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?