How Important Is the Truth?—by Jamie Levine
When Jayda got home from school, I asked her about Picture Day, and she told me it had been “great,” and that she'd sat on the floor for the morning class picture, and had sat in a chair for the afternoon shot. She then continued, “and Picture Day is tomorrow, too!” I explained that Friday was for the other classes who hadn’t had their pictures taken on Thursday, and she insisted, “my teacher said I have to wear another fancy dress tomorrow!” This, of course, was an untruth—and Jayda’s way of manipulating me into letting her dress up again. But I long-ago realized that some battles are not worth fighting, so on Friday, Jayda donned another dress—this time self-accessorized with two strands of beads and a tiara. And my little girl confidently strutted her stuff as she boarded the bus for school.
I love Jayda’s moxie. And I have no problem with her passion for pink and the way she embraces her femininity. Jayda's not a prissy, uptight girl—she still likes to run and jump and get dirty at the playground (though she sometimes does that while wearing pink cowboy boots and a frilly skirt). But it still irks me that she lied to me about the reason why she had to dress up; no matter what I said, Jayda never relented on her “I need to wear another fancy dress for the second day of Picture Day” story.
I’ve said it here before: My daughter is stubborn. She’s also very smart. And when she tells a story, she sticks to it. Like the “I already washed my hands” story that she spews every night before dinner. Sometimes I need to carry Jayda kicking and screaming to the bathroom, where she still insists that she washed her hands when I wasn’t looking, or while she was with my mother, even though I’ve been in the same room with her for hours. The same story is told after she uses the toilet and races out of the bathroom without even turning on the sink faucets. “Jayda, you need to wash your hands!” I scream after her. “I did! I did!” she insists, with her dry, still-dirty hands waving in the air; “I just did it really fast and you missed it!”
Then there’s the snack story: “I’m hungry!” Jayda will scream when I pick her up from school for ice skating. “Didn’t you just have a snack?” I’ll ask—knowing that her teachers feed her less than an hour before I pick her up. “No. We didn’t have snacks today. There were none,” she’ll answer. Or, better yet—“I didn’t want any” (which is an impossibility with my snack-obsessed kid). When I start to argue with Jayda, she argues back—standing firm on her mistruths. And I call them “mistruths” because I hate to think of them as lies—since lying is one thing that upsets me more than anything—and I’ve told this to Jayda again and again.
So what’s a mother to do? Let Jayda use her mistruths to win her battles? In the case of the fancy dress fiasco, I didn’t mind. But I’ll never let her get away without washing her hands. And I must evaluate every other falsehood or exaggeration that comes along in a case by case basis. Though I appreciate Jayda's creativity, I worry about her conniving. And I’m not going to lie: Being a mom can be challenging—and even headache-inducing—especially when you have a stubborn, super-smart kid.