his driving himself around, and it made me wonder how many hikes that poor kid had gone on.

And sometimes the things they infer from what they were never told is life endangering. Like when we were driving back from Manitou, I think and the kid, at 15, was putting in his “drivers’ training” by driving with me in the passenger’s seat (let alone that it was nightfall and I couldn’t see very well. Still can’t. Night blind.) We get to an intersection downtown, and the light turns green, and the kid makes a left turn IN FRONT OF ONCOMING TRAFFIC.

After we got to the other side and I calmed my heart attack down, I was like “What on Earth possessed you?” And he was like “What? It was green and left has right of way.” (He’d gotten confused on protected and unprotected lefts. The fact I remember this 16 years later tells you just how terrifying it was. I think I put holes on the seat fabric. I still don’t understand how we didn’t get hit by the three lanes of oncoming cars. There was much tire squealing and I’m sure a lot of creative cursing, too.)

These things happen. You see, kids …. don’t have the life experience to interpret a lot of stuff. They are little aliens in the world, and everything is new. And they want to please you and be “real adults” so badly. It’s like an innate drive.

So they take not only what you tell them, but a lot of inferences about what you didn’t say. Like I remember being convinced the kids next door were evil. Were they? Oh, no. But they were poor and their parents were both alcoholics, so the kids were …. less than clean, in a place and time when bathing took time and effort and determination. (Heating the water, filling the tub pot by pot and afterwards dragging the tub out, emptying it, etc. Heck even washing in a basin with a sponge took time and effort (including heating the water so you didn’t hate every second of the experience) and it took buying soap instead of wine, now and then.) My parents were terrified I’d get lice. I had knee-long hair, (I have a picture of myself at ten, dressed in only my hair, and it’s not even mildly kiddy porn. Nothing showed. I often ran around — till I had it cut at 11 — in only panties and my hair, leading to my brother’s giving me the nickname “Lady G”) and it was heck to get rid of lice (I caught them twice, I think. I’m still terrified of them, and still recognize the signs in people’s hair. It was so unpleasant to get rid of them. And yes saw them a couple of years ago. A lady in the Denver Cathedral downtown. Not badly dressed, but looked profoundly depressed.) But I was a kid. My parents allowed me to play with other dirt-poor kids, including one that practically lived at our house and followed me around everywhere. So– The only reason they wouldn’t let them play with those other kids must be they were evil. My youngest cosmogony was composed of the “evil next door.” Because those poor kids were dirty and neglected.

Why is this important?

The left, all of them, collectively periodically lose their minds over the “we can’t teach about alternate genders to 5 year olds, and what if the kids that age feel isolated and get depressed because they aren’t standard boys/girls?” Or “Why can’t they read homosexual romance in middle school? Some of them are already gay. Isn’t that indoctrinating them into heterosexuality?” Or “Why can’t we teach them that the white race did all these evil things so they don’t grow up to do them again?”

And all of this would make some sense — not a ton, no. For instance, the reason Europe colonized the world and not the other way around had nothing to do with being evil, but with a bunch of …. accidents of industrial and civic development at the time. And they did no more evil than the other races when they conquered (For an eye full I recommend The Washing of the Spears about the Zulu conquest of Africa. They perpetrated landscape-changing slaughter unequaled till WWI) — if you buy into their premises. And what could it hurt to give kids the information to cope with perhaps a distressing situation?

Well… what it could hurt is that you’re lying to them, and they’re not lies that will make them more functional.

Look, I have gay friends. Yes, okay, my religion forbids it, and if I had the slightest chance of sinning that way, I would have tried to fight it. Since it holds no attraction for me, I find a ton of other ways to sin (TRUST ME. YOU HAVE NO IDEA. I laugh at the idea of sainthood, ever. I’m studying to the test and hoping to make it into purgatory.)

So, it’s a sin, but it’s not the worst sin. And we’re all sinners together. And some of my friends are much, much holier than I am despite that sin. (And consciously so. Yes, I have weird friends. Deal.)

I hate “gay activists” as I hate “Latin activists” or “Women activists” but that has nothing to do with the real people, just trying to live their lives.

I don’t think we shouldn’t write books with gay protagonists. Even books with YOUNG gay protagonists. (It would come nicely from me, considering what I’ve written already, and not counting the planned stuff. Including the half-finished book with a gay high school student. (Who to be fair is more worried about breakthroughs from the dungeon dimension.))

What I object to is having MOST books accessible to kids be about gay relationships. Or worse, most of the ASSIGNED books. Or having the teacher explain to kindergartners that they get to pick their own pronouns and that no one knows if they’re boys or girls. And that if they’re at all non-standard, they are the other sex and should do life-hampering changes at that age.

Because kids make inferences, in addition to the things you tell them. They are DESIGNED to try to infer things, so they fit into human society faster. Also, their brains are designed for human life about 10k years ago, when things were simpler. (Yeah, designed/evolved for. Deal. It’s a short-cut handle-word.)

So when you show them more examples of one thing than the other, they assume these things are NORMAL. And the other must be forbidden and looked down up. Being “cis-het” is definitely not what the teachers like, right? They are so encouraging to all the kids who say they are ‘really’ something completely different.

Then there is the white thing. All white people are evil, right? Look how they oppressed other people. And because they teach the Warts-only version of American history and other countries prettify theirs, the US must be the ONLY and MOST evil country on Earth. (Yeah. Then they hit the streets shouting “No America at all.” Unaware their rainbow persona would get them killed anywhere else in the world.)

… All societies lie to their kids. They usually lie to them in a way that will make the kids more functional/adapted.

Yes, that means if you don’t mention gay people at all, young gay people will have trouble coming to terms with their sexuality. And some, yes, might choose to live closeted their entire lives.


How is it better to convince kids, the vast majority of which will be straight, because yes, evolution, that they should be gay, and if they aren’t it’s something to lie about, or invent a new persona about, so you’re not that cis-het evil thing?

How does this benefit the new generation, growing up? You might as well run around telling them that left unprotected turns have the right of way.

Because here’s the thing: those kids are still going to be boys or girls. And the overwhelming majority of them are still going to be straight. WHY do you want them to go through life feeling guilty and hiding what they are?

AHAH! You say. But you want to do that to gay kids.

No. Not especially. But that’s a talk for parents or close-to-kids adults to have when they’re older. Now I know it varies with where you live, but it’s the 21st century and gay marriage is legal. I very much doubt that people don’t know someone who is gay and someone who is gay and married, at least in their extended cycle.

The conversation with the kids is best had under “Oh, yeah. Mike is married to Bill. Yeah, I know it’s not the average thing, but it happens sometimes. Some people just fall in love with the same sex they are.”

Note, no details on what goes on behind closed doors are needed, unless you are in the habit of telling your kids “Yes, Uncle Bob and Aunt Lucinda are married. That means at night, they get in bed and he–” Which I can’t imagine, even to eighteen year olds. Heck, I wouldn’t have that conversation with my kids now, and they are ADULTS.

Do they need extremely detailed descriptions, or as one YA book in the library that parents are objecting to: DRAWINGS? Seriously?

Trust me, as someone who grew up in a restricted culture, and whose parents would rather commit seppuku than give her “the talk”, I figured all the basics by eight, from listening and making inferences, and I was well into figuring out all the side avenues and possible perversions by 14. (No, not in practicality. Bless your heart. I didn’t even get kissed till 18. But– Well, it helped that I had access — in a friend’s house — to a beautiful, illustrated encyclopedia of Greek and Roman Myth. Or, as we call it around the house “perversions A-go-go. I’m still puzzled by the illustration of Ganymede and the Eagle. Given bird anatomy, I don’t think it would be po– Okay, never mind.)

And yeah, gay kids might feel like they stick out. Mostly because they do. The majority won’t be like them. That frankly doesn’t make them any different than kids who are too poor, too rich, too smart, too stupid, too creative, too autistic to be average.

Those cases have to be dealt with one on one, not by lying to all the kids at once, and making gay kids think they’re average, except the other kids still make fun of them, or hetero kids feel they’re wrong, except they’re still what they are, or–

Yes, that stuff should be dealt with, but it should be dealt with one on one, and with careful talks about how to live as an Odd in the normal world. (Admittedly everyone, even the most “normal” person needs this for something, even if it’s just loving anchovies on their pizza.)

Yeah, some of the kids won’t have anyone who can do that. And? Some of the kids are screwed no matter what you do. Fortunately they are a small minority, and a lot of those come to a good place too, eventually, after struggles.

I’m quite at home with my oddities now at almost sixty. And it wasn’t all h*ll along the way. And the lice-infested kids who used to live next door to me all got married and have decent (more decent than their parents lives) lives.

Schools are not instruments of mass-lying-to-kids. Other than “you should feel safe here” and teaching them the basics and what we know to be facts (which might or might not leave aside History until they’re MUCH older and can argue) they should leave the kids alone.

You shouldn’t lie to the young, of course. But you have to, to some extent, to simplify things so they get it.

What you shouldn’t do was pack the kids heads full of non-functional nonsense, and make them feel they “should be” things they aren’t, and things that frankly will make their lives harder.

Sometimes I feel school assignment lists are the losers of the previous generation trying to justify themselves. It would explain all the never end of the “The Vietnam war was wrong and I was totally correct in being a draft dodger” that my kids were forced to read in middle and high school (A lot of it outright lies.) It was like people who were starting to suspect they had done real evil and were trying to justify themselves to kids who didn’t know any better, so they had a sort of ideological bodyguard around them.

The current insanity might very well be the result of the free-love-never-have-kids generation trying to get over their own regrets.

I don’t care. The kids are not your wailing wall, or your confessional. They don’t exist to make you feel better or grant you absolution.

If you feel that bad, go to confession. The priest might be confused, but most of them will talk you through the mess in your head.

Just don’t pass your bolus of guilt and dysfunctional onto the kids and destroy the future with it.


Reprinted from Lying to the Young for August 18, 2022

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