Most young children tell a fib once in a while. At times they tell some heavy-duty whoppers.

Our kids were no exception. Each one of the five siblings went through a short period of lying, sometimes to get out of trouble and sometimes just for the heck of it.

This was not one of my favorite phases. Rob and I were always relieved when each child grew out of the tendency to fib and began to understand the importance of openness and truth.

I’ll tell you a story I once heard about a little boy who absolutely could not pull himself out of this period of telling lies. He habitually fibbed about things both great and small even when, at times, it would be easier to tell the truth.

Sadly, this habitual lying went on so long, he began to lose touch with reality. It became more and more difficult for him to see and understand the difference between the real world and the fictional landscape he fabricated in his own mind. Finally, it got to the point where he could not differentiate between actual and alternative facts.

As time passed and his vocabulary and thinking skills increased, the little boy honed his fibbing until finally, he became a most accomplished liar.

The other children he played with daily began to shun him. They whispered behind his back and wondered why he said such strange things, things that could not possibly be true. The children still played with him on occasion because they liked his toys. He had the best, most expensive toys in the neighborhood.

His parents and those closest to him simply accepted his strange behavior, saying, “Oh, that’s just him being him. We won’t take what he says literally and everything will be all right.”

But, of course, it was not all right. In fact things got so bad that no one believed him anymore. He said the most outlandish things and, since no one stopped him, he began to lie about other people.

Now there came a time of great confusion among the little boy’s family and his friends. Since they knew he liked to tell lies, they kept trying to make him understand that what he said was not only untrue, but, at times, even hurtful. They tried to make him see this by disputing and disproving his strange stories. However, the little boy had gone so far beyond truth that nothing anyone did could reach him.

Most of us tell the occasional fib. We might do it to spare a friend’s feelings by not telling the absolute, unvarnished truth about something. We might stretch the truth when relating an anecdote, just to make the story better. Perhaps we might even get into a situation where we tell an outright lie.

However, as adults, most of us have learned the value of truth-telling. Not so for everyone.

I cannot relate what finally happened to the little boy who liked to lie because I do not know the ending to this story. Perhaps there came a day when the boy finally grew up enough to see that truth is the best way, often the only way, out of a bad situation. Perhaps not.

When I think of the story about the lying boy, it reminds me of the folk tale about another boy, the one who cried wolf. I wonder what would happen if a real calamity ever befell our little boy. When he cried out for help would anyone believe him? Would anyone come to help? Would anyone care?

Irene Marinelli writes a weekly column for The Dominion Post. Write her at columns@dominionpost.com.