Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Art of the Lie

This morning, my 2-year-old son was playing with his toy trains in the playroom while my 6-month-old daughter was reclining in a chair with a bottle. My husband went into the next room for a moment and heard a distinct “clunk clunk clunk” followed by a wail from the baby. He ran in and saw my son standing next to her with a train in his hand. “Did you just hit your sister with that train?” he asked. My son clutched his train, dropped his head, and with a very guilty expression, said, “Nope.”

It’s official: my son has learned to lie. Fortunately, he has not yet learned to lie well.

He’s at that fascinating age when he knows when he’s done something wrong, and he knows that there’s a chance he can escape trouble if he lies, but he has no idea how to lie convincingly. This is the age when a child whose face is covered with melted chocolate will deny eating a candy bar. When a child who is staring into a toilet with a toothbrush (not his own, of course) floating in it will deny throwing said toothbrush into said toilet. And when a child holding a forbidden object (TV remote, pair of scissors, Sharpie, French fry, etc.) will deny ever touching it. It’s that golden age before they learn how to cover their tracks.

The biggest difficulty, as a parent, is keeping a straight face in front of a child who is blatantly – and hilariously – lying directly in the face of the evidence. You want to be stern and strict, to let the child know that what he did was wrong and that he will be punished. And yet, you also want to laugh out loud at the child’s solemn denial of his own guilt, which is written all over his face.

The hilarity of the child’s obliviousness is, I think, a God-given survival tactic. After all, if a parent couldn’t laugh at a child holding a magic marker while denying drawing all over his baby sister’s face, the child’s life expectancy would be much reduced. Especially the third or fourth time it happened. So I’m going to go ahead and laugh at my lying child. There will be enough crying over his lies later in life.

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