As soon as Babcia (grandma in Polish) left the room, David confided to me in a whisper, "I don't believe that she really drew that." I asked him why not, but I think I already knew the answer, even if it wasn't' the one he gave.
I've mentioned before that honesty in Poland is a relative thing. There are very few people (if any) that I would call strictly honest. It is absolutely accepted that people lie to get ahead or to impress or avoid offending people etc. Often people lie for no apparent reason. It's just almost a part of the culture.
Greg's mother (who I love!!) often gets caught in these little lies. She only gets caught because she tells them to the kids and then we tell them that she doesn't exactly mean that, but she's just saying it. Like she was going to run downstairs to a neighbor's apartment and Evie asked to go with her. We had heard her make the phone call and all she said was, "Hey, Ula, can I come down for a minute? Okay, I'm coming." Her response to Evie's request to be allowed to come was, "Oh, well, you know what? Ula is just on her way out the door because she's has someplace to go, so I'm just going to be very quick." This may possibly have been true, but I don't believe that my mother in-law knew it. Why couldn't she have just said, "Nope, not this time, Ev. I'm coming right back. Maybe next time." ?
A few years ago we were visiting and there was a Scooby-Doo marathon on. The kids were crazy about Scooby-Doo and when they told Babcia that they couldn't believe how many episodes were coming on she told them, "Well, when I knew you were coming I called them and told them that my grandkids like Scooby-Doo and asked them to please play a lot of them." This is such a tiny little innocent lie, and a kind of cute one (she's really cute with the kids) but when they get older they will look back on it, and many other similar lies and wonder how often she ever spoke the truth.
That's what has happened with Greg. He doesn't trust his mother. He loves her, but he rarely takes her at her word. He has lost a bit of respect for her over the years as he realizes just how often he was lied to as a child. It has had a huge impact on the kind of father he is. (and is probably part of what makes him a little cynical--although he hates to be called that)
In Poland lying to children is very common practice. You hear it all the time even in public, "No, we can't buy a sucker, those suckers are only for adults." or a very common one we heard at a dance class, "Okay, see that door over there? If you kids don't listen, a dragon will come out of the door and eat you!" or, "you can't push that button or it will explode!"
It seems these little lies are told mostly to make excuses. I admit they demonstrate a bit of creativity on the part of the adult, but they serve no real purpose, and I think they will backfire. While children may listen for now, soon they will realize that those things don't happen and will stop trusting their parents, even when they are giving sound advice or legitimate excuses.
And how much better for children to learn to do things for the right reason in the first place! You don't push the button because it might ruin part of the appliance. You can't have a sucker because I don't want a sticky mess in the car or we're eating dinner soon. Come on! These things help children to actually understand the world around them and how and why they should behave certain ways. It's so logical.
This is the reason that Greg is so extremely opposed to The Great Santa Deception, as I've started to call it. Why would you lie to your child about something? Then one day they find out that you were lying and orchestrating this whole sequence of events year after year to make them believe something that is false and in no way necessary for their growth. (I'll say here that I understand the appeal of Santa and the doing good/giving to others etc. It's not like I hate Santa. I think he's very nice. I just wish, he were a little more real so people wouldn't have to lie to their kids! :) Also, Santa comes to our house and the kids always look forward to his coming with much anticipation, just like in any other home. The difference is that ours know that he's us. We talk about him as Santa, and anyone might assume that they believe in him, but they're in on the whole thing. And I think they love it all just as much as other kids. They have known from the time, when Evie was barely two, and Greg told her that Santa isn't real and shocked and upset me (we hadn't discussed how to deal with Santa before at all). So please know that I would very likely have been in on The Great Santa Deception, too if it hadn't been for Greg. And now look at what he's done to me! Yikes! He's so persuasive! (may he never persuade me to go along with all of his views! ;)
I don't mean to pass judgement on people who do Santa, of course. I'm just explaining a bit of background on why we don't. And I'm not even sure that we should point out when Greg's mother lies to the kids. Iit started when they were really little and they would excitedly come and tell us something that Babcia had said or done which we knew wasn't true. We didn't feel it was our responsibility to go along with her stories. We do tell her, though. Once in a while we will say something like, "Well, not really, of course, Babcia's just playing." Or even, "Oh, you can just tell them the truth, don't worry about it." So she knows that we don't go for that kind of thing.
Probably a lot of people would not consider this a very important thing, or would even think it was wrong to tell the kids about and wouldn't want to turn them against the poor lady. But our kids love their Babcia! I think it helps them to know about one of her weaknesses, and to understand that lying can have the opposite effect than what is intended. (And the kids totally haven't turned against her!)
(Teachers often tell these kinds of lies to their students. Also, one of Evie's best friends constantly tells them to her friends and expects them to believe her: Ten of her teeth fell out once when she bit into a roll or that she saw a real "water nymph" and took a picture of it etc.)