Thursday, January 14, 2010

Parenting is Tricky--No Lie

We had a little child raising incident this week. In the evening, Jebb (age 4) walked into my room while I was talking to John and Seth about some trivial matter. I glanced at Jebb and while there was nothing glaringly out of place, I glanced back at him because something about him didn't look quite right.

On closer inspection, I couldn't decide if it was simply a case of him dragging his feet on the carpet while wearing socks (i.e. super static hair that made it kinda stick to his forehead) or if it was something more...mischievous. As I continued to stare, I decided on the latter. A chunk of his bangs was definitely shorter than they had been the last time I saw him. I went in for the confrontation.

"Jebb, did you cut your hair?" I said in firm voice.

He sized me up in a glance. He could see I was onto him. He went for the deflection of blame. "No." Looking around the room. "Seth did it." Well, he fingered Seth so quickly and effortlessly, I (for a moment) believed him.

Until Seth answered "Uh, no I didn't Jebb." so calmly and matter-of-fact-ly that I knew the accusation was out in Left Field.


Jebb's cool facade starts to crumble at this point and he starts to cry a little bit (a typical reaction to an emotionally stressful event for him lately).

"Jebb," John chimes in cool as a cucumber, "Jebb, did you cut your hair?"

The water works really get going now. "No Dad. I didn't do it."

"Then who did Jebb?"

"No one." Crying abates as he looks to see if we are buying what he is selling.

"Jebb. Your bangs are shorter. Who cut them?" John asks.

Crying resumes. "Jackson cut my hair."

By this time, John was doing such a good job with the inquisition that I let him carry on. I went in our bathroom to look for evidence of the deed. I immediately saw the scissors on the counter, but I didn't find any stray locks. Fairly strong circumstantial evidence. Someone had the sophistication to clean up the hair. Very telling. I wanted to know how it went down and what parties were involved.

I finished up the conversation with Seth as John took Jebb by the hand and went downstairs to find Jackson (age 6, and Jebb's #1 partner in most things).

I guess it went something like this.

John took Jebb into Grandma's room where he found Jackson, Elise, and Grandma hanging out.

"Jackson, did you cut Jebb's hair?"

Jackson looked over at Jebb. Then back to John. He gleaned the fact that this was not a good situation. "I didn't cut your hair Jebb."

"Yes you did." came Jebb's convincing reply.

Jackson could see the tears on Jebb's cheeks and wanted nothing to do with it. He appealed straight to John. "Dad, I did not cut Jebb's hair."

Jebb didn't wait for John to decided. He jumped quickly out of the pan and into the fire. He scanned the room. "Elise did it. She cut my hair."

Everyone other than Jebb was on to it by then.

Elise calmly said "No, I didn't Jebb" as she eyed him with a steely gaze.

"It was Grandma." Jebb blurted out, his tone more desperate now.

Grandma had a hearty laugh at this then said sweetly, "No, honey, it wasn't me."

Jebb looked up at John who was still holding his hand and returned to tears in earnest.

John led Jebb out of the Grandma's room and back up the stairs. As they walked John let Jebb know that he would be getting a spank. And if he didn't decide to tell the truth, he would be getting another one. This really got Jebb crying, as spanks for him are extreeeeemely few and far between (he's the spoiled baby, right?).

Jebb tried now in earnest to convince John he was innocent. He pleaded and cried and insisted over and over that he had not cut his hair. John got to our room and looked at me. He quietly asked me, "You're sure he cut his hair, right?" I wasn't sure. I looked again. Jebb was so adamant about it that I began to doubt my judgement. Upon reinspection, it was clear that someone had taken scissors to his bangs. But John and I had the same thought, Jebb seemed so passionate about his innocence, it made us second guess ourselves.

Jebb was still insisting he hadn't done it when John spanked him the first time. John gave him one last chance to come clean, but he stuck with his story. After the second spank, John calmly got down on Jebb's level, looked him in the eyes, and calmly asked him if he had cut his own hair.

"YES!" Cry, cry, cry, "I cut it!" More crying. John took Jebb in his arms and hugged him. He assured him that even though he might get in trouble for doing things wrong, he would get in double trouble for lying about it. Jebb just cried and nodded through tears. We sent him to cry it out on a chair in our room.

"He was so insistent that I wanted to believe him," John said. I too wanted to believe little Jebb. It's no fun to bust your kid lying. It's even less fun to realize that He didn't hesitate to throw anyone and everyone under the bus.

When he finally settled down (he cried for quite a while), I went over to talk to him. To me, this is a time in a child's life when they are very teachable. Jebb had been compelled to be humbled, but he had finally admitted he had done wrong. It's an opportunity not to be wasted. We talked in simple and firm terms of how it is important to tell the truth. Mom and Dad want to be able to believe your words. If you lie about being naughty, you will get in lots more trouble.

When I asked him who always knew if he lied, he immediately came up with himself. When I asked who else ALWAYS knows, he paused, looked down, and said 'Jesus knows.' This is when we talked about prayer and telling Heavenly Father we are sorry, then deciding not to do it any more.

Even though he is only 4, I know Jebb understood what we talked about (even if only at a 4 year old level). I also know he will not be perfectly honest from this day forward, but I do hope he will be more honest. I felt a sweet spirit when he and I knelt together and Jebb said a simple little prayer. I am so grateful for the Gospel and for the fact that it is for ALL of us. The Atonement is real!! How wonderful to know that we can repent and do better! It is a lesson that Jebb, and everyone, will learn over and over in this life. Parenting can be tricky, and I hope that this time at least, we all learned a little something. :)

He sure looks cute with his new buzz!


Kim said...

Ahh... the good old days of 4 year old lies and oober short bangs.

Lucy said...

Ooooh, I know how you feel about lying. Poor Jebb. He probably knew right away what a tangled web he was weaving and saw no way out! I know the feeling of not being quite sure if your child is lying or not. It's the worst.

Sam has been my only bang cutter so far and I believe he was 4 when he did it too.

Henry is 4.


Keryn said...

Oh, dear! I'm so sorry this happened, but I'm laughing so hard at the way you told the story that I'm crying.

You have SUCH a way with words.

Team Caldwell said...

I just wanted to say welcome! Welcome to my world, except my liar has huge blue beautiful eyes, long blonde hair and is a petite little thing! She can see you watch her in the act and still plead with crocodile tears that she did not do said event! However, unlike your strong hubby mine is weak!! Therefore she pleads to him first and with hugs! oye, its so hard. Not just on them but us! I hate gigving consequences that are harder on us then them! you handled it beautifully! I would have cut all the hair off!! not really but would have wanted to!