The First Lie
There I was, minding my own business, washing the dishes while my wife had the kids upstairs for bath time.
“Mummy said I could play on the computer”, said my 4 year old, suddenly standing beside me…naked.
“Play on the computer? Naked? When you should be in the bath? That doesn’t sound like something mummy would suggest, are you sure she said that?”
“Err…yes. She said I could play the computer.”
So here it was, the first lie. He’s a kind, sweet little boy, who, it would appear, has discovered he can manipulate untruths for his own benefit.
Well, I say his FIRST lie, it’s his first lie that I haven’t been responsible for.
What happened at Legoland
There was that time at Legoland last year, when we were queuing for the Lego horse ride. We’d been queuing for quite a while and he was very excited. Then I noticed the sign. The sign that said “You have to be 4 years or older to ride this ride.” He would be devastated. How could I possibly break this to him??
My options were:
Leave the queue. Break his heart, but maintain parental integrity. – AKA: The Correct Approach
Say nothing and risk it when we got to the front. – AKA: The Blissful Ignorance Approach
Explain the situation to him, prep him to lie, lose all validity as the temporary minder of his moral compass. – AKA: The Tampered Witness Approach
I chose option 3, because I’m a man of high morals and paper-thin commitment; because the Lego Horses looked like a lot of fun; and because, well, it wasn’t a BIG lie, right?
The next five minutes I spent down on his level, looking him straight in the eye and repeating,
“You are four, buddy. Four, you got that? If anyone asks, you say four. OK? Four, not three, four.”
The moment of truth (ironically speaking) came when we approached the front of the queue. The lovely older lady in a Legoland polo shirt bent down to my son and said cheerfully:
“And how old are you, young man?”
There was a pause, a long one. Long enough for the woman to begin to turn to look at me for an answer and for me to clench my teeth. She tried him one more time:
“Do you know how old you are, little guy?”
“Yes,” my son blurted out loudly and confidently, “Seven!”
I guffawed. I nearly spat out my gum. I clapped my hand on my son’s back. “Ha! Kids, huh? He’s four…not seven, don’t worry about that. Funny things kids say! He’s four, let him on the ride. err…please?”
And with that my sweet, innocent, never-told-a-lie-in-his-life 3-year-old skipped over to the Lego horse and set off for the five-minute adventure he’d been dreaming about.
With hindsight I wonder what was going through his head during that pause. He must have assessed the situation. He clearly understood he wasn’t old enough but simply saying he was of age would be too obvious, he was going to have to go big. Go big and sound convincing, that’s the way to be believed.
So, we return to the scene in the kitchen.
No doubt emboldened by his previous Lego success, and applying the same “go big or go home” approach, he decided that 7pm on a weeknight, completely naked, in the kitchen, is the most likely scenario for success. I mean, who ever lies when they are naked, right?!
“Yes. Mummy said I could play the computer.”
I countered with the direct question offense.
“Son, is that a lie?”
“Err…yes.” Daddy one, son nil.
I sat down on the kitchen floor and brought him in for a hug. “Son, what you have just done is lie to your father,” I said, with as much gravitas as I could muster. I explained to him that it is important to never lie to his parents. That his mother and I will always be open to hear anything he has to say to us. That we promise to always try to respect his opinions and desires and that, at the very least, we can talk about them. He doesn’t need to lie to us because we are a team. That lying only breeds mistrust and mistrust corrupts friendships and teams. I explained that I understood he wanted to play on the computer, but that the more honest way to make that happen would have been to simply ask. All he can ever hope to achieve by lying is short-term gain and long-term failure and guilt.
“Do you understand, son? Do you see why lying is a bad thing?”
“Yes Dad,” he said sullenly, “But…but what about that time at Legoland…”
“No more questions! Get up those stairs and into the bath, young man!”
Do you remember your kid’s first lie? Was it obvious? How did you handle it?