Lying to Children

I played catch with a 10-year old boy today, and it felt like he was an alien being from another planet. Summer makes the playground get older: the big kids out of school come with their little sisters (my usual posse), or else, as with the baseball-playing boy today, visit their grandmas in The City for a few days.

“What’s your favorite baseball team?” he asked me, as I bungled and bobbled his perfectly good throw.

“I like the Toronto Lollipops!” I replied jovially.

“Um, what?”

I forgot, you see, that 10-year old boys know stuff, so my usual toddler goofy answers wouldn’t cut the proverbial mustard.

The problem, as you probably foresaw, is that I know diddly about sports: worse than nothing. Mike asked us to a baseball game a few weeks ago and I expressed surprise because I was certain that Chessboxing season hadn’t yet ended.

But this poor fifth grader had been trying to play catch with his grandma — who couldn’t really throw — and he was surrounded by a playground full of 5-year old girls. He needed a sports guy, if only for a few minutes.

So I lied.

I told him all about my real favorite team (“the Giants,” although I couldn’t recall if they were from San Francisco or New York). I have high hopes that they’ll win the pennant, what with Casey at the bat and all. I explained how I’d spent some time in the Mudville Nine, watchin’ it from the bench, building it so they would come. I reminisced over those glory days on my high school team, when I could throw that speedball by you, make you look like a fool, boy.

Amazingly (and no doubt owing to my theater training) he seemed to buy my crap, or maybe he just wanted to be playing catch with someone not quite as idiotic as I looked. Suspension of disbelief is a glorious balm.

Oddly, I felt no compunction about my many-threaded lies, making myself out to be a high school baseball star. Maybe because the falsehoods fell under the category of “pretending” — like when I play with Boobaby’s imaginary friends — or else because I don’t expect I’ll ever see this boy again, I was unvisited by moral doubt.

Gullibility in kids has got to be one of their greatest charms.

Besides, now this kid has a story he can tell his whole life about the time he met a semi-pro Canadian first baseman for the Lollipops.