If you’ve ever been a kid you’ve probably heard it, and if you’ve ever been a parent you’ve probably said it: Honesty is the best policy. But sometimes when it comes to dealing with other moms and their kids, that policy flies right out the window. We’re not spouting huge, hurtful lies — when it comes to the important stuff, we tell our mom friends the truth — but sometimes, when it comes to sparing someone’s feelings or self-esteem, or our own, we admit to fudging a bit.
1. Your kid was good.
It’s the first thing every mom wants to know when picking her progeny up from a playdate: How did he act? Well, if he threw a baseball through the window or shaved the dog or threatened someone with a crowbar, I’ll let you know. Otherwise, I’ll probably say he was “just great!” Because even if he was a minor pain in the ass, I understand that he could be having an off day, and I don’t want to make you feel like a crappy parent because of it.
2. Your kid is adorable.
We all think our own children are beautiful in every way, but asking other people to share that opinion puts them in a tricky spot. You say, “Isn’t she adorable?” — and you mean, “Aren’t her physical features pleasant to look at?” In turn, I say, “Of course she is!” — and I mean, “I think she’s going to look like your great-uncle Gary with the unibrow and the huge chin, but luckily ‘adorable’ doesn’t only have to mean ‘physically beautiful’ and the way she’s drooling is kind of cute so I can agree and not technically be lying.” So yeah. Your kid is cute. Just maybe not in the exact way you mean.
3. Your kid is normal.
I don’t know a mom on earth who hasn’t been concerned at some point about her child’s development. And 95% of the time, those fears are unfounded because kids vary so widely when it comes to their individual paces of learning and growing. “Normal” is subjective. So when you tell me you’re worried that your kid hasn’t walked/talked/potty trained yet, I’m going to reassure you that it’s nothing to be concerned about and that your kid is totally completely 100% on track. Do I know this for sure? Nope. I’m not a doctor. But I’m also not an asshole, and I don’t want you to feel worse about it than you already do. I’ll offer my support and tactfully suggest that you make an appointment with the pediatrician, just to be sure — then follow it up with, “But I’m sure it’s nothing.”
4. Sorry for the mess.
Before you came over, I spent 20 minutes on a mad dash to pick up stray socks, make sure the sink isn’t overflowing with dishes, and wiping crumbs off of couch cushions so my house looks presentable for company. But if I apologize for it being messy when it’s actually decent, maybe you’ll think it’s normally super clean.
5. Don’t worry about cleaning up.
One of my least favorite things about hosting a playdate is the toy-scattered, book-strewn, crumb-cluttered aftermath. But what comes out of my mouth every single time? “Oh, don’t worry about picking up the toys. We’ll take care of it.” I don’t know why I say this, because in reality, I would love to have some help dealing with this storm. I guess maybe it’s because I know that sometimes it’s hard to get your kids to do something as boring as picking up, and I don’t want you to feel awkward if your kid doesn’t comply immediately.
6. Sorry, we can’t come because…
My kid isn’t feeling well? I have an appointment? Actually, I’m declining the playdate for any number of reasons: Maybe I don’t want to put on real pants, or my child is being a jerk, or I can’t deal with anyone else’s kids but my own at the moment. But none of those are things I can readily admit to you, so I come up with something that sounds more legit so you don’t feel slighted (and so I don’t feel petty).
7. My kid is doing those things too!
Comparing our children to their peers is stupid and pointless, and yet…it’s something we all do at one time or another. So when you tell me that your child — who is the same age as mine — is already using the toilet or reading or whatever, I can’t help trying to match our kids skill for skill. Okay, so maybe by “using the toilet,” I mean that one time I caught him peeing on the floor and ran him to his potty chair. And by “reading,” I mean reciting the words in his favorite board book from memory. But whatever. You don’t have to know those details.
8. You look great!
You drag yourself through my door looking like an extra from The Walking Dead — dark circles under your eyes, uncombed hair, and some sort of mysterious white crust on your shirt. (Snot? Spit-up? Oatmeal? It’s anybody’s guess.) Immediately you moan an apology about looking so terrible. But even if you do, I’m not going to agree with you. I’m going to tell you that you look just fine because I know you’re feeling self-conscious, and my affirmation that you do actually look pretty damn bad is not gonna do you any favors. Plus, I’ve been there — all moms have.
Sure, when it comes to matters of relatively trivial importance, we may tell our mom friends a few teeny tiny fibs. But the lies moms tell other moms aren’t malicious, just measures we put in place to spare each other’s self-esteem. They come from good intentions…and that’s the truth.