By Kelly

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.

6 Responses to Seeds
  1. Carrie
    September 23, 2009 | 2:55 pm

    Wow, this brought tears to my eyes. I can’t imagine my little ones lying to me – my oldest is only 21 months! But, wow, it starts early, huh? Thanks for sharing your experience & I’m glad he learned his lesson!

  2. Heather of the EO
    September 24, 2009 | 2:43 pm

    I love your response to him. You didn’t shame him, you helped him really see and feel, with love.

    The lying thing is SO tricky.

  3. gretchen from lifenut
    September 24, 2009 | 9:21 pm

    Ugh, we deal with this issue. One of our kids seems to have this as his/her issue/area of sin/burden. It’s a struggle and something we take so seriously. We have a hard time trusting this child sometimes, and it hurts to doubt your own kiddo this way.

    Beatrix actually lied for the first time a few days ago, telling me she had gone potty when she did not. Yes, it starts early.

  4. Antique Mommy
    September 28, 2009 | 8:26 am

    Every kid will lie sooner or later. Sooner the better to increase the odds that they will get caught and can be corrected. I think you handled it beautifully. I disagree with Heather just a little bit. I think a little shame now and then is not a bad thing. Our culture could do with a little more shame on some matters. Like lying.

  5. Joy
    April 13, 2011 | 10:17 am

    That’s hard. My son has recently started trying out lying. I just want him to know its safe to tell the truth and not be afraid.
    Toothbrushing can sometimes be a battle in our house but I did find this Mom’s Guide that offers some practical tips on how to make it fun. It’s been very helpful.

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