The Playroom: The Good Lie

Author: Maraya Steadman '89, '90MBA

Maraya Steadman

I recently read a quote by Albert Einstein, “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with the important matters.”

Okay Albert, how about the tooth fairy?

Just wondering, because I lie all the time, but only to my children. For starters, there is Santa Claus, and once you are into that one it just keeps going.

“Mom, what’s that thing up there on the chimney?”

“That’s our new chimney cap.”

“How is Santa going to get down the chimney?”

“Don’t worry, Santa carries a pry bar, a blow torch and bolt cutters in his sleigh, he’ll just take it off and then he’ll put it back on.”

Then we get into the tooth fairy, and the lies just naturally perpetuate because, “I thought you were putting the money under her pillow?”

Then there are lies about why you should brush your teeth, because if you don’t your teeth will fall out. Although that is true, I don’t extrapolate much, and in the literal world of age 6, my son thinks he won’t have any teeth in the morning.

I tell them Diet Coke will make them sick; not to worry if the dog catches the Easter bunny, he won’t eat him up; and it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, all that matters is that you have fun.

In my mind, all the lies are justified, and I’m not sure why. Am I trying to protect them? Or is it more explanations than I want to deal with? I want them to brush their teeth, and I don’t want them to drink Diet Coke.

I don’t really know how I feel about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy, but they are all a part of childhood, like Sesame Street, Dr. Seuss and cartoons on Sunday mornings.

I don’t question those myths, those stories that are a part of our culture. I just go along with the charade and do my part by putting dollars under pillows, hiding Easter baskets and making sure the cookies for Santa disappear.

Today, it’s not Christmas, Easter or a day for lost teeth. The flowers have finally started to bloom and the dogs are lying in the sun in the back yard.

“C’mon boy, Ace, let’s go.”

My husband’s voice, cheerful, upbeat, calling the dog.

My 4-year old child is standing beside him as he puts the leash on the dog’s collar, and tells him, “Good boy, Acey, good boy.”

My daughter asks, “Where are you going Daddy?”

“I’m taking Ace to the doctor.”


My husband hesitates. This is a hard question to answer. I don’t know what to say, but I help out as best I can and answer for my husband, “Ace needs to go to the doctor to get some shots.”

My daughter is fine with that, and she runs off to play with her brother and sister. I am not fine. I feel the tears stinging, the catch in my throat. I try not to cry, not to think about the truth.

The truth is that I lied. Our dog has cancer. He is dying.

Maraya Steadman, who lives in a Chicago suburb, is a stay-at-home mother of three children. She can be reached at