As a young kid, I dreaded railways. I believed that going even a mile close was a very dangerous thing to do. I was not afraid of being crushed under the heavy wheels of the vehicle but afraid of what could happen if I dared go near it. The fear was planted and fastened right inside my innermost being by the train heresy. My mum and grandma made us believe with no iota of doubt that a train body was made of special magnetic materials which could pull people even from a far distance towards it and turn them to dust. My grandma said that’s why the train used very loud horn to warn people from far to stay away. I thought about how dumb we were to believe such lies when we were supposed to ask how trains carried its persengers who happened to be people like us. But it worked. We didn’t go anywhere close to railways.
I also cried so much as a kid. I threw tantrums for very little reasons. Like, “you must buy this for me,” to which my mum would say,” I’ll buy it tomorrow honey.” And tomorrow she would say, “Hey, everyone, I forgot my purse somewhere, I don’t really know how I’m going to buy what my darling baby wants, can’t remember where exactly I lost it.” Or, she would say, “I have no money today,” and would begin to cry that she didn’t have any money making me to stop my own cry as I got broken by hers. She would clean ghost tears with the end of her wrapper and nod her head as I told her she would be rich again.
She said I cried so much especially at night which she said was so distressing for her. I cried into the midnight most of the times. I was so insatiable. And I remember vividly how my mum stopped me from crying at night at the age of five. She told me in a whisper that at night bad spirits roamed about the streets listening carefully to hear any sound of a crying child. If they happened to hear a cry from a house, they went to that house and carried the baby away to eat. They, my older siblings and mum told me ghost stories to back that up. I resorted to whining quietly though but never cried again.
Those were cool lies told by adults to make us kids behave. The railway lie was the most striking to me was clearly to scare us away from danger without the clear mention of death which kids hardly understood at the time. I only got to learn the truth about trains from my grade six teacher.
The good thing when it comes to the lies at the time was that we never got to learn the truth at that tender age but at later time when our senses had began to work well. That’s the time you begin to sense it’s a lie but then you’re old enough to understand it’s for a cause and not meant to deceive or to harm.
Before I became a mother, I’ve confronted my parents to understand in depth why they used that method to make us stay away from trouble or to make us not to do certain things and what I got from their explanation in regards to the railway, was that it’s the simplest and nicest way to make us stay away from the complex fact of life, like being killed without its mention.
When I became a mother and had to face the reality in raising kids, I knew how difficult it could be to always tell them the truth.
My three year old followed strangers like they were family. It was so bad that she didn’t care if I came along or not. He could follow a stranger to anywhere and stayed for as long as was possible without looking for us parents and family, and that attitude was very favourable to child abduction. I did see some parents and nannies in busy places like malls, fasten their hyperactive kids with a soft rope to themselves and understood immediately why.
It was difficult at the time. How could you explain to a three year old that some people are dangerous and she might get kidnapped? It couldn’t have been bad of me or any parent to use a lying technique such as making her believe there was a monster in some strangers, I could illustrate using pictures of monsters to show the kind of monsters they could turn into. I would make it clear that it’s not every stranger that had that monster thing, but that he would never know who’s who. That kind of lie could work instantly. Every child would definitely stop following strangers around because of that uncertainty.
I don’t blame parents for certain lies they tell their kids. When I say certain lies, you’ll have to know that not all lies are for good cause. When you tell a child an outright lie, it can be hurtful. For example, your child asked for something you can’t afford and you agree to get it for them when they get certain performance in their class work. They work hard because, they really want to please you so you can go ahead and buy that which you did promise, only for them to realize you have tricked them. It can be devastating to them.
Using unharmful lies to simplify, or to hide the truth they were still very young to face is for a good cause and parents need to tell such lies. My opinion though.
I had to understand in depth why my parents told us the railway lie when I met with kids who were probably not lied to.
Here’s my experience….
I was walking across a railway one evening when I saw some two kids sitting on the train tracks, close to the bend chattering with no care in the world. I walked closer to them with the intention of taking them to safety, lest the train came along.
“Hey kids, don’t you know how dangerous it is to sit on train track?” I asked.
“There is no train coming this way today,” the older one, about 8 years old said. “We sit here everyday to play. It’s safe. Trains don’t pass through often,” he said, smiling.
“Well,” I said, “even though there is no train today, please do not sit here. It’s dangerous for you. How are you sure the train won’t come this way today by the way?”
“We just know,” the younger one said.
“Well get up and move away from this area,” I ordered.
“But we can’t move away from this area,” he laughed and pointed at the house close by. “We live here, in this area” he said.
As we were still arguing, there came the sound of the train horning loudly,
“Listen,” I said. “That’s the train.”
“No it’s not,” the younger one laughed, “It’s the sound of some trailer passing in the other side. There’s a road close by.”
The train had already emerged from the bend.
They stood up, with no sign of fear whatsoever and hurried with me to safety before the train came closer.
As we watched the train pass by, I looked at their faces and saw surprise rather than fear and thought about how I would have been terrified to death as kid, if all I happened to go that close to the railway.
Parents know better when they tell certain lies to the kids. Many may see it as wrong but, it’s the best way to scare them from dang, keep them safe and protect them from harmful truths.