My son is not a liar.
This is something I have to continuously tell myself. Like many parents, I’m skeptical when my son presents some information that I deem dubious. For example, when my son tells me that someone “gave” him a Lego mini-figure, I assume that he’s lying.
I don’t know why I assume that. I think I grew up as a kid that told a lot of fibs, and so when I’m choosing between the improbable and the fib, I’m inclined to think others are fibbing.
Last week, this all came to a head when our son informed us that it was pajama day.
It started at about 6 PM the night before. Our son told us it was pajama day the next day, we told him it wasn’t, he said it was, and then he dropped it. Or so we thought. The next morning, the very first thing he said, at 6:22 AM, was: “It’s pajama day.”
I insisted that it was actually NOT pajama day, because we’d not been told by the school or by Jack’s teacher that it was pajama day. And thus began an epic meltdown. He told us we were wrong and that it was; we told him he was wrong and that it wasn’t.
But let’s take a step back here for a second and answer the obvious question: Who cares?
I’ve seen enough adults wear pajamas out in public to suggest that it’s not that big a deal if your kid wants to wear pajamas on a day that is not an officially-prescribed day for nighttime apparel. What’s going to happen? Will they burst into flames? Unlikely. But for some reason, we sat there insisting that since it was NOT an official pajama day, he could NOT wear pajamas to school.
My wife and I finally realized that this was one of the dumbest arguments that we’d ever had and we should just cave. This was not the sword we wanted to die on.
So, we said that he could wear his pajamas… with a caveat.
We told him that he could wear his pajamas BUT, just in case he was either stupid or a liar (assumed, not publicly stated), we would pack his clothes in his book bag so that WHEN he was wrong, he’d have a wardrobe option.
Think about what that says to your child, or to anyone for that matter, if you hedge your bets like that. You’re stating, point blank, that you don’t trust them. That’s a terrible way to have a relationship, but so often we engage in interactions with our kids that would be unacceptable in the “real world.” And that’s on our end. WE do things that would be unacceptable in virtually any relationships but, they’re kids, so it doesn’t count, right?
The caveat caused an even BIGGER meltdown so I told him that we would email his teacher (understand while you’re reading this that I’m ALSO in the future now and know that this was all really pointless and stupid) and ask her if it was in fact pajama day.
And I got an email back. And it was. And I’ve never felt worse than I did at that moment.
Look, kids lie. They do. If my son tells you a story and then follows up with, “but don’t tell my dad,” he’s lying. That’s his tell. He’s going to make a terrible poker player. But until your kids have really proven that everything that comes out of their mouth has the veracity of a political campaign promise, give yourself the benefit of the doubt. We need to start trusting people way more than we do.
You’re going to get hurt. You’re going to get burned. But I’d rather get burned over and over again than let my kid think I don’t have faith in them.