Pretty much every parent I’ve ever encountered recalls the point at which their little bundles started lying to them.
Prior to this watershed, when you ask your kid a question (which, of course, you already know the answer to), you tend to get one of three responses:
- The truth
- A weird evasion notable for its beside-the-pointness
Your child is wending their way toward becoming a full-bore liar like the rest of us. Happy days.
Eventually when you ask your kid a question, whether you know the answer or not, you get an entirely different type of response:
- Obvious deception, ham-fisted in its execution and alarming in its apparent disregard for your intelligence
Ryan has arrived at that latter point, I’m afraid to report. To be clear, his lies are very few in number and entirely normal from a developmental perspective. He lies to get what he wants and/or to get out of trouble.
Definitely not something to ignore, according to the experts on Parents.com, but frankly a healthy sign in small measure.
So, Ryan lied to me today and, per the conventional wisdom, I reported the fib to his mother during dinner and we all shamed him and told him what a terrible child he was and how we didn’t love him anymore. It was brutal. Even the baby got in on it.
Just kidding. I’m in a weird mood this evening.
Anyway, here’s what went down:
Next week, we’ll be hosting twelve of Mom’s work colleagues for an all-day retreat. As far as seating goes, we’re currently a bit shy of that number here at Chez Woog and Munch.
We also happen to be in need of some dining room chairs. Dining room chairs are things you need to try out in person. However, as noted in my recent plaintive wail on the subject, it’s Spring Break, which means we’re stuck synchronously juggling a hyperactive 5-year old and a 7-month old baby while Ryan’s teachers are frolicking in Key West and getting hammered on Pirate Punch.
Mom and I picked 3 PM, the time Jack usually gets up from his second nap, as H-Hour for this furniture raid. On a typical non-school day, the protocol for this time would have Jack nursing while I marched the Woog out of the house and made him run laps up and down the sidewalk until he collapsed.
Jk again, people. It should go without saying that if anyone’s left standing by the end of these outings, it probably ain’t me.
Anyway, the plan Mom and I came up with was this: when Jack woke up from his second nap, I would bring him to Mom and then hustle the Woog to a furniture store that was 9 minutes away. If they had nothing, we’d pick a different store the next day that was a little farther out.
And so on, until we finally said “screw it,” and just decided to sit on milk crates until the kids are in high school.
Though I’ve written elsewhere about the perils of running errands with preschoolers, in truth some errands are more promising than others. This one, I figured, was going to be one of the others. It’s a furniture store.
As anticipated, though he enjoyed testing out the recliner sofas, overall Ryan found the inaptly-named Furniture Mecca to be as boring as a slow motion film of a man washing his feet.
And, as we well know, a bored five-year old is the devil’s workshop.
General rule when we go out is: don’t touch anything. Ryan is usually able to keep to this rule unless he’s so bereft of stimulation that he loses his mind — which standing up and sitting down at a series of underpriced, crappy dining room table sets accomplished in about ten minutes.
As we approached one of these sets, something caught his attention: a colorful, blown-glass fish.
I made one of my guttural dad noises, which translates roughly as: “Don’t even think about it.” Then I gave him a directive in English. He promised to be a model of compliance.
Since I’m a sucker, I turned my back for a second and immediately heard the sharp report of a glass object hitting cheap particle board. Fortunately, it didn’t break.
“Ryan! I told you not to touch that.”
“I, I, I didn’t touch it.”
I leaned down and locked eyes with him. “Excuse me?”
“I, I didn’t touch that fish.”
“You’re telling me the fish just fell over on it’s own.”
Now the gears were turning. There’s an idea. “Yeah. It just fell over.”
I won’t harp on the aftermath. I told him I knew he was lying to me, and that he needed to tell me the truth, and all the parenting mumbo-jumbo that flies through kids’ ears like shit through a goose.
At dinner, I casually reported the incident to Mom. As usual, she handled it expertly, patiently explaining why it was important to tell the truth and offering several salient examples that landed the point.
She had him on the ropes, until she tried to gild the lily. Shrug. She’s an optimizer.
“You know what my mom’s rule was when we were kids?” Mom asked the Woog.
“No,” he replied. “What’s that?”
“Well,” she intoned, “my mom’s rule was that if we did something we weren’t supposed to do, we wouldn’t be in nearly as much trouble as we would be if we lied to her about it.”
Ryan paused, and looked down to consult his dinner plate. He looked up. “But … I wasn’t with your mom,” he said.
Mom glanced at me. “Your turn,” she said.
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