truth to tell

And then...and then..

“And then…and then…”

It’s at times entertaining to watch a pre-schooler try to lie their way out of a sticky situation. So endearing, in fact, parents may pretend to believe everything the little tall-tale-teller is saying, just to hear them say it. They’re so earnest and sincere.

Not my second grade teacher, though. Mrs. Smith didn’t take falsehoods from anybody, in particular her son, Tim. One day she told our class Tim had only lied to her once, back when he was three years old. She caught him, and he was so ashamed he never did it again.

Not one kid in our class bought that story. She stuck to her guns. Tim was as honest as the day was long.

A few weeks later this poor guy, now 19, showed up at our class to drop off car keys for his mom. He innocently walked into a room full of skeptical, disapproving seven-year-olds, having no idea of the tale we’d heard. In short order, his face was as red as his scruffy, shoulder-length hair. He didn’t look like a saint to us and we had no problem saying as much.

Maybe we weren’t being fair and he actually was that good. I can’t imagine any child NEVER lying to their parents, but I’m not sure what it said about us kids that we were so jaded about telling — and hearing — the truth.

I was visiting a friend last summer and as I approached the front door, a child about the age of her youngest daughter came running up to me. With hair cropped short, jeans and a team-logo sweatshirt, I assumed it was a little boy, probably a neighborhood friend. It wasn’t. It was her wild child five-year-old girl, who told me she’d cut off her shoulder-length hair the week before. All by herself.

blue scissors II smI laughingly asked Pam about it, and she signaled me to come inside.

“That girl’s hair was cut short and straight across the back,” she said in a low, firm voice. “And there wasn’t one single scraggly piece I had to trim. No way she did it herself.”

Right at that moment one of Pam’s older daughters walked by. “We told you what happened!” this one said defensively.

“I know what you said,” she replied mildly, then turned to me and continued in the same low, yet clearly distinguishable to those eavesdropping, voice. “They’re not telling me the truth and it’s obvious what happened, but since no one was hurt, I just punished all of them for leaving the scissors out.” Older daughter walked away.

Pam looked at me and sighed. “I have no idea what happened and I can’t get them to budge on their story.”

No illusions on her part. I don’t think her girls are particularly dishonest or deceptive, in fact, I think they’re fairly transparent. Well, two are teenagers now, so let me revise that: for the most part I think they are, at the heart, trustworthy girls. One of whom probably cuts hair.

When I was young, I was always afraid what would happen to me if I was caught being wrong. That was how I saw it, by the way, being wrong, not doing something wrong. I became a pretty decent liar. I was clever, with a good imagination and even better memory. Fortunately, I got tired of it, physically, emotionally tired, and I stopped well before adulthood.

My parents were not abusive, so I can’t say what it was that caused that fear, probably a more subtle message they weren’t aware of and didn’t intend to send to their highly sensitive child. What could they have done differently? I don’t know.

I’ve said it before: parents, you have an impossible job, but you do it. Hang in there. Believe in your children. Believe in their overall character, not their occasional deeds. Know that lying is something any child is going to do, if not this day, the next, for his or her own reason. Deal with it, of course, but save up a few stories to laugh at when they have kids of their own.

7 Comments on “truth to tell

  1. Your warning is a good one. I was one of those children who very rarely lied. I have a distinct memory of blaming my cousin for ripping a snap off a doll’s pajamas when I was the one who had accidentally done it. And I have a clear memory of coming clean about it; I just couldn’t live with the lie. Now, as a parent, I know I am expecting my son to be a goody-two-shoes like me, but the likelihood is much greater that he will be more like most children and lie from time to time. As a teacher of middle schoolers I was always so frustrated by my students’ lies. “I just saw you chewing gum; spit it out,” I’d say, and they would look me in the eye and tell me they didn’t have any gum. Ugh. I won’t be able to tolerate that one from Liam, but I suppose he’ll try it. It is good that you warned me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think all children try it, and I imagine it’s often either because they’re afraid of the consequences or a power play. But I’m no expert. Of course in the case of Pam’s kids I think the youngest probably was told to lie by her older sister(s)…assuming what.we think happened is what happened, and given the evidence, that’s pretty likely. I still laugh at the idea Tim never lied after the age of three, but who knows, and Mrs. Smith DID teach second grade long enough to know devious minds pretty well! I also laugh at our group reaction to her example of her son. Amazing what I remember after so long.

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  2. You know there is a this boy in our neighbourhood – I have seen him grow up in front of my eyes. He occasionally comes to our home to use the Wifi. He even ordered his phone from our house. Anyways, this day he comes and tells me, “Di (for older sister), I need to use your phone charger, mine’s been bitten and torn by the rats.” I find it weird, because rats aren’t much of a problem over here.I don’t remember ever seeing a rat in my own house as I grew up (cockroaches, ants and lizards were aplenty, though.) Anyways, I give him my charger, he uses it, while doing Whatsapp and Facebook. Later, my brother visits their house and finds out that his parents were angry with him for using the phone too much and had taken the charger away.

    So, I was like, okay, no rats!? I wanted to ask him if he thought I won’t give him the charger if he told the truth, but he hasn’t visited us since.

    I was amazed that someone should lie for so little a thing, and that too a teenager. But again, what do I know of teenagers except myself and that I was always caught at lying. Either my mother is an awesome mind-reader, or I really lack the creative, inventive gene. 😛

    Oh, as for the boy, I love him as a younger brother. He is all bubbly and comes to me from time to time, telling me about the mischiefs that he does at school. And I deeply believe he’ll outgrow this lying phase and turn out to be a jolly young man!

    Great post!

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    • Thank you! Teenagers and their phones — I think they will do anything! There’s a teenage boy in my apartment complex who broke into my apartment and got the access code for my wireless. Of course he lied to the police and now he’s in jail for six months. That”s extreme and I have no love for him, but some things motivate people to do things with long-term consequences they don’t anticipate.

      Liked by 1 person

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