Lies I’ve Told My Daughter

This is a guest post by author Karla Diggs

Karla Diggs hails from Woodsdale N.C., just to the north of the Raleigh-Durham area. She received a Bachelor of Arts from Meredith College in Raleigh, where she was the first African-American to graduate with a degree in Theater. She continued her studies in New York City at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, where she studied musical theater, and earned a Certificate of Completion of the Integrated Program. Karla has performed in numerous theatrical productions in the north and southeast. Cotton Club Princess, which was inspired by her experiences in New York, her conservatory training at AMDA, and her lifelong dreams of being a stage performer, is Karla's first published work. She currently resides in Murfreesboro TN with her husband and daughters and is hard at work on her next novel.

As a woman in her 40’s who is pregnant with her second daughter, I do hereby own up to and denounce all the lies I told her older sister. At the time I was a single mom in a busy world. However, that is no excuse for telling a white lie, especially since little white lies often lead to telling big black ones. I’ve been fortunate in that I realized early that the atonement would be heavy if I continued, not to mention all the times when my dear sweet mother, who never once told me or my sister a fib other than Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy, cocked an eyebrow when I offended her ears at the expense of her granddaughter’s curious nature. It is said that on average a six year old can ask approximately 250 questions a day. I am fortunate again to have realized that if I had said, “Stop asking so many questions,” or God forbid, “Shut up,” I would have stunted my first daughter’s interest in learning.

There were instances when the timing of the questions was absolutely inopportune. For example, the time when a hurricane had caused a huge tree to fall next to my family’s home and my father, in all his take charge manly, diligence had gotten everyone out of bed so that we may huddle in the designated storm area of the house. My beautiful, inquisitive, all be it uncouth, daughter had the audacity to ask me, “Mommy, what is thunder?” IT WAS 5 AM IN THE MIDDLE OF A HURRICANE AND WE WERE HUDDLED TOGETHER IN THE COLD, IN THE DARK, SCARED THAT ONE TREE HAD ALREADY FALLEN NEXT TO HOUSE! WHAT IF ANOTHER TREE HAD FALLEN ON THE HOUSE??!! I took a breath, managing to answer calmly, “Black Angels tap dancing.” My mother was horrified. Daddy looked at me and shook his head. But think about it. Had my response included such words as electricity, atmospheric pressure, and sonic boom, these terms would have facilitated more questions! Again I stress, it was 5 am in the middle of a hurricane! At the time it made more sense to me to pray for the well- being and safety of my family than to answer a random science question, even if it did come from my 5 year old daughter!

Other times my daughter asked questions that I simply did not know the answers to, and did not want to admit that I had nothing to say. She asked me once in all her innocence, “Mommy why is the sky blue?”

My response was, “Because God’s a Tar Heel!”

“He is?”

“Absolutely, He is! Don’t you see Roy Williams winning all these championships, and then before that it was Dean Smith. When Michael Jordan played for UNC he used to fly through the air and dunk baskets, so he’s is obviously an angel!” She would ask this question during March Madness, and in the middle of a game. Incidentally, Roy Williams did not win that year, but that didn’t matter, I came up with an answer that would suffice for that moment. In truth, the sky is blue because the Earth’s atmosphere reflects blue wavelengths off the sun. I did not know this at the time, but I will be ready for my second daughter when she asks me this question!

There were also times when I just wished my first daughter would do as she was told, and I said anything to make her do my bidding. “Mommy, why is the moon bigger this week than last week?”

My response was, “When little children don’t go to bed when they’re told, the moon comes down to earth and eats them.”

“It does?”

“Yes it does. You see how big it gets over the course of a month! That’s a month full of children who refused to go to bed when they were told. Then the moon dumps them out into outer space so that it can become small again by the beginning of the next month.” Of course I am aware that the moon has 8 phases, but it was late, I was tired, and she promptly went to bed after I said it!

There were also times when it was a combination of not knowing how to answer the question, and wanting her to do as she was told. Like the time she had the temerity to stay in the bath tub playing with her rubber ducky collection after I told her to get out! I asked if she was done five or six times before she said no, then asked, “Mommy, why do my fingers get wrinkly after staying in the tub so long?”

My response was, “Oh the water is making you small enough to suck you down the drain when you pull the plug. But don’t worry. If you get out fast enough you’ll be okay.”

“Mommy, I think I’m ready to get now.”

“Y’sure, because you can stay in there as looonnng as you want to…”

“No I’m ready, but can you wait and pull the plug when I get out?”

“Of course Dear.” She was out in timely fashion after that, and her rubber ducky collection never again took precedence over my wanting her to bathe quickly.

So I do hereby promise that when my next daughter asks me what is thunder, the terms electricity, atmospheric pressure, and sonic boom will be included in the explanation even if they do entice her to ask more questions. I do hereby promise when my next daughter asks me why the sky is blue that I will talk about the reflection of the earth’s atmosphere against the sun’s brilliant light. I also promise to talk about all eight phases of the moon when she asks why it is getting progressively bigger every evening during the course of a month. I do also promise that when my next daughter wants to know why her skin wrinkles up when she’s playing with her rubber ducks in the tub, I will inform her that the water is stealing the keratin from her skin. Lastly, but certainly not least, when I am at a loss for words when asked tough questions I won’t pull just anything from the air. Instead, I will hit the Google app on my iPhone, and we will research the topic, whatever it may be, together.

KMD

Summer, 2014