Kids are liars. Pathological.
They lie like a penny in a parking lot. Out in the open for anyone to see. The problem is that they believe their own hype and the blame falls to the parent.
We listen to a popular XM radio station that works as a sedative for children in a minivan; Kids Place Live. A few weeks ago the Absolutely Mindy Show was talking calls from children. The object was for the child to say three statements, one of which was a lie. Mindy would have to guess which statement was false and then the kids would request a song (always “Let It Go”). The first caller gave a few obvious truths and one obvious lie. Mindy spots it easily and then asks, “What song would you like to hear?”
The child never flinched and answered, “Turn Down For What” by Lil’ Jon.
Mindy replied with complete professionalism while I laughed and my children asked if we could hear that song too. I assured them that Mindy would probably not be able to find it but not to worry because “Let It Go” was on the way. I still imagine the parent, standing nearby while their eight year old sold them out to satellite radio, had to be mortified at the judging that was going on in the minds of all the minivan moms and at least one minivan dad. (Not judging but sharing a familiar empathy.)
Then came the second caller. The first embarrassed parent was quickly cleared of all bad parenting because of the second story. A six-ish year old boy whose lie turned out to be, “I sleep in a bed.” It went something like this:
Mindy: Wow! You don’t sleep in a bed? Where do you sleep?
Boy: In the floor.
Mindy: Oh awesome! Like camping or playing pretend?
Boy: No, In the attic.
Mindy: Do you have a bed in the attic?
Boy: Yes but I don’t have room to sleep on it.
Mindy: Oh so I bet you are messy and have too many toys or clothes on it. (Trying to move the conversation or give him a way out.)
Boy: Well it is full of stuff. My brother’s stuff that my dad put there.
Mindy: Oh okay. I bet you have a great dad since you have all that stuff. (The eternal optimist.)
Boy: No, it is just car seats and stuff.
If you are that parent, I am certain there is an explanation. You have satellite radio and have given over use of your cell phone to an elementary age child. It is hard for me to accept that you force a child to sleep on the floor next to junk in an attic.
That’s what kids do. They tell unintentional lies and the next thing you know you are under a social shakedown. You are feeling the shame of the working middle class beating down upon you while you plead to God that the child didn’t mention any names.
I am taking the side of the true victims, the parents. Maybe because I know that one day I will be caught in a similar situation. When conversations break down as fast as light travels, it is only a matter of time before some innocent bystander walks in at the tail end of one of my regular parenting meltdowns. Does anyone else ever stop after a little ranting and raving and think, “My God, I am a monster.”?
Here is a small example of how we go from “Happy Go Lucky” to “Sweet Holy Hell!” in about five minutes. Imagine that the child is seated in front of some freshly prepared spaghetti with garlic bread. And go…
Underaddy: What would you like to drink with dinner? (Smiling and looking at the oldest child, Jane)
Child: I don’t know. (Child is draped across the arm of the chair like a sad Emo rock star)
Underdaddy: Well… We have some grape juice and some water.
Child: I don’t like water. (Picks at her spaghetti)
Underdaddy: Sit up straight you are going to…(child knock plate off table onto the floor) Ugghh.
Child: Daaaadddyyyyy. I dropped my fork.
Underdaddy: You dropped the entire plate. In fact, the fork is still on the table because you haven’t touched it. (Stares in disbelief)
Child: I’m thirsty.
Underdaddy: Can you pick up the spaghetti you just spilled? I will get you a towel.
Child: Why do we always have to clean!?
Underdaddy: It’s not …. Stand up. Take this rag. Clean up the spaghetti. (Breathe and count to ten)
Child: Here biscuit. (Starts flicking food towards the dog)
Underdaddy: Stop feeding the dog and clean up the food! What do you want to drink?
Child: Milk. (From under the table)
Underdaddy: We don’t have milk. I told you that. We have grape juice and water.
Child: Sweet Tea? (Picking up food with hands and slopping it on the table NEXT TO empty plate)
Underdaddy: Oh for the love of … Grape Juice or Water… (Rubs temples and recites a Buddhist calming chant under his breath)
Child: Can I have more spaghetti? (Child tries to stand up under the table with a THUNK she hits her head.) Owww!
Underdaddy: Water… I’m going to get you water. Bring me your plate and I’ll get you more. (Hands child a cup of water) Use two hands so you don’t spill it.
Child: Here’s my plate daddy. (Walks to table with cup of water and instead of putting it down she tries to pick up the plate and spills both into the floor.)
Underdaddy: Did you really just do that?
Child: I spilled my water! (She starts crying. For both of us, I assume. She bends down to pick things up and nails the table again with her face)
The dog is taking advantage and chowing down on spaghetti. I am certain that I will clean it up later once the dog pukes it on the carpet in my bedroom. The other children are finishing their meals and requesting refills of juice and/or more spaghetti. I prepare another water and plate of food for Helen Keller. I yell at the dog for eating the spaghetti and the dog runs towards the bedroom to escape. The fourth child is walking up behind the dog as the dog spins and knocks her down. More crying. BTW, we are now out of forks. I haven’t yet made myself a plate or a drink or even sat down since arriving home.
Child: Why do we always have spaghetti?
Underdaddy: Because daddy is inconsiderate. He doesn’t have time for much more than boiling water and browning beef in a skillet. (This is where things go south)
Child: Can I have grape juice instead? This water is spicy. (She is clearly just speaking to hear sounds)
Underdaddy: There is zero explanation for you having spicy water. Water is not spicy and no you have to drink your water first. I just made you a new water after you spilled the other one.
Child: My head hurts.
Underdaddy: That’s because you smack it on things like it’s the end of a blind man’s cane. You probably have a concussion or something. Eat your dinner.
Child: I don’t want it.
Underdaddy: Fine. Don’t eat your dinner. I don’t even care. I am going to eat mine. (I dump whats left of the sauce into the pan of noodles and stand over the stove cramming spaghetti down my gullet.)
Underdaddy: (Stops and waits a split second before responding through a mouth full of spaghetti) Yes…
Child: Why are you upset?
-Here is the point where a stranger walking in and hearing the end of the conversation would not end well. These are the things I want to say for a brief moment.-
Underdaddy: (Takes a deep breath) I am upset because I do my best to feed you and keep you alive and yet you insist on beating your own head against a table, flinging food around like dishes at a Greek wedding, and using your ears as decorations instead of sensory organs. Thanks to your general lack of concern I have a ruined carpet, a vomitty dog, and a deep seated doubt of my own self-worth. I don’t care if you sit and stare at the damn spaghetti until it grows legs. All we will ever have from here forward is spaghetti and water. For the rest of your life. Italian prison food! Learn to love it or get your energy from the sun and lay around in the window sill talking about how terrible I am and comparing notes with the fucking cat. I’m going to eat this half-portion of food that is left in the back corner of my almost walk-in closet. You can put yourself to bed and good luck turning off the light without being eaten by the boogie man, he knows when you are alone. And don’t cry he can smell tears.
Of course I never say those things. I don’t have the money for therapy. I usually try to take pause and relax. But man would it feel good to let fly on those little energy hogs just once? Yes it would. A man can dream cant he?
If you repress your frustrations towards your children, this post is for you. It happens. You’re welcome.
-Underdaddy to the rescue.