Monthly Archives: May 2011

Hello, This Is Your Conscience Speaking

This is how sad my daughter felt after being exposed as a lying little imp. Note the real tears.

Yesterday morning, my Lovely Bride went to brush Carla’s hair and found some kind of strange goop in it. Then she looked and saw big smurchy handprints all over the floor-length mirror in our room. She asked what the slime was, and Carla said it was hair gel left over from ballet. Three days ago. Uh-huh.

“Carla, you’re not telling the truth. You’ve had two baths since then,” my wife said. (It’s been a dirty coupla days. The weather is warm, and the Mud Pit is open.)

“Maybe Tina told me to do it?” she said. But Tina, our 5-year-old neighbor isn’t even here, my Lovely Bride told her. It’s 7 a.m. Plus, Tina probably doesn’t care whether you put hair gel on your head or not.

Carla was cornered.

She burst into tears and sobbed ‘til I thought she’d run dry. Later, she drew a lovely picture to show how she felt.

“I’m a baaaaaad personnnnnnn!” she wailed. I tried not to roll my eyes (I have not yet acquired the skill of tolerating girl-drama), and my wife tried not to laugh.

“No, Carla, that’s your conscience,” she said. “It’s that little voice inside your head that tells you when you’re doing something wrong.”

My wife can still remember when she was in about third grade and was caught telling her friends she had gone to the circus that day, too, but had already washed off the face paint. Her father came storming in from the garage and came down on her like a ton of bricks for lying.

I realize that the line between fact and fiction is blurry at this age. And my daughter has a vivid imagination, as does her pal, Tina, who has a horse named Cookie living in her kitchen and sometimes locks people out. And my Lovely Bride figured out a year ago that Carla often describes things as she wishes they were, not how they really are.

But it seems to have escalated into outright lying these days. Later yesterday when she was making fairy food (neighborhood pals are welcome to pick all the chives, sage and mint they want from my tiny little garden), I saw some of my precious little crop of home-grown lettuce in the mix. Carla fingered her pal Sean, who said in fact Carla had picked it. (I just hate when I can’t tell who’s lying, and it’s not worth it to find out. Usually I punish both parties involved; this time I just said not to pick the lettuce, and ask if you’re not sure.)

Then last night, more than an hour after I put a very sleepy Carla to bed, I hear the pitter patter of little feet. (Is this what people are talking about when they use that phrase?) I catch Carla darting out of Eddie’s room and drag her back to her bed. For the second night in a row.

“Why were you out of bed?” I growl at her.

“I had to go to the bathroom?” she whines.

“No you didn’t. You just went before you went to bed.”

“I think I needed some water?”

“No you didn’t. Don’t you see this cup of water right here?” I had made sure to set out a bigger cup than usual, to eliminate wandering in search of refills. “Why were you in your brother’s room, after bedtime?”

“I was looking for the potty?”

Later, this seemed hilarious. But at the time, it was the height of lying and disobedience. As they say at Rants from Mommyland, I lost my schmidt and gave her a spank. I don’t spank often, but I wanted to get her attention. Then, of course, I felt terrible but kept my poker-face on and told her the next night she’ll have to go to bed half an hour early.

Oh, and did I mention I found chapstick on the cat’s head?

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Not Invited

Yesterday afternoon when I picked Eddie up, he threw himself into my lap in the schoolyard and dissolved in tears, telling me that his buddy Harris had invited two other kids for a sleepover. Eddie was not invited.

If I were 8, and I played with these kids every single day like he does, I’d be in tears, too.

I had gotten wind of this that morning when I delivered Eddie to walk to school with neighbor-pal Caleb. Eddie was inviting Caleb to the now-famous (on our block, at least) Friday Wii Hour, where he gets to invite as many kids as he wants to play Wii after school. Eddie and his pals look forward to it all week.

But Caleb said he couldn’t come because he was going to a sleepover, at which point his mom said,” Caleb… Caleb! CALEB!!! We need to talk.”

Then at pickup time after school, Eddie ran up to me and asked if we could move the Friday Wii Hour to Wednesday or Thursday. It didn’t help that I reminded him Wii was cancelled all week after he stomped off Sunday afternoon when my Lovely Bride told him he couldn’t play Wii with Harris and Caleb – it was a gorgeous day, and rain is forecast all week. Then he disappeared without telling us he just wanted to be alone. (No problem with that – you just have to tell Mom and Dad where you’re going.)

 I suggested inviting another friend to come for Friday Wii Hour. Then came the waterworks. “Noooooo!!!!!” Eddie wailed as his face tightened and he threw his head back in despair. “He’s invited to the sleepover, too! And I’m not!

Uh-oh.

I plopped down on the grass for Eddie to sit in my lap and talk this over. Not only was there a sleepover, they plan to go to a laser tag place that night, and Eddie wouldn’t get to go to that, either.

Ouch.

My first wrong move was to tell Eddie that even if he had been invited, my Lovely Bride and I wouldn’t have let him go. No sleep happens at sleepovers, and you get  a kid who’s cranky and on edge for two days. Plus, you’re obligated to reciprocate and endure your own lack of sleep.

“But it’s on a Friday!” he wailed, suggesting ample recovery time.

Finally, I realized that it wasn’t about the timing or the Cranky Kid Ripple Effect. It was about not being included. Boy do I remember that from when I was a kid.

It still hurts to remember being teased as a child for wearing glasses. (“Four-eyes! Four-eyes!” kids would shout.) Don’t even mention middle school. And in high school, I hoped and hoped and hoped to be invited to the cool kids’ parties. (When I finally heard about a graduation party, I didn’t even know what BYOB meant. And I thought rum and coke was Roman Coke, which I decided was beer and coke mixed together. This episode makes my wife ache, too. She moved five times before 8th grade, so she was always the new kid.) I got contact lenses as a teenager and went to plenty of parties in college, but none of that mattered when I had an upset second-grader in my lap.

I decided to face the real problem.

“It really hurts that you weren’t invited, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah….” he sniffed.

I sat and listened and asked questions and listened some more. It seemed that the party kid had talked about the sleepover to Eddie in school.

“It was rude for him to talk about this in front of you, Eddie. And I’m sorry he hurt your feelings by doing that,” I said.

“I’m not going to invite Harris and Caleb to play Wii for a month!” he said.

I decided not to point out that his 8-year-old eye-for-an-eye sense of justice was going to leave him with no friends. Forgiveness is beyond him these days.

“Well, we’ll think of something,” I said.

Later that night, I asked if there was another friend he might like to invite to come over on Friday. And by this morning, Eddie had calmed down enough that we didn’t have to avoid the topic. And I’ve even managed to use the sting of not being included to help him consider how other kids might feel when he leaves them out.

My Lovely Bride came up with the best plan yet: she’s going to duck work early on Friday take Eddie straight to dinner and a movie. With just Mommy. Little Sister doesn’t get to go. Daddy doesn’t get to go. Other second-graders don’t get to go.

Just Eddie.