I was quickly changing the baby from pajamas to clothes this morning – which could describe any morning during the school year, really – when my five-year-old walked into the room, shot me a big grin and said, “I brushed my teeth before I put my clothes on today, Mommy.”
The following thoughts shot through my mind like lightning:
“That’s strange. He hates brushing his teeth. And he’s never done it first thing. But he’s telling me this voluntarily. Why?”
And then the direct hit: “Could he be lying?”
I helped a chubby arm through an sleeve and glanced at my son, still beaming with an angelic smile. “Are you sure, buddy?” I said. “Because that’s not like you.”
“I did!” he insisted, although I saw his grin falter.
I set the baby on the ground and walked into the bathroom. I felt his toothbrush. It was dry.
I came out and looked him in the eye. “Buddy, don’t lie to me. Your toothbrush isn’t even wet. The sink isn’t wet.”
He looked away.
“It’s far more serious to lie to me than to not brush your teeth,” I gently warned. “Because then I can’t trust you. And that changes everything.”
He still didn’t look at me, but I could see from the embarrassed flush that my message was getting through. He took the toothbrush out of my hand and walked directly to the sink.
Two minutes later, he emerged from the bathroom with a bigger smile, fresher breath and a clean conscience.
“I did it, Mom, I really did it this time.”
“Good buddy. I’m glad. But I think you owe me an apology for lying.”
He threw himself into a vice grip around my waist.
“I’m sorry, Mommy.”
“I’m glad, buddy,” I said.
And I am glad. I’m glad I was able to catch him so simply, I’m glad he responded to my correction without retort.
Because I’m older and wiser, and I know what a life of duplicity bears. It’s a seed I don’t want planted.
The thorns which I have reap'd are of the tree
I planted,---they have torn me---and I bleed:
I should have known what fruit would spring from such a seed.
- Lord Byron, "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage"
Kelly also blogs at Love Well.