Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Lies We Tell Our Children

As Vacation Bible School Epic Bible Adventures teacher extraordinaire this week, I've had the coveted opportunity to LIE to children about many, many different things...ALL. WEEK. LONG. And I'm not inventing lessons here, people. I'm following the script put out by the official VBS company.

Lovers of controversy, I am not making any commentary on religion in this post. I believe in the Bible stories and themes, though they lose some authenticity and some accuracy in the 15 minute retelling, I guess. 

It's just that all through the lessons, you're directed to lie to kids in the process.

And they love it. In fact, the lies leave them begging for more. 

Think of the Tooth Fairy. The Easter Bunny. (Even my 7 year old isn't buying that one. "A tall bunny that brings eggs? Really, Mom? REALLY?" Yet she's as willing as anybody else to pretend he's real on Easter morning when there's chocolate involved.) Apparently, ever since baby Jesus was laid in the manger and Santa began making his first trip around the world in 2 hours, we've been lying to children and they've been loving it. 

Why do we love to lie to children so much? And why do they love to be lied to?

And now I'm doing it willingly in church. To make church more fun, I guess? 

Here's when I was most amazed--perhaps appalled--by the children's willingness to believe lies. We put on a skit where Esther bursts into the room and explains how stressed out she is that she has to go talk to her husband, the king, and admit that she's a Jew,  and then ask him not to kill the rest of her people. There was this dramatic build-up, and I'd set up a "throne room" in the closet across the hall, where the choir robes are. 

At least our "throne" looked better than this one. A little.

I kid you not. I put a "throne" next to a bunch of robes in a storage closet. I put some plastic swords on it and around it. I hung a plastic crown on one side of the chair, hung a purple shepherd's robe over the back of the chair like a sash, and put a plastic scepter in the seat of the chair. I put 2 flicker candles on the sides of the chair. (The VBS people LOVE flicker candles like they're their BFF.) This was our royal throne room.

We took the kids out to see the throne, had them look inside and tell Esther what they saw, describe the plastic swords, etc. Esther pretended to freak out and be nervous about the king being there, her getting killed on the spot, etc.

My point, restated: our throne room looked like a chair, some cheesy plastic swords, and some choir robes. Oh, and flicker candle magic.

By the end of the lesson, "Esther" left me and all the kids in the classroom and went alone to admit her secret to the "king," and we were pretending he was in the choir robe know, ruling the people (and, if he'd really been in there at all, pushing choir robes off his head). It had all the drama of "As the World Turns" meets "Days of Our Lives." Anyway, the kids were on the edges of their seats. 

Lookie! Woo hoo! Got the king's scepter, and that means I won't get boiled in oil. And now...let me do my soap opera stare before the next commercial break.
  "Esther" returned to the classsroom at the end of the lesson with the plastic scepter and told everybody that the king was going to listen to her. We clapped, and then I sent them to snack, crafts, games...wherever. I'm sure some of the more clever kids snuck a look in the choir robe closet on their way out.

3 nights later, the kids were STILL asking me what the king looked like, if he had shown up in the "throne room," what he'd decided. The last night, right before the group of 5th graders left, one kid stopped and asked why the king didn't show up to make his appearance before Bible school was over. They were genuinely disappointed not to meet the choir robe king but, like Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy, he'd made a quick exit out of the building without being spotted by anybody.

Today, my 4 year old, Olivia, told me this elaborate story about something she'd done, and I looked at her carefully and said, "Olivia, did you just tell me a lie?" She responded, "Oh, no, Mommy. That's called PRETENDING. That's what I was doing."

I guess there's a fine line between pretending and telling a lie. 

Is it pretending if all the kids choose to believe there's a king who's about to come out of the closet at church? (This sentence makes me smile just typing it.)

Moral dilemma: When is it okay to lie to your children? Is it ever okay? 

photo credit: enelem via photopin cc photo credit: Javier Kohen via photopin cc