Before my children were born, I was a Brownie leader for 5 years. One of my leaderly duties was to take a gaggle of giggling 7 and 8 year old girls on our annual camping trip. We went on nature walks, we tried our hands at archery (survival tip – my aim is very poor), we went swimming and we sang around the campfire. When night fell, we slept in a cabin. Or, at least, the adults tried to sleep and the girls tried their level best to avoid it.
This was my first real experience caring for children overnight. I remember being in awe that parents ever got any sleep at all. I also discovered, for the first time, how sly children aren’t. During the day the girls practiced jumping back into their bunks when I entered the room, as I did at night to check on them. Different girls took turns playing my role, knocking on the door and loudly proclaiming that everyone had better be asleep. In fact, they even asked me to participate, playing myself. Then they informed me that I’m not a very convincing Amber.
At night, listening to these kids bounce off the walls and then pretend to be asleep when I entered their room my mind wandered back to my own childhood. I recalled my own time at Brownie camp, thinking we were pulling the wool over our leaders’ eyes when we suddenly became quiet the moment they showed up. I remembered ‘indoor days’ in elementary school, when kids would stand lookout at the top of the stairs so that they could warn us of the principal’s impending arrival. At top volume, less than 10 feet in front of him. Oh yeah, we totally had him fooled.
Now I have two kids of my own, and once again I am discovering that they are not so sly as they think they are. In toddlerhood I’m not sure they even know what sly means. You ask them a question and they give you a direct answer. Lying doesn’t occur to them, because they don’t know that deception is possible. Somewhere in the preschool years that changes, and they start messing with the truth to their own advantage. But at first, they are very bad liars. Embarrassingly bad.
Here are a few gems I have heard out of my own daughter, Hannah, who is now 5:
I don’t really sweat the subterfuge at this point. It is developmentally normal, for one thing. I can understand why Hannah would try to fudge the truth to get her own way or avoid possibly invoking my anger. Who wants their mom to launch into yet another round of ‘Don’t jump on the couch’? No 5-year-old that I know, that’s for sure. I also don’t know any child who doesn’t lie to their parents once in a while. (Except me. Hi, Mom!) I’m not entirely sure how I will handle it later on, but for now it seems pretty harmless, although I can’t quite resist pointing out the flaws in the child’s logic. Perhaps I shouldn’t do that, as it will likely just help her improve her craft.
In the meantime, tell me – have your children come out with any ridiculously awful lies? Are they not quite as sly as they think they are? Please share!