Leggings with feet in them

A few years ago, Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious was all the rage among the  moms I knew. My oldest, now nine, survives on a diet of chicken nuggets, cheeseburgers, fruit roll ups, orange juice and chocolate milkshakes, and many well-intentioned friends suggested I buy the book. They knew about my struggles to get him to try something as innocuous as a slice of banana or a bite of bacon, and were all sure that if I just hid some shredded carrots in my meatloaf, Bryce would gobble it up and start begging for salads. The kid has the tastebuds of a wary bloodhound, so I smiled and nodded and thanked them for their advice, and secretly knew that I was never going to go there. Besides, Bryce doesn’t like meatloaf.

Also, I don’t like to deceive my kids. At least that’s what I tell myself. In fact, as a mom, I tend to overshare. Case in point: last night the whole family watched the Oscars. If you watched, you probably saw the ad with a girl searching through an enchanted castle and finding a bottle labeled “cervical cancer.” My eight-year-old wanted to know what cervical cancer was, which required that I give her an entire anatomy lesson, and by the end of it, she was covering her ears, writhing on the floor, and begging me to just stop talking.

Last fall, my three-year-old was in a phase where she only wanted to wear dresses, because pants weren’t pretty enough. As I was buying winter clothes, I bought her a whole bunch of tights, a pair in each color, to keep her legs warm underneath all of those dresses. I pulled the first pair out, and my normally mild-mannered preschooler turned into a little she-wolf, kicking and wiggling and steadfastly refusing the tights. Every other kid showed up for her first ballet class with their legs clad in pink Danskin. Only Maren sported Hanes ankle socks.I’ve tried several times since then to get her to put on the tights, but she’d start to hyperventilate as soon as the T-word passed my lips.

Eventually I got smart and bought a handful of pairs of footless leggings that she could wear under the dresses, with the ballet leotard. But they were leggings, not the dreaded tights. This morning, I pulled out a pair of brand-new tights from the back of her underwear drawer (another battle there, but one you don’t want to hear about, I assure you), and came downstairs with “leggings with feet in them” for her to wear under her dress. She put them on. She didn’t scream. She didn’t whine about the seams in the toes. She’s been prancing around the house in her cute “leggings” ever since. And I’m left wondering why I wasn’t smart enough to trick her back in September.

Maybe deception isn’t always a bad thing.

When have you tricked your kids into doing what you wanted? When has it worked well? How has it backfired? Do you feel guilt or just a sense of triumph when you succeed?

About Shelah

(Editor-in-Chief) lives in Salt Lake City with her husband and six kids. She has a BA in English Teaching from BYU, an MA in American Culture Studies from Washington University in St. Louis, and an MFA in Creative Writing at BYU. Her work has been published in Dialogue, the Mormon Women Project, Irreantum, BYU Studies, and Segullah. When she’s not writing or wrangling, she can often be found running through the city in the pre-dawn darkness.

29 thoughts on “Leggings with feet in them

  1. I struggle with the deception thing, and the manipulative thing. It keeps me from embracing the “Love & Logic” parenting regimen. I can’t figure out how to make myself fully do it, but I suspect those Moms who run their homes like Broadway Productions of enjoyable deceptions and manipulations are way more effective and fun than me.

    When we lived in Ohio and my preschooler insisted on dresses in the dead of winter, I told her everyone wears sweatpants with their dresses when it snows and sidetracked her into choosing which color sweatpants most complimented today’s dress. I had forgotten about that.

    Not to sidetrack this into food, but Ellyn Satter’s “How to get your kid to eat, but not too much” would be more on point than that Deceptively Delicious. Especially combined with my Aunt Camille’s rule that everyone must try at least two bites of everything on the table.

  2. Not yet a parent, I don’t have any triumphs of my own to share, but I do remember a great parenting diversion (not really a deception) employed by my father. I was about four, and my dad was babysitting me while my mom taught a night class. I ran down our long, narrow hall to find my dad. Somehow, in an inexplicable move that only my two left feet are capable of executing, I twisted around and banged my head–hard–on the corner of the kitchen door jamb. As I sat, knocked to the floor and stunned in that split-second of shock before the pain hit and the screams came, my dad hoisted me up by the armpits and ran with me down the hall, saying, “Lindsay! Let’s go look in the mirror and watch your goose egg turn colors!” Intrigued by this novel idea, I forgot about crying (and, likely, screaming and carrying on) and stared in the bathroom mirror, my dad’s face over my shoulder, and watched as a large portion of my forehead swelled and took shape and turned a deep shade of purple.

  3. I totally hide healthy stuff in my family’s food. The trick is that they know I do it; I just don’t usually tell them until after they have eaten it. I don’t feel bad about it at all, all the less so because they just know that is part of what I do.

  4. I believe in being honest with my kids. If I’m not, they won’t know they can always trust me. HOWEVER, I don’t think telling your daughter that tights are “leggings with feet in them” is being deceptive, after all, that’s exactly what they are. My kids love Chinese food because they eat lots of jello, pudding, and those tasty little sugared dumplings whenever we go. That’s okay, because when they’re older and more willing to try new things, they won’t have a mantra in their head that they hate Chinese food. On the contrary, they will know that they already like it.
    My kids wouldn’t eat fish, but love chicken nuggets (of course), so I cooked the fish like a chicken nugget and called them just “nuggets”. I just didn’t share which kind of nugget. They ate them. If they’d spit them out and hated them, I would have let the fish thing go, but “fish” was just an obstacle they had to get over. Sometimes our kids just need a little help from us to do it.
    Most of kids’ issues involve food, but there have been times we’ve had to apply it to clothing, seats in the car, being unwilling to learn to ride a bike, etc…

  5. I don’t think you are being deceptive… after all, what are tights? They really are leggings with feet on them. So what if they are also known by the name of tights?
    The whole deceptively delicious argument that you don’t want to deceive your child by sticking in veggies “in disguise” to their food is also a bit silly to me. I don’t ever give my kids an ingredients list for the food I make… why would it be deceptive to change a recipe a bit to add more nutrition to it?
    I believe honesty is always the best policy with kids. But this doesn’t mean I’m always going to give them the adult version of honesty. My 6 year old doesn’t need to know EXACTLY what mommy and daddy do to make a baby.

  6. I’m sorry… I’m re-reading my comment and I come across as rude in the deceptively delicious part. I don’t mean to, it’s just that other friends have brought up that they don’t want to deceive their children either, but that argument never held water for me based on the reason above.

  7. You make a good point Ginger. There’s deception, and then there’s presentation. Calling tights “leggings with feet in them” is presentation.

  8. This is just one more thing on my list of reasons its hard to be a Mom. You have to be really careful what you say and tell your kids, because they remember and they will call you on your “deceptions”
    Although calling tights leggings is hardly one of those “you lied about it and now you must pay” moments. ;D

  9. This is one of the reasons all our kids know about Santa so early – I just cannot bring myself to lie to them.

    But rather than tricking the kids into some things, I’ve found that if I can somehow help them believe it was their idea, or steer them into a decision that they feel was entirely their own, they’re so much more amenable to whatever it is. Is that deception? Manipulation? I don’t know, but even adults want to feel like they’re in charge of their own choices, so to guide a child to a smart choice through gentle suggestion isn’t necessarily deception, but I don’t know how to wholly categorize it either.

    But presentation is definitely the key, what a great distinction, Johnna! Too bad I don’t have a marketing degree – it might be handy.

  10. Carrots and potatoes in meatloaf is not deception it is adding flavor and moisture. Once they are shredded they kind of disappear. It is not deception. Blended up green beans in spaghetti sauce is not deception it is using up leftovers. Do you normally list the ingredients in the things you cook before you serve them? I sure don’t. They don’t even do that at restaurants and fast food places. Why should you.

    Calling tights leggings is not deception it is just using a different label.

    You don’t have to tell everything you know in order to be honest. Ginger said it well.

  11. I think these are all great comments. There are many spots on the continuum between total honesty and blatant lying with intent to deceive. I’ve never been into the ‘deceptively delicious’ thing just because I want my kids to appreciate foods for what they are. I mostly cook from scratch and we don’t eat a lot of stereotypical ‘kid foods’. I serve veggies and fruits with each meal, and if my kids want them they can eat them. Or not. They generally get at least one serving of fruit and/or veggie a day. My job is to serve good food and their job is to eat it. (I do make them try a little bit each time). I’ve also known too many parents who assume that their kids won’t like ‘real’ food and don’t even try (not that you do that, but I’ve known some people who do).

    We also aren’t big on Santa and don’t do the Easter Bunny or leprachauns at all. I think that’s just our personalities; my husband and I are fairly ‘serious’ people and not into that kind of stuff. We did end up doing the Tooth Fairy and our daughter writes her loving notes each time she loses a tooth.

    I like the idea of presentation vs. tricking; we’ve tried that a few times and it seems to work well. Just stuff like giving things silly names, or giving them choices. When I moved the kids’ dishes down where they can reach them, they suddenly love to set the table and put away the clean dishes from the dishwasher.

  12. I have been deceptive over a few things: we “lost” ds’ bottle because he understood and accepted that concept better than “you can’t have it anymore.” Prunes were called “big raisins” for quite a while or ds wouldn’t eat them. And because ds is picky about meat, we have called several different meats “steak,” which we know he likes. Maybe it’s wrong, but sometimes it’s felt essential.

  13. I have no problem with Father Christmas, the tooth fairy, fairies in general for that matter, or the Easter bunny. My husband does though so they learn quite early that they aren’t real but continue to believe in them for a while anyway.

    As for food my children dissect everything I cook so nothing can be hidden anyway. It is not hiding in my book, just adding extra ingredients. When they were tiny we called turkey by the name of chicken because they would agree to eat chicken but not turkey. We also told them that carrot cake was made from chopped apricots as one wouldn’t eat carrots cooked, only raw.

    Whatever works is my method.

  14. Is it deceptive, or is it meeting the receiving individual’s understanding half-way… think Ammon and Lamoni’s conversation, where he begins with where Lamoni’s understanding leaves off.

    In learning, we often have to make connections between the things we know and understand with things that we don’t yet know or understand. While rote learning focuses on facts, and under such a protocol it might be important to be clear that two does not equal three, inferential learning comes by comparison and contrast, sorting and classifying. By calling several different kinds of meat “steak” you are not deceiving your child, but rather saying “This food is similar enough to something you already like. You should try it too.” What the original poster did with her daughter was to define the article of clothing as coming with daughter’s already familiar and self-accepted mental category.

    This isn’t deception. It is important that we teach children to categorize and recategorize. Else they’ll never learn important things they really need to know.

  15. I have totally deceived my kids, and I feel only a little bit guilty about it. Well, really, I don’t feel much guilt at all.

    When they were younger, and they were obviously super tired but old enough to know how to tell time, I would often change the clock an hour earlier so that I could get them to bed early without them throwing ridiculous fits. I did this on a New Year’s Eve once when they all wanted to stay up until midnight, but we were in the middle of a family reunion and every single kid was horribly sleep deprived. I changed the clock two hours ahead and we screamed Happy New Years when the clock hit midnight. They went to bed happy. My sister-in-law and mom were horrified at me, but I honestly thought our sanity was worth the deception.

  16. The child I tend is super picky. This threw me for a loop as my child will eat with minor pickiness, depending on the day. You know, normal-esque. So I started calling food by cooler names. Sliced bell pepper became red, yellow, or orange squiggles. Pedialyte became chocolate milk. All bread was called rolls. And he started eating better. Thank goodness. In addition to this, his naptime bed is a pack-n-play we call his big-boy bed. Deception? No. Just creative thinking.

    Growing up my mom put zucchini (quartered and sliced) in all of the ground beef she cooked. We all liked ground beef, so we learned to deal with the fact that it was in there. And if we picked it out the first time, we realized that cold food wasn’t always worth the effort. For the more picky eaters, as long as they ate two more bites of something we called it good.

    Maybe putting red bell pepper into spaghetti sauce is acceptable, since it’s red. Sneaky?

  17. I don’t understand the Love and Logic system as being deceptive. Your kid get consequences for their actions and learns to think on their own. If you back up everything you say it’s not deceiving.

  18. When I was first married my husband and I were visiting my new brother-in-law’s family and I was horrified one day to hear my sister-in-law tell her children not to play in a sand pile in their backyard because there were poisonous snakes in the pile. She didn’t want them to come inside with sandy shoes. I vowed never to be so deceptive (and traumatizing!) to my own children. Of course, I wasn’t a mother yet. Although I don’t think I’ve ever gone so far as to use the snake ruse, I know I’ve “deceived” my children and told my share of fibs over the years in order to coax a desired behavior. Forex, I distinctly remember saying one day in early December many years ago, “I’m going to write a note to Santa and tell him you won’t go to bed.” I’m sure I could think of many other examples, but I don’t want to. =)

  19. i can’t lie either. my friends grow squeamish when they hear all the things my nine year old already knows.

    and i just really had to comment because i’ve always had difficult dressers! mismatched outfits, pj’s to the store, leotards to the zoo, swimsuits in january… girls who wear dresses and refuse both leggings AND tights. i’ve just decided that if they’re cold, it’s their fault. my biggest complaint is that they always look like hobos. if i could figure out how to trick them into looking cute, i’d do it in a heartbeat.

  20. Deception? MMMM. There’s a fine line. I could never really tell my kids that Santa was a real person. I would tell them Santa is a job title and not a person, which would explain why they might see me Christmas Eve putting stuff in their stockings.

    Tights = leggings. I’m pretty sure they are synonyms. Many objects have many names. Who cares what label you use. (also called being “politically correct”)

    Snakes in the sandbox? I think that’s an outright lie. Scare tactics for convenience are not acceptable. Scare tactics in other situations, for the sake of safety for example, is acceptable (e.g. Showing teenagers what could happen if they drink and drive: that’s trying to teach something so the won’t have to learn the hard way).

    Food? My kids always ask if there are a)beans, or b)onions or c) is it “hot” meaning spicy. I’m honest with them but if any of the above is in the affirmative I tell them to deal with it.

  21. I have no problem with tights=leggings with feet. I have no problem with carrots=shaved apricots, although you might have some confused kids when they actually do eat apricots :)

    But poisonous snakes in the sandbox? That’s an outright falsehood, and a traumatizing one at that. And what happens when the kid learns that his mother flat out LIED to him? Seems to me you’d be shooting yourself in the foot when things really hit the fan, and you are no longer dealing with sandy shoes, but with drugs, alcohol, and sex.

    I want my children to trust me implicitly. I want them to know that if they come to me with questions, they’ll get straight answers. I think that’s vital in keeping communication open.

  22. What then of Santa Claus? The Easter Bunny, etc. etc. When parents call these “lies” and insist on informing their children who then inform MY children, it me crazy. Childhood is so brief, must we suck the fun out and be so serious about things? Yes, I guess some of us must. But please if you must “tell the truth,” try to teach your kids not to ruin the fun for the others. Please. :)

    Snakes in the sandbox, though, I think is over the top. But I do think there is a difference between that and our cultural icons such as Santa. And a difference between that and sneaking veggies into a diet.

  23. I try not to lie to my kids, but I do manipulate the truth. OK, I have totally lied a few times. Like when it was time to get rid of my sons pacifiers and I clipped off the ends of all of them; I told him a dog came along and bit them all off. That was back when I only had two kids and was really concerned than he would not like me if I told him the truth. Now I have six kids and I don’t really care that much about being liked. Plus I just don’t have the energy or mental wherewithall to keep up elaborate ruses.

  24. But have you tried the Seinfeld cookies with garbanzo beans in them? No deception there, they are not delicious!

  25. I tell the truth.

    Each time I tell a falsehood not only am I setting myself up for a diminution of trust in the relationship when the lie is discovered, I am also manipulating.

    As a fierce believer in establishing trust and exercising agency with full knowledge, I’m willing to deal with the more difficult path that requires. Certainly it makes my job harder but it is infinitely worth it.

Comments are closed.