Pants On Fire

Posted by Big Daddy Paul in Malcolm Stories

Kids have a nasty habit of growing up. When they are born, their shit literally does not stink. Perhaps as a harbinger of things to come, little baby excrement one day turns foul, letting you know that everything you know and like about your kid will one day disappear. Every time we seem to hit a point where we have conquered the demons that torment Malcolm, something new, unexpected and unwanted pops up.

Malcolm is currently going through some personality changes that we aren’t so thrilled about. He is testing boundaries. Sometimes this can be quite charming, like when a young tiger cub cautiously ventures out into the world, periodically checking back with his mom to make sure everything is OK. Malcolm isn’t acting like a cautious cub, however. Right now, he mostly channels a velociraptor, violently throwing itself against an electric fence to methodically find weakness. He has gone from a child who mostly wants to please his parents into a kid who wants to find out what he can get away with. His teachers at school used to beam about him to us during afternoon pickups. Now, they generally roll their eyes at me when I ask how everything is going.

By far, the most disappointing aspect of this phase is the lying. Malcolm used to be honest with us, copping to everything from biting to secret cookie consumption. When that got inconvenient and embarrassing, his memory began to fail. When asked about subjects that he didn’t really want to dive into, he would claim that he “couldn’t remember.” This seemed to work for him until he began claiming that his memory couldn’t go back as little as fifteen minutes prior. Realizing this strategy didn’t have much in the way of legs, he began to spin the truth, “Yes, daddy, I hit Billy, but he hit me first.” Then the justifications got sufficiently wild that we both knew he was stretching the truth, “Well, if I HADN’T shown Louis my wiener at school, he was going tell everyone I didn’t have one!” He has now come to the conclusion that it’s just better to lie and save himself all the drama.

Raise your hand if you've ever told your parents you've got your pajamas on, when, in fact, you don't have your pajamas on!

Like a young Skywalker, impressed with his newly developed powers of the Force, Malcolm is using his new trick as often as he can. He lies about brushing his teeth. He lies about changing his socks. He lies about washing his hair in the shower, even though his hair is completely dry. Mostly, he lies to protect his habit of being alarmingly lazy, even to the point of bearing false witness to whether he wiped his butt after pooping. (!) The other night, he told us that he finished his dinner, when, in fact, he had just dumped half his plate under the ottoman. When we found it the next day, he blamed it on his friend Henry. A double whopper! Impressive for a six year old, no?

Luckily, everyone reminds me that this behavior is “developmentally appropriate.” These words are useful to avoid blaming my DNA for leading Malcolm down behavioral paths that lead to prison, but they also scare the shit out of me. If lying is part of the developmental equation, then so is getting good at it. Right now, the lie doesn’t come easy to him. Right before making up a tall tale, he pauses, looks directly at his eyebrows, and then blurts out the most obvious non-truth. He gets called out on it because we can totally tell that he is not giving us a straight story. Things are going to get a lot more dicey when we aren’t able to decipher whether his story is true or not. If he gets really good at it, he may even go to law school one day, a truly horrific thought!

At some point, we are going to have to sit down with him and teach him how to lie. Of course, we don’t want him to be generally untruthful, but sometimes the lie is the right way to proceed with things. When a classmate asks why Malcolm isn’t going to a birthday party, it’s not really cool to say that the birthday boy smells like a wet goat. I can’t tell you how many uncomfortable social situations I have gotten out of by harmlessly telling people, “Yes, that is a banana in my pocket!” There are times in life when a nice little harmless lie will do the job just fine. We can’t really show him how to do this right now; he’s got to finish his Jedi training before he can face the emperor. Until then, some socks won’t get changed, some teeth won’t get cleaned, and the family room floor may have more pork on it that we are accustomed to. We’ll just take our lumps.

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One response to “Pants On Fire”

  1. Bob Veres says:

    I never had sons, but I can tell you that girls are great at spinning the truth, or at least your perception of it. Rest assured, some day they move out and the lying is someone else’s problem.

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