Parenthood is full of little white lies. Sometimes that dishonesty is for our children's benefit. Other times, I think it may be for ours.
We had a dishonest moment with Monika earlier this week.
We were finishing up morning milking, so we were in the back of the barn. All the way through the barn, Monika had been asking, "What's this cow's name? Who's that cow?"
Then she asked Glen the questions he didn't want to answer: "Where's Cupcake? Where's Sienna?"
Monika had three calves last summer that she claimed as her fair calves - Star (aka Rockstar), Sandy, and Cookie. She knows each calf and each calf's mother. Cupcake was Cookie's mom. Sienna was Sandy's mom. Unfortunately, Cupcake was one of the cows we culled last fall to downsize the herd. We sold Sienna this winter because we couldn't get her bred back.
Glen turned to me and said, "Help me out here, Mom."
Great, I thought, make me decide whether it was time to tell Monika the truth and deal with her emotions or sail through the questions with a couple white lies.
This wouldn't be the first white lie we've told our children. Or the second. We had to euthanize Betty Kitty, our house cat, two, years ago. Instead of explaining what happened and why and answering the million questions that I knew would follow, I told the kids that Betty got hit on the road. (The only good part about living so close to a busy road is that death by vehicle is a fate they understand well.)
When we had to euthanize our dog last summer, we used the same white lie. We didn't want Dan and Monika to be mad at us or at the veterinarian or at anyone else.
Someday, when Dan and Monika are old enough to understand, we'll explain what really happened to Betty Kitty and Skippy.
I think I was in my teens before my dad finally shared the truth about the first white lie he told us. Our dogs had broken into our rabbit hutch and killed our pet rabbits. My dad told us a weasel had killed our rabbits. He didn't want us to be both sad about losing our rabbits and mad at the dogs we loved.
I thought about telling Monika the truth about Cupcake and Sienna. Selling cows is a lesson that farm kids need to learn, but it can be hard for some to accept. Dan has come to accept that cows can't stay forever; Monika has not.
Last fall, when Mable, one of our cows, went off feed, it became Monika's job to bring her a scoop of calf starter every milking to encourage her to eat. After a couple days, we still couldn't figure out what was wrong with Mable, so we decided to sell her.
Glen and I helped the trucker load Mable into the trailer. As the truck and trailer pulled out, we saw Monika standing next to the silo, sobbing. When I asked her what was wrong, she could hardly stop crying enough to tell me that she didn't want us to sell Mable.
I could relate to the sadness Monika was experiencing. I hated selling cows when I was a little girl. It's a little easier for me now, but I still tear up when certain cows have to leave.
In the couple seconds I had to decide about telling Monika the truth, that image of Monika by the silo came to mind and I knew.
"Cupcake and Sienna are outside," I told Monika.
Monika happily accepted my little white lie and went back to identifying cows.
Someday she'll be old enough to understand the truth, even if she never comes to accept it. And, by then, maybe she'll be old enough to forgive us for our dishonesty.