Five-Year-Old Fails Polygraph Test

It started as a simple conversation at dinner. We usually go around the table, and each person talks about their day.  The 2-year-old always wants to go first, refuses to take questions, but just enjoys everyone looking at her.  (“I’m not DONE YET!” is a familiar screech.)

The 7-year-old talked fondly of the science experiment in her desk, a mealworm named Squirmy who was getting ready to turn into a beetle.  Then it got to 5-year-old Josh, who regaled us with stories of Star Wars reenactments on the playground and a secret reader in class.

After a few questions, I wrapped up with:

“Did you buy your milk ok today?”

Did you buy chocolate milk?

Every once in a while, Josh likes to buy milk at the school cafeteria to go with his lunch from home.  Fine, I say.  A break from the juice box.  But the rule is, you buy white milk.  Not chocolate.  Because that’s dessert in a carton.  And I already packed dessert.  And we don’t usually drink chocolate milk.

“Yep, I bought milk,” he said with a weird look on his face.

I know that look.  I’m not a poker player and I know that look.

“You did?” I probed.

“Yep.”  He said.  Super weird look now.

The mother’s intuition alarm bell started clanging.

“White milk?”

Silence.

“Um, yes white milk.”

“You had chocolate milk,” I say.

Silence.

“No I DIDN’T!” He insisted.

Which meant he did.  All I did was look at him and he caved.

“Well, I maybe had chocolate milk,” he confessed.

Then it hit me.  He lied.  WHY? I had that sick feeling of if-he’s-lying-about-milk-then-what-ELSE-is-he-lying-about?  Why lie about milk?!  What does it mean??  WHAT HAVE I DONE!  So I did what any rational (neurotic) parent would do.  First, I lectured the liar about telling the truth, trust issues and chocolate milk nutrition facts.  Then ran straight to the computer to Google “kids and lying”.

First, I found many message boards with parents wondering why their 17-year-old lied about skipping school, stealing $300 and drinking beer.  Shaky with thoughts of my 5-year old landing behind bars from a life of lying and stealing, I stumbled upon this article from the Wall Street Journal.  I was surprised to find out that lying at age 5 doesn’t really mean much – but it’s actually a good sign. Researchers say  “The fact that their children tell lies is a sign that they have reached a new developmental milestone.”

Milestone!  Sounds impressive.  In fact, the study says kids with better cognitive abilities actually lie more.  Because when you lie, you’ve gotta keep your story straight while knowing the truth.  And that makes your brain fire up in high functioning ways.   Hmm.  I don’t think I’ll be touting my son’s newly found fibbing skills any time soon.  And certainly I’ll have to repeatedly stress that lying is not tolerated in our house.

Oh, and he still can’t buy chocolate milk.


Shoes, Star Wars and the Third Child

My 7-year-old daughter stared at me in disbelief.

“You got Kitty light up shoes?” Caroline was incredulous as she watched her two-year old sister jump up and down, setting off lights on the sides of her Disney Princess shoes.

Shoes for the 3rd child

“You said we could NEVER have light up shoes!” Now the tone was a bit angrier.  “Why did SHE get light up shoes?!”

You know the shoes I’m talking about.  Sneakers that light up every time you walk on them.  You can see them in a dark movie theater, they always come with some annoying cartoon character plastered on them and usually cost double.

When Caroline was old enough to see how cool light up shoes were, I put my non-lit up foot down. Nope.  No one needs his or her feet to light up with every step.  When Josh came along, it was his dream to have Thomas the train shoes or Toy Story or whatever light up shoes.  There was begging.  I held firm, because of course, I had set a stupid parent rule in my head.  No swearing, hitting or light up shoes.

But here comes the third child.  She picked out Princess shoes at the store.  Ok, I say.  Princess sneakers are fine.  She put them on.

“Oh!” Kitty squealed. “My shoeses lighted up!!”

Sigh.  I was in trouble.  Trouble if I took them off her feet.  And trouble if I came home with them.

After years of law and order, I caved under the pressure of the third child.  By number three I’ve realized:

1. Parental patience is thin

2. Parental perfection is unrealistic

3. The third will cry if not included

When my first was born, she played with educational toys, only watched Sesame Street and didn’t eat candy.  I was determined to do this parent thing right.  Then came number two.  Things were a little more lax, but they didn’t know who Sponge Bob was, rarely ate at McDonald’s and had no idea how to play video games.

The third one came, and it all went to hell.  Frazzled from meeting the needs of three children at different ages, my standards have dropped. Significantly.  In turn, I have a two-year old who can play “Pac Man”, sings songs from “High School Musical” and wants an American Girl Doll.  She manipulates tiny Legos and has taken an unnatural interest in “Star Wars.” She recently dazzled a crowd at the hair salon singing Darth Vader’s theme song with a lollipop hanging out of her mouth.   She snuck up on her sister the other day and said, breathing heavily in sister’s ear, “Luke, I am your daddy.”

I find myself just watching her and shaking my head.  Like, whose child is this? And when is her mother going to do something?  One person who takes great glee in this, is my mother.

“That’s what happens,” she said recently.  “The third becomes a lot smarter a lot quicker.”

She ought to know.  I was the third child.  Boy, am I in trouble.


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