Remember that show House, M.D.? It was a medical drama based on the charismatic but misanthropic Dr. Gregory House (and his revolving door of nubile residents) solving the impossible medical mysteries of his mercurial and withholding patients. Anyway, House taught me three important things: I have an unhealthy attraction to damaged, volatile men because I’m convinced I can fix them; if you have a mystery disease it’s never lupus or sarcoidosis; and everyone lies. Obviously, the creators of House were familiar with kids, because those monsters lie constantly. In fact, the lies your child will shamelessly tell you will be so egregious it'll almost be impressive. I swear lies taste like candy on their tongues, so it’s just an endless string of completely ridiculous fibs for years and years. Fortunately, the lies of children usually become obvious very quickly.
I have two children. My daughter doesn't lie, generally, because it doesn't strike her that she has to yet. Besides, she knows her giggle and dimples will get her out of pretty much any jam. My son is 6, and here's one of the funniest things about him: he is at an age where he knows enough that he should lie to cover his ass, but he has absolutely no idea how to do it yet. I don’t know if it’s because he’s 6, or if he’s just someone who lacks any and all guile, but he’s a piss-poor liar. Here’s how a situation will usually go. He does something when I leave the room. When I come back, he very abruptly jumps up and attempts to block something from my view.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m hiding this from you. You can’t see it, right?”
“Show me what you did.”
Then I’m like:
I've made this face a lot over the years, and here are some of the most common reasons why:
"I'm Not Tired!"
Oh, no, of course not. You’ve only been screaming and crying for absolutely no reason for the past hour as you rub your eyes every five seconds. What was I thinking? I must have been confused after I watched you nod off a couple times back there. My bad.
"I Didn't Do It!"
Sometimes this isn’t a response to anything you have asked or accused them of. Instead, it's a preemptive disclaimer. You will be sitting with a cup of tea, paying some bills, when all of a sudden your child runs in and says, “I didn’t do it." This, of course, immediately launches you into action to fix whatever it is that needs fixing… and something will always need fixing after you hear these words.
By the way: they totally did it.
"I'm Not Hungry"
Even if you’re not hungry at this moment (and I suspect you are), I know you will be in about five seconds, after I’ve put everything back in the pantry, or go to the bathroom, or try to get some work done. Then you’ll start telling me how starving you are and that you need food immediately. It will be easier for literally everyone involved if you just ask for food while I'm up and in the kitchen.
You ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, carrot sticks, hummus, and a half a Costco-sized container of Goldfish crackers 45 minutes ago. Then you ate part of my lunch. You are not starving. I don’t even know how you’re hungry again, frankly, and I say that as someone who is always hungry.
"I Don't Have To Go To The Bathroom!"
Nobody who doesn’t have to pee grabs their crotch so intensely… at least no one your age. Trust me: everything will be here when you get back. You’re not going to miss out on anything, so just go to the goddamn bathroom. I don’t want to worry about whether we’re going to make it when you decide in 10 minutes that you have to go nooooooow.
"I Don't Know!"
This is usually in response to rhetorical questions you will ask your child. For example: “Is that how we treat your little sister?” “I don’t know.” "Is that where your shoes belong?" "I don't know." "What do you do with your dishes when you're done with breakfast?" "I don't know.
Please. Absolutely you know. You know damn well, because we have gone over this a million billion times.
"I Didn't Hear You!"
You did hear me, because as soon as I said whatever I said, you started doing whatever you were doing loudly and more frantically.
"I Don't Know How!"
Then please explain to me, dear, darling child whom I love so marvelously well, why I was asking you to stop doing it yesterday? In fact, I had to ask you to stop over and over again because you “didn’t hear me.”
Selective helplessness is the bane of my parental existence. I'm assured by older parents that one day I'm going to miss being so needed. Honestly, I can see that, but I really can't imagine that I'll miss being "needed."
"I *Did* Wipe My Butt!"
This is perhaps the worst lie to discover after the fact. Sidebar: why don’t kids want to wipe their asses? I can understand if they didn’t do a great job, or maybe even if they forget (because kids are flighty little creatures, and they’re just getting this whole potty routine down), but when they willfully refuse to wipe their bums? What’s the deal with that?
"I Don't Know Why She's Crying..."
Oh, of course not. How could you possibly know why your younger sister is crying? I mean, how could you know if it has anything to do with that toy in your hands that she was playing with about a minute ago that you are now actively keeping from her? The world is so full of curious, unsolved mysteries that we'll probably never be able to crack the case on this one.
She probably needs a nap, huh?
"[Imaginary Friend] Did It"
Obviously my child’s imaginary friend didn’t make a mess in the living room. And yet I’ve watched enough scary movies about vengeful ghost playmates who get pissed off at parents who yell at their children to fear this possibility. I have enough on my plate, people. I don't need a wide-eyed contortionist demon ghost child skulking around in my periphery from now until I descend into madness. It's not a risk I'm willing to take.
Well played, child. You win this round.
"Daddy Said I Could"
Daddy isn’t home. In fact, Daddy is on a business trip in Melbourne right now. There’s no way he could have told you to do this, because you don’t know how to dial or answer a phone yet. And even if Daddy were home, there is no way he would have told you to paint on the television screen. I’ve known him way longer than you have, and I know that the only thing he loves more than that television is you, which is lucky for you, wee one.
It’s never, ever “nothing.”
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