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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3 responses to “Hello, This Is Your Conscience Speaking

  1. Our O was on a fibbing kick a while ago. Lying about silly stuff that if he really looked at it would seem preposterous to lie about. I pulled the same move I did with Elijah at that age. I told him about kid jail, really worked him into a lather about what happens to kids who continue to lie into their teen years. I also introduced him to the concept of “slippery slope” as explanation of how armed robbery was the obvious and ultimate culmination of saying that his brother (who hadn’t yet brushed his teeth) didn’t rinse the spit out of the bowl. Like all things with children this happened in a phase, and when I was phased out, I packed him into the car and drove him to the Hickey school. I acted like it was all a snap thing, but I had been planning it for some time, I did the same with E, and I will do the same with little O if necessary. We parked right next to the high razor wire fence, I shut the car off dramatically, and asked him to take a hard look at what life looks like when you live in a cage. I asked him if they had a playground, they didn’t. I asked him if they had pets, they didn’t. I asked him if it looked like the kid’s parents looked like they lived their or even visited often. Then I asked him if he wanted to live in a cage, like an animal. He assured me that he did not want to live in a cage, and I told him that might be the outcome if he continues to lie. We sat for some time him staring through the fence, then we went home. It didn’t immediately have an effect, but after he discussed his experience with his older brother (who had the same experience) we noticed some change. Consequences, life has them, and being confronted with the reality of them BEFORE they have the influence of children who mythologize juvie as something for the cool tough kids do, has an effect. No one wants to live in a cage.

  2. Our O was on a fibbing kick a while ago. Lying about silly stuff that if he really looked at it would seem preposterous to lie about. I pulled the same move I did with Elijah at that age. I told him about kid jail, really worked him into a lather about what happens to kids who continue to lie into their teen years. I also introduced him to the concept of “slippery slope” as explanation of how armed robbery was the obvious and ultimate culmination of saying that his brother (who hadn’t yet brushed his teeth) didn’t rinse the spit out of the bowl. Like all things with children this happened in a phase, and when I was phased out, I packed him into the car and drove him to the Hickey school. I acted like it was all a snap thing, but I had been planning it for some time, I did the same with E, and I will do the same with little O if necessary. We parked right next to the high razor wire fence, I shut the car off dramatically, and asked him to take a hard look at what life looks like when you live in a cage. I asked him if they had a playground, they didn’t. I asked him if they had pets, they didn’t. I asked him if it looked like the kids’ parents lived there or even visited often. Then I asked him if he wanted to live in a cage, like an animal. He assured me that he did not want to live in a cage, and I told him that might be the outcome if he continues to lie. We sat for some time him staring through the fence, then we went home. It didn’t immediately have an effect, but after he discussed his experience with his older brother (who had the same experience) we noticed some change. Consequences, life has them, and being confronted with the reality of them BEFORE they have the influence of children who mythologize juvie as something the cool tough kids do, has an effect. No one wants to live in a cage.

  3. Oh how great it is that little kids are bad liars! My oldest was about the same age when she came home with a blue blow-pop (back when I didn’t allow candy) and begged to have it. I figured what the heck and told her after dinner she could have it, but put it on the counter for now. While making dinner I realized the pop was gone, so I march over to her room and see her sitting at the end of her toddler bed with the blanket pulled down off the end of the bed and over her. She was singing, and I could hear the pop clanking against her teeth. I asked loudly “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!” and it startled her, and she threw the pop under the bed and jumped up. “What are you doing, M?” “Nothing” “Were you eating that blow-pop?” “No!” “Really? You weren’t?” “Noooooo!” She had a blue mouth, so I said “Come here and look in the mirror. Now open your mouth.” She looks, opens her mouth, and says “Oh COOLLL!!!!!!! Look Mommy, my mouth is BLUE!!” Sheesh! The good news is it is mostly a stage, and she will mostly grow out of it. 😉

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