The lies we tell

Rummaging around my bookmarks not long ago I found a little treat I’d set aside to read. It’s the homepage of a writer named Paul Graham and you could do worse than spend a bit of time reading his essays. One in particular, titled “Lies we tell kids,” dovetails nicely with the thinking I’ve done about the challenging, inevitable conversations I’ll be having with my daughters in the years to come. You know what I mean – the conversations where they’ll ask if I’ve ever smoked, experimented in other, let’s say less legal pastimes, and how I’m going to handle those questions.

I’ve pulled out one of the paragraphs from Mr. Graham’s essay below but you can find the entire piece here. Definitely worth your time. If you’re interested, I originally stumbled on his work from a list Inc. Magazine put together – 19 blogs you should bookmark right now – and you can find that here

For you parents who have already crossed that bridge, how did you handle it? Or, for those of you like me who are still on the front end, how do you think you will?

“Innocence is also open-mindedness. We want kids to be innocent so they can continue to learn. Paradoxical as it sounds, there are some kinds of knowledge that get in the way of other kinds of knowledge. If you’re going to learn that the world is a brutal place full of people trying to take advantage of one another, you’re better off learning it last. Otherwise you won’t bother learning much more.”



  1. First, glad to know you’ve discovered Paul Graham — he’s good stuff. (I have a book of his essays if you’d like to borrow it.)

    Second, re your main question: I think you handle their questions honestly, but at their own level of readiness / sophistication. A six-year-old, for example, doesn’t need a detailed sociological explication of marijuana and the laws surrounding it.

    I also think it’s perfectly fine to tell small children “That’s grown-up stuff” — but only when the topic in question really IS.


    1. Tim,
      Thanks for the comment. I’ve lost a couple of hours already in Graham’s writing but I think I’ll have to take you up on your offer in the not-too-distant future.
      I think you’re right on target when it comes to young ones. It’s the curious mind mired in teenage angst I’m a little concerned about. Then it just might become an entirely different conversation. Keep your fingers crossed.


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