Sunday, December 05, 2004

My Kid's a Liar

So I picked Gryphon up from school like I usually do, but this time he was late. Ten minutes after the bell had rung, he shuffled up to the car with that tight-faced expression that he gets after a cry.

"Hey little dude." I said. "What's up? What happened?"

"I hit my knee and kind of hurt it on a chair walking out of class" he said.

"Okay, well why were you late?"

"I had to go to the office to get me back in the classroom. I forgot my sweatshirt. Mrs. Strange leaves like right after class and the door is locked."

This explanation didn't make a whole lot of sense to me, so I asked him to explain it again. He hit his knee--then walked around in a daze for ten minutes until he realized he was without sweatshirt? He repeated the tale and it didn't get any clearer. The world of a nine year old is a muddled, confusing place, full of allusions to Pokemon and rules to nine-year old games which I think even they don't understand, so I decided to just let it go. But after years of teaching adolescents, I had developed a "spider-sense" of sorts which alerts me to the danger of"the con". And my spidey-sense was buzzing.

I hesitated. As far as I know, Gryphon had never, ever lied to me. I mean, sure there are the little kid fantasy lies ("I saw an elf in the backyard watering the ferns") but never I willful changing of the real facts, the facts that could get you in trouble. So I just drove home and forgot about it.

Until the next day when my wife informed me of an e-mail she'd received from our friend Mary (whose son, Drew, is in Gryphon's class). Apparantly, Drew and Gryphon were sent to the office for screwing around in class.

At this point, I had all sorts of thoughts. All the evidence against my kid was hearsay so far, so I needed to ask (interrogate) him about it. If his current no-lie policy turned out to be still in effect, then everything would be peachy. However, if he was lying (as I was almost sure was the case) then I would have to destroy my kid. I just didn't see any alternative. But there was also a part of me that was strangely excited--even proud--at the aspect that this kid would lie straight to my face. My son has balls! This was the threshold to all sorts of possibilities. Would he steal the car next week? Would I come home early from work to find him rummaging through my desk for porn? Is he secretly crank calling people under my very nose?

Putting all of these thoughts aside, Jake and I picked Gryphon up after school and drove straight home to have a "talk" in his bedroom. As soon as we entered, he muttered "Oh great" under his breath. I've noticed he mutters under his breath quite often, especially when upset. He's like a street-crazy in this way. It's pretty endearing because I always know exactly what he's thinking at these emotional moments. Sometimes I worry that he'll come to me one day and reveal that he's been talking to somebody or perhaps even a pig-demon like in the Amityville Horror. I don't think demonic forces could make it in such an tolerant, ethnic area where we'd probably have to take the demon in or send it to a shelter (do demon's have civil rights?). But I digress.

Jake and I asked about what really happened in class, and he immeditealy fessed up. He said he was scared that he'd get in big trouble for getting sent to the office. He apologized. He knew what a big deal it was that he lied and he promised it would be the last time. And it will be, or at least it will be a long, long time before he tries it again. We tried to play the tough (but understanding) parents; we gave him some consequences (actually, he suggested that he receive consequences and gave us a very appropriate idea). But after the way Gryphon owned his mistake, neither Jake or I cared about punishing him. In fact, he behaved in such a heroic fashion for a kid that I can't help wondering whether he's pulled one over on me. As a kid, I would have hung on to my lie like a piece of rock candy--and if it was clear that I was caught I would have blamed it on anything or anybody within reach ("It was Schwartz!"). I would have cried, pleaded, begged, threatened some sort of fecal explosion or told my parents I hated them...any form of dust blowing to take the heat off. But not Gryphon; he did the thing no rational adult or first term president would do: he said "I blew it and it will never happen again."

Could this all be a clever ruse? Some new-fangled way that kids are dealing with the throes of child-dom? Could my kid have lied to me in this way--a kinder, gentler lie?

If so, I am damn proud.


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