When I was a little girl, I recall getting in trouble once. Once. That's right. I was, what you might call a really, really, really good kid. My mother claims I never had temper tantrums (until I hit puberty and then I was as sullen and cranky as they come), and I have only two recollections of ever being sent to my room or grounded, ever in my life. I was grounded in my sophomore year of high school for lying to my parents about who I was going out with one Friday night and where I was going (another story for another day--suffice it to say I was a terrible liar and was found out and brought home before I even got to enjoy the fruits of my lying labors even a little bit). And I was sent to my room at age 5, also for lying, after having been caught red-handed. Or, in this case, red-faced.
The details are a bit fuzzy, but I believe my mother had informed me that we were going to be leaving for my grandmother's house in a few minutes. She was just going to go put on some make up and we'd be going. While girls of my generation didn't have quite the princess-obsession that seems to be so pervasive today, we still caught on early to what made girls "girly" and the significance of things like bras and make up. At least I did. There is more than one picture of me strutting around the house at 4 years old, clad in footie jammies and one of my mom's bras, straps twisted around my tiny shoulders, cups covering my entire torso. A good look. So when my mother said she was going to put her make up on, it seemed natural to my 5 year old brain that I do the same thing.
Except I had no make up. I was 5. What I did have, though, was magic markers. Brightly colored Crayola magic markers. And so I went to my room and set about putting on my make up; a little blue above my eyes (it was the 70's after all), some pink circles on my cheeks and red on (and probably around) my lips. I'm sure it was lovely. Thank goodness for non-toxic markers.
I emerged from my room, proud of first attempt at make up, ready to go to my grandmother's house. My mother did not share my joy or pride. "What did you doooooo?!!!" is what I recall her saying when she first saw my face, which I now realize probably looked like I'd been attacked by a roving band of evil clowns.
And the best part of the story? The part that, as a 5 year old made perfect sense to me, is that in response to "What did you doooooo?!" I replied....
Clearly, if I simply refused to admit to having done anything, it didn't happen. If I didn't fess up to putting marker all over my face, I didn't HAVE marker all over my face. Or if I did, at least I hadn't done it. Boldest. Lie. Ever. I don't even have any siblings who could have held me down and drawn on my face. And with the cat lacking the upper body strength and opposable thumbs to be responsible, that really just left one possible culprit (taking into account that there really was no roving band of evil clowns). Me. But I denied it until I was blue in the face (no pun intended...well, maybe a little bit intended. Groan), even after my mother picked me up and held me up to the mirror, my brightly markered face staring right back at me. Deny. Deny. Deny. Nope, didn't do it. I look totally normal, mom. I don't see anything unusual about my face at all.
Finally she had no alternative but to send me to my room while she...well, I was going to say went to the internet to look up how to remove magic marker from skin, but we didn't have internet then. So who knows what she did while I was sulking in my room, my beautiful make up job gone to waste. Now that I'm a parent, I imagine she went into the living room and laughed her ass off, her face hurting from keeping a straight face through that entire scene.
But I remember being sent to my room for that lie. That hilariously egregious lie.
Which is why I'm sure the universe was laughing at me on Tuesday afternoon this week. Trying to take advantage of a break in the rain storms, Ethan and I headed to a Japanese garden nestled in the Santa Cruz mountains. After paying our admission and letting Ethan put some dollar bills into the donations for Japan earthquake/tsunami relief bowl, we headed into the garden. First stop, the rest rooms. Scene of Ethan's hilariously egregious lie.
As we each emerged from our own stalls, I reminded Ethan to flush his toilet. He informed me casually that he had, and went about washing his hands. I listened for the sound of his toilet, but could only hear the one in the stall I'd been in. "Are you sure, buddy? I don't think you did." To which he petulantly replied, "I ddiiiiiid!"
Hrm. So I stuck my head into the stall he'd been in. The water in the toilet was decidedly yellow and very still, clearly undisturbed by any flushing activity.
"Ethan, you didn't flush the toilet. I need you to flush when you're done."
"Then what is this yellow in the water?"
Long silent pause....
"Someone else's pee?"
Yes, my child tried to tell me that, as he and I were the only two in the bathroom, somehow someone else had managed to sneak in and pee in that exact stall since he peed and flushed mere seconds ago, and we had somehow missed this phantom pee'er. Or, that the urine left behind by a previous pee'er was somehow extremely tenacious and had clung to the sides of the bowl while Ethan dutifully flushed his own pee away. Okay.
I have to admit that at the time, I failed to find the hilarity in the situation because all I could think was "he's lying to me! he's lying to me! he's LYING TO MEEEEE!" and visions of kindergarten suspensions and a future in and out of juvy swirled through my head. Have I ever mentioned that I tend to over-react (and that I love hyperbole)? What should have been a teachable moment (and a funny one at that) turned into a battle of wills that ended with me flushing the toilet and revoking play date rights for the foreseeable future (which translates into: the rest of the day!!! And I mean it!). Not my finest parenting moment.
But later we talked about how telling the truth is so important and how I was upset not because he hadn't flushed the toilet but because he'd lied to me about it, even after I'd given him several opportunities to tell the truth.
It wasn't until later, as I was falling asleep that night, reminding myself that the lying phase is normal, all preschoolers go through it, it's about imagination and pushing boundaries and is totally developmentally appropriate, that I remembered my own lie to my mom all those years ago, and my refusal to admit my 'guilt' even when literally faced with the irrefutable evidence, just as Ethan had. Ahh, payback, thy name is parenthood.