Monday, August 2, 2010

Is it Really a Lie if No One is Deceived

Liar, liar, pants on fire

The other day I walked into the kitchen and discovered a plastic bottle of chocolate syrup turned upside down on the counter. It was carefully balanced against the toaster its squeeze top immerged in a slowly growing puddle of brown ooze.

I don’t know what the rational was for leaving the sticky sweet stuff in such an unlikely position. To be honest, I stopped asking why a long time ago. Suffice it to say, that an hour before when I’d left the house, the counter was clear, and when I returned some would-be Willy Wonka had been at work.

I turned to my youngest son who was deeply engrossed in a computer game only a few feet away, and I asked the question, “Did you leave the syrup container upside down?”

Without looking up for his game he responded quickly. “No.”

“Are you sure? Cause it looks like your work.”

My husband says this child is naturally destructive, I say he is creative in the damaging sense of the word. One day I found a small black stain on the top corner of his bedroom ceiling. From my vantage point it appeared to be smoke residue. When I called the kid in and confronted him with the mark, he assured me that there had been no fire involved. Black spray paint was at fault.

Why he was standing on a chair in his bedroom, in the corner with a can of black spray paint to begin with, I’ll never know. And what possessed him to dispense a brief spurt to that lonely spot is also a mystery, but not out of character.

“No,” he said again, “I didn’t even touch the chocolate. Why would I?”

“Maybe you wanted to make chocolate milk, but the syrup was all at the bottom,” I suggested

He glanced up, giving me the look that only an arrogant thirteen-year-old male child can pull off. “Oh yeah, right. Like I’d do that.”

This is the same kid that spent over an hour at the kitchen sink, when he was suppose to be doing the dishes, mixing Kool-aid powder and dish soap to create florescent pink bubbles that smelled like lemony-fruit punch. By the time I realized what he was up to, the foam had filled the basin and overflowed onto both counter tops and the floor.

“Why do you always blame everything on me?” he said, the volume in his voice rising with his apparent indignation. “There are lots of other people who live here too.”

“That’s true,” I said, keeping my voice calm, “But no one else was home. Are you suggesting the dog was messing about with the chocolate syrup?”

“Maybe,” he said, unmoved by my show of parental logic. “All I know is it wasn’t me.”

I still made him clean up the mess, despite his constant insistence that he was innocent. and I was being unfair. But it got me to thinking. This young man in smart enough to realize that he’s been caught; the evidence of his guilt is air tight. So why would he continue lying in such a useless defense attempt?

The conclusion I arrived at is this. Perhaps it isn’t so much about deception as independence. Maybe these pointless arguments are a way of stretching his wings and testing his intellectual faculties against a worthy opponent.

Through the years of broken toilets, mangled mini-blinds and chunks of wood super-glued to the carpet, I’ve retained a hope that as my son grows his power of thinking outside the box will turn into a force for good. And his determination to cling to his convictions, regardless of the obstacles in his way, will someday be a strength rather than simply an amusing stubborn streak.

That’s my dream, but in the mean time, if we can just get through today…

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