Monday, May 24, 2010

Adorable...and Devious?--by Jamie

My daughter is really beautiful—and she’s quite smart, too. With her blonde, bouncy curls and her long-lashed blue eyes, she generally gets people’s attention—and is clever enough to know how to use her good looks and charm to her advantage. And she’s only three years old! For example, there’s a gruff, middle-aged man at my gym who turns to mush whenever Jayda joins me on the weekends for my workouts; he literally stops his bench pressing to run over to her and say “hi”—and often brings small gifts for my daughter, too. Jayda makes a point of seeking him out as soon as we enter the gym...and last weekend, she was smart enough to mention that her birthday was coming up. You guessed it—this weekend, he had a package of silly bands for her, as well as a coloring book and crayons.

Like most three-year-old girls, my daughter is also a drama queen. She’s mastered her “Shirley Temple pouty face,” and uses it when she’s not getting her way; she also knows how to turn on the waterworks when things seem truly dire. In jest, my friends have often remarked how Jayda is going to be “such a handful” when she’s older...or that I “have my work cut out for me.” They might be right. But I can’t worry about that now. Especially since my daughter is also sweet, affectionate, and generally, a really great kid. However, there is one thing I do wonder about, and that’s how Jayda’s “creative storytelling” is going serve her in her tween and teen years...and if at some point, I’ll have to start labeling it “lying.”

A child’s imagination is a wonderful thing, and I like to think I foster Jayda’s creativity tremendously. But lately, when she’s telling me a story, I never know what to believe. There have been times when Jayda has asked for cookies after day care and I’ve refused her, reminding her that she’s just had a snack at school; she’ll counter my comment with claims that they didn’t serve anything that day (which I know can’t be true) and offer a detailed description of the day’s crazy schedule that resulted in no time for a snack—even going so far as to mention a music teacher coming in on an unscheduled day, or an activity which I know didn’t occur. She also consistently denies ever getting any treats from me whenever my mother’s around, so she’s always able to snag some extra candy from her doting grandma who believes her mistruths. My clever child.

The stories get more elaborate when it comes to Jayda’s friends. There’s one little girl, who, depending on what day it is, either is or isn’t Jayda’s friend. According to Jayda, this girl is the one who, on a regular basis, announces they’re no longer friends (after they’ve bickered about something or had issues about sharing), but according to this girl’s mom, her daughter adores Jayda. Jayda told me not to invite this girl to her birthday party, and then days later said, “Oh, she can come!” when I pressed her (only to change her mind about it the next day, so we never invited her). Days after the party, Jayda announced that she was going to this girl’s house soon, and even re-named one of her dolls after this girl’s baby sister. I just listened and smiled, and the very next day, when I asked about her, Jayda remarked how she wasn’t nice to Jayda and had gotten a time-out that day for her behavior. True, or not true? I’m inclined to believe my daughter...but these days, I’m really not sure.

Sometimes I know Jayda’s trying to manipulate me with her tales...but other times, her storytelling just baffles me. The other night, we were lying in bed discussing our plans for the next day, and Jayda said, “let’s go to the store near the bagel store.” I asked “What store?” and she replied “the one where we went to get my Dora lamp fixed.” Huh? “What Dora lamp?” I queried. She said “the one in the family room.” When I told her I had no idea what she was talking about, she remarked “It’s in the garage now, I think.” Then I pressed her about this “store,” trying to jog my memory. Where exactly is it? And do they just fix lamps...or do anything else? Jayda tried to describe it, but her rambling just confused me more, so I told her she’d have to show me the lamp—and the store—in the morning. The next morning, as we were getting dressed, Jayda blurted out “I don’t have a Dora lamp, Mommy,” and then bounded down the stairs to breakfast. What was the point of that?

All of this is trivial, I know. But the “stories” my troubled 19-year-old niece sometimes delivers aren’t. She can be manipulative and devious, and some of her explanations for her absences at important events or uses of her money are creative cover-ups for pretty horrible behavior. And I guess I wonder how and when the line is crossed between creating inventive stories and spewing out downright lies. How does that happen? And when do you call a kid on it? I don’t have the answers...and I’m not sure I ever will. I guess I can only hope that my own good morals and honest actions will rub off on my kid. And while I’m still enjoying my daughter’s creative yarns, and sometimes even chuckling over them, I know I’ll always have to keep my eyes and ears open. My smart, beautiful daughter should always get what she wants...but only if it’s good for her.


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