She lied right to my face. She looked at me and made up a story to cover something she did wrong. A total lie. It was awful.
I know I sound naive. We realize our kids are going to lie to us—we lied to our parents. But when it actually happens…ouch.
Here’s the setup: My oldest was banned from social media for another rule infraction, so she snuck onto a computer and began liking Instagram posts. Of course, I caught her—we follow the same people, and I saw her screen name. It was a silly crime, one almost impossible to get away with, but she couldn’t help her 11-year-old-self.
When I asked her about her “likes,” she denied it—she said she was hacked and someone else must be liking our babysitter’s posts online.
And here’s the worst part: I believed her! I defended her to her dad (who did not believe her). I so wanted to trust that she wouldn’t violate her punishment, and moreso, that she certainly wouldn’t lie to me, that I went along with the deception. I began to worry her online safety was compromised, I said we will have to delete her account and notify Instagram. Then I discovered her tell. She paused, and that look came across her face. I knew. I sat back and told her that if she’d been the one online, she’d better confess now because it would be better in the end.
She came clean. She felt better. And I felt like I’d been hit by a truck.
Moms know everything, or at least they’re supposed to. (I can always tell if they didn’t wash their hands before dinner or brush their teeth before bed, just by the looks on their faces.) So why was it so easy for her to fool me now? Or was it that I really wanted to be fooled? I didn’t want to believe that she would disregard the rules of the punishment and deny, deny, deny. God, I suck as a mom. I was appalled, angry, hurt, and disappointed. Worse, I felt like the spell of childhood had been broken. She was now a tween who lies to her parents and almost gets away with it. Ouch. I extended her punishment, added two new ones and sent her to bed. Then I slogged dejectedly upstairs.
In swoops the handsome fiancée with some much-needed perspective. (His kids are grown, and he knows there is a forest in all these trees.)
He says, “They’re gonna lie to you. We lied.”
My response: “Oy, stop rationalizing this! I was a bad kid who lied to her parents, but my kids are perfect!”
He continued, “They’re kids, they’re going to screw up—that’s their job. Our job is to teach them what they did wrong. Their childhood is about learning, not about being perfect.” (He’s handsome and smart… I hit quite the jackpot.)
I guess I was hoping to raise the kind of kids who don’t try to get around the rules, but if I succeeded, then I would be the first parent in the history of humankind who ever raised a 100% honest kid.
There is no glory in lying. We should not do it. It is commanded, Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbor. But it happens. It happened to me, and it sucked. Maybe the spell of the innocence of childhood is wearing off. If so, I’m grateful for this warning sign. My daughter and I discussed how guilty she felt when she lied, how her stomach hurt during her denial, how relieved she felt after her confession (even if she was punished more). I have no delusions that it won’t happen again. Thankfully, she still has her lying “tells” but now I’ll have to look much more closely to find them.