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15 Lies All Parents Tell Their Kids

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Jun. 20 2019, Updated 2:39 p.m. ET

There is no rite of passage more universal than the point at which all humans realize their parents are full of crap. As kids, we take everything our parents tell us at face value. It isn't until adolescence and sometimes well into adulthood that we realize parents lie to their kids as easily as they breathe. And then when we have kids of our own, we realize why they lie: because kids, though they are a joy and treasure, are very often the literal worst. 

Here are 15 lies virtually all parents tell at some point in their lives, either to avoid difficult conversations or simply to enjoy a moment's peace. 

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Time seems to move at a glacial pace when you're a kid, but we all know parents deliberately miscalculate how much longer kids have to endure a boring thing. Since time immemorial, parents have lied right in their kids' faces about when they'll end their boring grown-up visit, and the standard reported time has always been 5 minutes, followed by an actual elapsed time of one or several more hours of chatting.

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Parents are always moving the goalposts, aren't they? When children are younger, we tell them they can do what they want as soon as they're legal adults. But since most kids these days continue living with their parents or at least living off their parents until college or after. Some adults are finally copping to that and skipping straight to the "as long as you're under my roof" qualifier instead of the lie that some magical force-field gets lifted the moment the clock strikes midnight on our 18th birthdays.

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When parents say, "We'll think about it," what they're really saying is: "As soon as you leave the room I will literally never think about it again until you bring it up several weeks later." Parents bank on the very good chance their children will have completely forgotten about their request in a few hours. If it does come up again, the typical follow-up response is, "We'll see," which as one Twitter user observed, is Parentese for "No."

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At least 75 percent of the lies parents spout are to stop their kids from begging for stuff. These untruths are also silent prayers that their children will have short enough attention spans to forget or, better yet, fall asleep on the ride home. That way they won't even be conscious when the car speeds past whatever store or roadside stand was selling the precious itemtheir kids so desperately wanted hours prior.

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Parents, this has got to be the biggest whopper of them all! This is why we all thought as kids that adults have it all figured out, and so we spend a good portion of our 20s and 30s wondering when we'll feel like adults and finally have things figured out. Now that I'm an adult, people older than me are finally being straight and revealing that nobody has any clue and none of this makes any sense. But I wonder whether kids would find it a relief to know their parents are just winging it every day or if it would send them into fits of crippling existential despair.

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Shout-out to all the kids who walked in on or overheard their parents having adult time together whose parents tried to convince them they were just having a normal adult wrestling match or tickle fight. Naked. In bed. You know, just normal, PG clean fun you most definitely won't need to have therapy about in a couple decades.

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This is one of those lies parents are telling themselves as much as they're telling it to their kids. But if we all dig deep within ourselves, we realize we don't love any two people in this world the same. Even if we feel like the quantity of that love is equally distributed, it would be impossible for the love to feel exactly the same for any two people because... they're different people. And as much as parents try not to favor one kid over another, I think you're always going to have one you relate to more or who you "get" more. 

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Classic interrogation tactic, and yet generations of children continue to fall for it. Perhaps some parents truly believe they won't be angry, but I kind of doubt it. Maybe less angry at best, but come on — you going to tell me that you won't be mad at your kid for finger-painting their way down the hallway just because they admitted they did it? Please. Being upfront about it doesn't change the fact that you're about to spend several hours matching paint at Home Depot and a whole Saturday on top of that  erasing your little one's "art project."

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Since the advent of the television set, parents have been telling their kids this one. It's probably way less common nowadays, since most children nowadays rarely watch an actual TV and spend hours upon hours a day watching internet videos on a computer or mobile device. And while I'm pretty sure nobody has gone permanently cross-eyed due to sitting too close to a screen, apparently kids are growing horns in the back of their heads because of it. That's one all you parents trying to limit screen time can stick in your back pocket for later!

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Another lie parents are telling themselves as much as they're telling their kids. We all intend to just get one or two items at Target. But once you're in there it feels cosmically impossible to leave without spending at least $200. I'm convinced they're pumping some sort of psychotropic drug through the HVAC system that turns off our ability to exercise self-control in the face of a "sale" sign.

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See also (spoilers!): Mufasa in the Lion King, Little Foot's mom in The Land Before Time, Bing Bong in Inside Out, and Dobby the House Elf in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

As long as movies have tragic deaths of parents or other beloved characters, there will be parents lying their faces off to their kids about it. And I get it, sometimes that's way easier than having the "everybody dies," conversation. You're going to have to talk about it eventually, just maybe not at the movie theater, y'know? 

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Oof, where my millennials at? Perhaps this wasn't a lie at some point in history, but as anyone who graduated around the time of the 2007-2008 financial crisis can attest, it definitely wasn't true for us. And even now, a lot of graduates are discovering that while a college degree might up your chances at getting a good job the only real guarantee is that you're gonna be paying it off for the next 20 years unless your parents were wealthy enough to pay your tuition. The days where you could be guaranteed a full-ride scholarship for having straight As and good test scores are long gone.

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I think parents want to believe this is true, and really do think it is until the moment their kid announces that they're taking a gap year to backpack through Europe or that the guy with the neck tattoo is their fiancé, or that they're majoring in philosophy. While a good parent's love might be conditional, they're very rarely going to be pleased with every decision their kids make for the sake of their happiness — because so often they know what makes them happy now might not make them happy in the future.

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I have swallowed enough seeds to grow an entire orchard. Why do parents even lie about this one? What do they hope to gain ? When I became an adult and realized that literally any time you eat a single strawberry, you're swallowing literally dozens of seeds, I rolled my eyes so hard on behalf of 6-year-old me. Parents, perhaps you're worried your kids will choke on the seeds and that's why you tell this whopper. I can assure you it's far more likely to cause an anxiety attack than to prevent a choking hazard.

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If any of you reading this have a parent who actually made good on this threat, I want to hear from you. For research purposes. Because I don't know a single parent who would spend all that time getting their kids into the car — a monumental trial to begin with — only to turn around and go home without reaching their destination. But I do recall it being a pretty effective threat if the place we were going was anywhere fun.

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