H. was taking a bath, while A. performed her post-shower dance routine in her room, and I kept an eye/ear on both. Ritual complete, A. came into the bathroom and asked if I knew where her glasses were, I told her they were on the counter in the kitchen, she asked if I could get them because they were too high, I reminded her of the step stool, and she scurried off to the kitchen.
Moments later, H. was drying off in her room, and I needed a drink of water. I turned the corner into the kitchen and saw A. staring into the utensil drawer. She saw me, her eyes wide, bottom lip wrapped over the top one with a half grin, and pointed into the drawer. I sauntered over with glaring, suspicious eyes, and peered into the utensil drawer, where I was met with a rotten pear and avocado. Not a few day old funky-fruit-rot pair, they were purple and white with only spots of their normal brown and blackish coloring.
It was like seeing your teacher at the Super Market. How did they get in there? Why haven’t I noticed them yet? Certainly, I used a spatula or can opener this week. I looked at A. and said with a half-laugh “When did you put those in there?” Casual, that was my approach, a tactic to get a quick and honest response, knowing that I would then ask her not to do it again, and we could be done with this weird science experiment. But no, she took a left turn, looked up and said “I didn’t put those there” Oh, boy. Now I have a few lessons on my hands.
Smiling I said, “Come on A., it’s actually kind of funny. When did you do that?” She looked up from the mesmerizing captivation that two pieces of extremely rotten fruit provide and said “Dad, I didn’t do it”. I picked the fruit up, dropped them in the garbage can, and went to dry H., giving her time to think about what she wanted to say to me.
H. was dry and looking at picture books in her room, I was brushing A.’s hair, when, getting a tad desperate, I said, “Wow, this is a mystery. I’m going to give a prize to whoever put those in there.” A. looked up quick, and said even quicker “I did.” I gulped and said, “Well, thanks for being honest I’ll get your prize. Finish up in the bathroom.”
I tucked H. in and went to A.’s room. As I entered her room she stared at me, squinted her eyes, fumbled her hands, and said, after finding out her prize was a high-five and her choice of book, “Dad, I didn’t put them in there.” Oh, not again. “A. you always have to be honest with your Mommy and Daddy. I am not upset with you, I just want you to tell me the truth.” She said, “That is the truth. I didn’t do it.”
At this point I was getting upset. Why was she lying to me about something so goofy? I knew I should give up, but then employed the last trick in my bag, “the firm voice”. I went into A.’s room and in a very flat, tad bit forceful, tone I explained ‘honesty’. She looked at me and said, “I didn’t do it, Dad” Ugh. Luckily, at that moment R. got home (re-enforcement), kind of. R. said I should, do what I knew I should, leave it alone.
I went into A.’s room, gave her a kiss, and said, “Well, it’s a great mystery. I love you. Maybe we should write a story about it tomorrow. We can have a list of suspects.” She then started naming friends who haven’t been to our home since March. “Goodnight, A.”
I went to bed perplexed. Why wouldn’t she just admit it? Why did I care so much? The next morning, A. was telling H. what had happened, we then asked H. if she knew anything about the fruit in the drawer, she said, “Yes, I put it there.” and laughed. We all laughed, my chuckle a bit more nervous and full of shoe than the rest. I asked when she put it there, to which she replied “In five minutes”.
My Papa Sense tells me:
I believe it is important that our children feel that they can tell us anything, and if I don’t believe what they tell me, I need to walk away and let them wrestle with telling the truth, because, if I try to force it out of them, they may learn to be honest out of fear, not because it is the right thing to do. Or worse, they will learn to lie to avoid the “hastle” of telling the truth.
I apologized to A., another important thing to do when you are wrong. Gulp.
Some things are better left alone.