DWM 470 To Tell the Truth

In the car the other day, Fan Twin started to talk about the Doctor’s family, but ran out after Susan and The Doctor’s Daughter. ‘Have we seen any more of his family?’ he asked.

‘His mum was in The End of Time,’ I said.

Without pause, Fan Twin turned to his father. ‘Is that true?’ he said.

So husband went into the explanation of how the person who wrote the story said it was the Doctor’s mum, but it didn’t actually say that in the episode so it was up to you to decide for yourself if you wanted to accept it or not. Which obviously was a more accurate answer, and I had been planning to clarify the point myself if Fan Twin hadn’t automatically assumed that Daddy had a firmer grasp on these matters than Mummy.

When I was little, you believed that adults knew everything.  Everything your Mum or Dad said was cast-iron guaranteed total truth – at some point between being a child and being a grown-up, somehow every bit of knowledge in the world found a home inside your head. Fan Twin is obviously far more enlightened and realises this just doesn’t happen. Or possibly he thinks it only happened for Daddy.

Non-Fan Twin wondered recently if K9 was called K9 because he was built by the Ninth Doctor. I explained about puns, and how dogs are ‘canines’, and he listened to me and then dismissed this explanation in favour of his second theory, which was that he was built by someone whose name began with K who was nine. Yet again, mother clearly does not know best, even though I followed it up with ‘Really! There’s proof! I can show you books and everything!’

Mind you, Parental Omniscience is an overrated virtue to possess, because children question everything. Sometimes you find yourself saying sentences as a parent that probably don’t get said that often outside conversations with small children, only last night for example the words ‘no, puppies aren’t magnetic’ passed my lips.

When I became a parent, I vowed never to lie to my children. That sounds all good and noble, but it’s actually an awful lot trickier than I expected. Discussions on Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy have got me into increasingly uncomfortable linguistic contortions, and while we’ve had varying degrees of the ‘where do babies come from?’ questions over the years which I like to think we’ve dealt with in an accurate but age-appropriate way, the queries did start to get worryingly specific recently following my showing the boys Facebook photos of a friend’s new baby, so that was fun.

Over the Christmas holidays I found myself in yet another awkward grey area between truth and lies. There are only two Doctor Who creations that have led to the traditional nightmares for our children, the ‘plague zombies’ from New Earth and the Peg Dolls from the very appropriately named Night Terrors. How to deal with a child who thinks the Peg Dolls are coming to get him at night? Well, of course there’s the ‘they’re not real’ approach, but the thing is, that one just never works, does it? Obviously he knows they’re not real. But in the dark…

Non-Fan Twin is monkey-mad and possesses a considerable number of toy monkeys, many of which live on his bunk. So I said that the Peg Dolls were scared of monkeys; they would never come near him if he had a monkey nearby. Which I told myself was merely an extension of the fiction rather than a real lie, on a level with pretending to a toddler that the spoon of extremely unappetizing carrot puree heading towards his mouth is really a choo-choo train. But when your son asks very specifically ‘Is that true?’ it starts getting tricky again as you try to express that no, it isn’t actually true, but we’re saying it’s true for helpful reasons, so that sort of means it’s true, even though it isn’t. This inspired me to come up with the phrase ‘It’s true in our imagination’, which is possibly the most feeble get-out-of-gaol-free card ever invented (but which I have used a couple more times since, to my shame).

Then Non-Fan Twin had an idea of his own. The Peg Dolls sang a creepy song. So maybe they really hated happy songs. Yes! That was another good one. If he sang a happy song loudly that would definitely scare them away. Hasty correction by me, bearing in mind it would be night-time and his brother would be sleeping in the bunk above: if he sang a happy song loudly inside his head that would definitely scare them away. So this was all working nicely, until he went and asked his father, who hadn’t been warned and was fairly sure there was nothing about monkeys or happy songs in the episode and was explaining how the Peg Dolls turned back into real people until I started saying AND MONKEYS AND HAPPY SONGS very loudly over him as a subtle hint.

So this whole fiction/reality/lies/truth issue is a lot more complicated that it seems at first. But I think that I’m doing OK. Or at least, I’m doing OK in my imagination.

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