The Art of Lying to Your Kids About Boo Boos

In House One F healing is a branded affair
In House One F healing is a branded affair
Photo by Jef Rouner

My daughter had a pretty rough week last week. First, she picked at an ingrown toenail until it became infected and needed to go to the doctor for antibiotics. Then she ran crying into our room in the middle of the night after waking up from a nightmare, tripped over a startled cat and went face first into our bed frame. She's perfectly OK, but she's sporting a black eye bigger than every bruise I picked up in my brief professional wrestling career combined.

Luckily I'm married to a nurse so rather than flapping my arms and screaming "Oh God Oh God My Baby" like an idiot I am carefully controlled and dispatched to fetch disinfectants, bandages, ointments, creams, ice packs, medicines, towels, cotton balls, lotions, and comfort objects from the plush obelisk in my daughter's room. Every bump and boo boo in my home is treated with the same calm, professional care you would receive in a hospital if you happened to work in a hospital where the staff all wore Doctor Who T-shirts.

There is one drawback to this approach, though, and it's that there's not a lot of lying involved because my wife is all like, "SCIENCE!". Let me tell you something; lying is awesome. Seriously, lying is the basis of everything good humanity has ever come up with. To lie is to imagine, and the ability to imagine a world that isn't but that could be is literally what makes us human. Lying is magic, and if done right lying will make your life a lot easier for a kid in pain.

My first example is in the form of a question; does it hurt to pour hydrogen peroxide on an open wound? The answer is yes, and also no.

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When I was a kid I remember very distinctly slicing my hand open on the lid of a cat food tin (I'm not bright). Like any little kid when my mom started to treat my fish byproduct-smelling cut I asked if every step in the process was going to hurt. Mom said no, and I watched happily while little bubbles formed on the cut on my hand. To this day I can pour peroxide on pretty spectacular wounds and feel no different than if it was water.

My wife had the opposite experience as a kid. Her mom told her that peroxide does hurt, and she winces whenever it is used on her. So which is it? It seems like a pretty objective question, but in my house there are two separate answers.

In fact, our daughter has a weird variation of both of them. She doesn't complain when I apply peroxide to a scrape because I told her it didn't hurt, but does when my wife applies it because my wife told her it did. Even weirder, the pain is now connected to the applicant used. I tend to use a folded up square of toilet paper to apply peroxide, my wife uses cotton balls. It's gotten to the point where our daughter won't wince from my wife as long as she uses toilet paper because toilet paper makes the peroxide not hurt.

It's insane. It's magical thinking. It's the entire basis of medical hypnosis and who gives an actual flying fart? It makes my little girl feel better when she's smited by the Great Lord Oops, the God of Minor but Still Painful as Heck Accidents.

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In retrospect maybe I shouldn't have let her binge watch a show about a magical toy doctor
In retrospect maybe I shouldn't have let her binge watch a show about a magical toy doctor
Doc McStuffins

Now granted, this can backfire on you in rather annoying ways, which I learned taking her to the doctor for her toe. Obviously we'd been treating the area around her cuticle with peroxide, antibacterial cream and adhesive bandages. Like all little kids my daughter is very particular about the bandages she allows on herself. As of right now we're on a box of Frozen-themed ones because of course we are.

Over the last several months the lie that's gotten into her head is that "fancy Band-aids", meaning ones with licensed cartoon characters, don't hurt while "plain Band-aids" do. Nonsense, right, but who is it hurting? The ones with Elsa, Anna and Olaf on them are not any more expensive that regular ones, and being a kid in an adult's world my daughter racks up the most use of them anyway so why shouldn't she pick them?

But then, well... see, her doctor had to examine her toe, right? Which means the old bandage comes off. Which means that before we leave and she puts her foot back in her shoes she needs another bandage. No problem, a pediatrician's office is bloated with bandages.

Not fancy ones, though. Just plain old bandages that apparently cause indescribable pain.

There are two options in this situation. One, you can try and reason with a crying five-year-old about science and logic and hopefully get them to see reason. If you manage to do that, please put it on YouTube and link me in the comments. Then run for president because clearly you're the Chosen One.

Or you could do what I did. I raced after the doctor and plucked a pen from her lapel. Quick as a bunny I used it to draw a happy face, stars, moons, a small cat and I think something that was supposed to be Spider-man but came out looking more like Dumb Donald fromFat Albert. Whatever, I now had a fancy Band-aid, and it was enough to make her stop crying and let me put it on.

In a perfect world we'd all rock it like Spock and be logical about this. I know that one day she's going to find out that Santa Claus isn't real and that The Doctor didn't actually send her a coin from Gallifrey when she was in the hospital over Christmas and that there isn't a fairy buying children's teeth for whatever the hell fairies do with teeth (I think they work for Kesha) and that the picture on the Band-aid doesn't matter. She's going to tell me I lied to her.

I like to think I'm just imagining to her real hard about a better world where there's happy magics and quick fixes to minor injuries. I mean, it may not be true, but doesn't it feel like it should be?

Jef has a new story, a tale of mad robot nurses and a man of miracles called "Sleepers, Wake!" available now. You can also connect with him on Facebook.


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