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.
“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.