Being a parent is easy when your kids are asleep. You can simply stand in awe and gaze upon their faces. The faces that still contain the perfect amount of fat in their cheeks. The faces with a tinge of pink from the warmth that sleep brings. Their bodies rising and falling in a slow cadence of perfection. Deep sighs that make your heart feel like it might jump out of your chest. You feel your facial expression turn into one of grace and gratitude. You feel a slight pull on your cheekbones. The sensation is so strange that your hand moves up to feel the change in the elevation of your visage. Confused, you Google a brief description of the state of your face to find that Merriam-Webster tells you that it’s called a “smile.”
You think you remember this happening before, this “smile.” You think you might have “smiled” once. In those moments of careful and silent closing of doors, you might even forget how utterly awful your children were the entire time they were awake that day.
I love my kids with every fiber of my being. I can say, however, that kids can be confusing. And that I’m living in a constant state of bewilderment that I made it through another day. No one can prepare you for parenting. Your parents, of an entirely different generation, will likely weigh in consistently about their own experiences, in which you disregard since no one even had a cell phone at the time.
There are, however, similarities, I believe, in all children. Of course, I always find out these things after going two years thinking I am the only one on the planet whose kid does “said thing.” This “said thing,” this time, is dishonesty. That’s right. My five-year-old son is a little liar. He even lies about lying. And lies about lying about lying. In the beginning, it was simple to determine what was not truthful. Since the content typically dealt with going to outer space or watching fireworks from a jet or watching a football game from the moon or something. (See Exhibit A below)
As he has gotten older, though, it is becoming increasingly difficult to know what is actually true. Multiple times now, my husband and I have been astounded to find that his stories, as crazy as they were, actually had been true. We were convinced at one point that there was no “Pip.” This dog he talked about. We would say Pip in an increasingly mocking tone when his name would come up again, exchanging sideways glances as he compared our dog to this “Pip.” It turned out that Pip really did exist.
Before his stories were more often the truth, I did call my son "Pinocchio" off and on. But then I thought about the actual story and revisited a synopsis of the age-old tale. See, there’s Pinocchio’s father maker person named Mr. Geppetto. And he...well, if you haven’t revisited the classic in a while, then I would recommend that you take another look like I did. It’s pretty dark as it turns out. It’s not really just about a puppet that lies like I thought. Which you don’t know when you watch it as a child. I’ve been different ever since.
Today, my child came home from school with a Pokémon thermos. He said that he earned it by using his Pioneer Gold, the monetary-like reward system that his elementary school uses. Which, in passing, I thought was strange since the school had recently requested that parents donate items that a child can earn. I glanced up at my husband who nodded at the claim, as if it were, indeed, correct. So, I thought, wow, someone has donated some really cool, albeit expensive, items. And my kid picked the cool prize. Instead of one of those sticky hand things that he plays with even after it falls on the carpet. Or the plastic slinky that gets in a big knot within five minutes and pisses everyone off.
The night progressed normally until *it* happened. The Pokémon thermos fell over. And, as my eyes narrowed and horror music played in the background of my life, I saw it: a child’s name written on the bottom of the thermos in Sharpie.
MY SON DID NOT EARN THIS THERMOS. HE STOLE IT. FROM A KID IN HIS CLASS WHO WAS PROBABLY HUDDLED IN A BALL SOMEWHERE SWIMMING IN HIS OWN TEARS AS HIS MOTHER DESPERATELY SEARCHED HIGH AND LOW FOR THE THERMOS. WHO PROBABLY PAID EXTRA TO HAVE AMAZON SHIP A REPLACEMENT WITHIN THE HOUR. MY CHILD WAS A LIAR. AND A THIEF. AND I’D CAUGHT HIM.
I played it relatively calm despite the all-caps monologue that played in my brain. I decided that it was best that I confront him and call him out.
Me: “Why does it have [his] name on it?”
Him: “He gave it to me.”
Me: “Why does it have [his] name on it?”
Him: “He GAVE it to me.”
Me: WHY does it have [HIS] name on it?”
Him: “MOM. He GAVE it to ME.”
This conversation of alternating-word emphasis lasted for a few minutes while I prepared a message for his teacher. As I was doing that, I explained to him that even if this WERE true, which it WAS NOT, it wasn’t appropriate. Only parents, from this point forward, would determine what would be given to someone else. And that five-year-olds cannot discern the value of anything. And since this thermos probably cost far more than what I would ever spend, we had to return it. His teacher responded and coordinated the return of the “donated” thermos. I threatened to call the classmate’s mother to find out if his story were true. He acted nervous, a tell-tale sign of dishonesty. Then, yet another thing happened: a Ziploc bag fluttered to the ground. And what was inside? A piece of paper coincidently containing the classmate’s full name + all of his contact information. This was it. My ticket to Truth Town. I was going to make my first parent-to-parent get-the-real-story phone call. After a conversation stating that it was important that my child be caught in this lie, I received the following text message:
My five-year-old and I discussed the issue of the initial lie and the importance of telling the truth. And that I would see to it that his teacher set all of his Pioneer Gold be lit on fire in the town square if this lying continued. After the conversation was over and I felt like we understood each other, he asked me what time it was. Baffled at how my night had been swept up in a quest for the truth, I told him that it was 8:34 and time for bed. He then said it wasn’t. Frustrated, I showed him the clock. In which he replied, “No, it’s time for you to tell me you’re sorry.”