Thursday, January 31, 2008

And with that, I jinxed us.

I knew even before the words had passed my lips that I had made a grave mistake. I should have known better than to utter aloud something that we'd never been subjected to as parents, but I just had to poke at the capricious, unknown puppeteers behind the irrepressible nature of toddler development.

"She's never actually told a lie."

Cue the malevolent laughter drifting in upon an unexpected breeze.

I was talking with another mom who was recounting how she'd had to exact a grounding sentence on her daughter after telling a lie. We went back and forth about the sensation of knowing with absolute certainty what a certain look on your child's face mean. Briar sticks her tongue in her cheek, sometimes chewing on it, when she has either done something bad or is in the process of considering it.

This discovery of cheeky shenanigans has actually been kind of fun as I am able to prepare, "Ok, Bri, what did you do?"

"Nothing," she answers with twinkling eyes.

Wrong question.

"What are you thinking about doing?"

"Umm, I was just thinking 'bout taking Avery's toy and putting it in the trash," eyes still twinkling but tongue clenched firmly in her teeth, head cocked and one foot hooked behind her ankle.

"You think that's a good idea?"

"Will you cuddle me?" Super twinkle in the baby blues with this.

What happened tonight was different, you see tonight Briar dipped her little toe into the waters of "Mom said I could." The only problem was that I didn't. And Dad knew it.

Bath privileges were revoked, after epic hysterics story time was eliminated and though I knew it wold happen one day, I hadn't wanted it to happen just yet. I had so enjoyed the existence I knew this morning of not yet. I knew I was lucky, knew that like the passion of early kisses and first dances, our place in child-rearing not yet sullied by lies was but a moment in the big picture.

I splashed with Avery in the bathtub straining to hear the voices down the hall. Sean voice was calm and even, Briar's was desperate and piercing. "Please can I take a bath? I wanna tell the troof." Avery looked up at me, "Bwy-uh comin?"

"No, honey. Briar can't take a bath tonight."

"You get in, Mommy? You get in wif Ave-ree?" She asked patting the water in front of her. She looked so small in the tub. Sean poked his head in the door. He explained how Briar had lied and that he'd said no bath.

"She has asked me seven times to take a bath and now she is asking you if she can get in." I looked at him. He didn't say anything, didn't ask me to back his play. I wanted to let her get in and have the night go back to normal. Bed time would be easier, Avery would have more fun and the crying would stop. He was still looking at me as a plaintive call came down the hallway, "Please mama, please can I take a bath?"

"Briar you are going to miss it tonight. You can't lie." And so I took Briar's spot in the bath and positioned myself squarely beside Sean in this stand off. He ran his fingers down the door, defeated but resolved, "Thanks, babe." He walked down the hall and told Briar in a quiet voice to go to bed.

"But I wanna bath!" then loud wailing and thrashing. I stripped out of my work clothes and Avery beamed, clapping her hand against the side of the tub. I swallowed the lump in my throat and I slipped into the water. There would be no letting it go, no saying that next time she'd lose the bath. We'd made a decision and neither of us liked it, but we agreed and that was as important for us as it was for Briar to learn about telling the truth. It never fails to knock the wind out of me how very wrong doing the right thing can feel.

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Lisa Milton said...


I doubt it helps, but I spent the day at the school, watching kids moving about my kids' classrooms.

It is obvious that some have no one to hold them accountable, give them a boundary, raise them up right.

But I know all too well it is much harder, in the moment.

You did good.

Crystal said...

Good job momma. It sucks, but you did the right thing. Good team work.

Lara said...

you know you did the right thing, but i understand that's it's hard. i had to put my two-year-old charge in his crib the other day so that he could think about why it's not okay to hit. his parents have set a time limit that he has to stay for two minutes, and since i'm supporting them, i stick to it. but after thirty seconds he was screaming, "i'm ready to be nice! please come back! i'm ready to be NIIIIIIICE!" i thought i was going to cry. :(

Myshka said...

Well done Mrs. M. You are raising your daughters to be such amazing people, so you have to stick with it. What a great team you both make too. xoxo

Rachel said...

You get a standing Ovation for that one!
Good job mama! They have to know you're serious and will stick by your decisions, otherwise all is lost!!

Amy Y said...

Oh I remember the first lie at our house... It is hard for me to come down on my kids (though I know I need to) because i remember telling my own mother lies. I feel like it's happening because I treated my mom that way. ;)

Anyway, good on you for sticking to your and Sean's guns. It's tough but important.

jen said...

you did great. we had a similar thing at our house last weekend and stuck to our guns. it sucked royally, but it was the right thing to do.

Lisa said...

Tough stuff. Good for you & Sean though for holding down a united front. Hubby & I always try to do that. Sometimes it's hard, and I'm sure there have been times where we don't agree, but our girls will always know that Mom & Dad are a team that cannot be divided.

Christine said...

"It never fails to knock the wind out of me how very wrong doing the right thing can feel."

yes--hit the nail right on the head.

Running on empty

Lisa said...

That last sentence got me. You are SO RIGHT about that.

You are an amazing talent. Love the way you tell a story. :-)

dawn224 said...

oh sweetie. what a hard night. :( I'm sorry.

flutter said...

you did it exactly right

crazymumma said...

what is that saying? One must choose between doing the easy thing or the right thing. You did good. But ouch every damn time.

Kimberly said...

You are so correct - the easy thing to do is often the wrong thing to do. Good job sticking to your guns.

cce said...

It's such a blow, that first half-truth, that first attempt at deception. It feels so personal, like a violation, but it's just them testing the waters and seeing what they can get away with. You all did the right thing. I can remember having a long conversation with my O about a recent lie and why he was being punished...yadayadayada. At the end of my speech, I asked him why he was not supposed to lie and he very calmly replied, "Because it stinks when you get caught." Not untrue but not exactly the response I was looking for.

Janet said...

As painful as it can be to stand with rigid backs, you have to be a unified front. Good job.

My kids still suck at lying, but they try on the dark cloak, from time to time. I hope it never fits them quite right.

Anonymous said...

Ugh, it's so hard. It feels like it goes against all the mothering instincts. But how else will they learn?

You are raising some good people.