Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Growing Up

Lilly and her self portrait (in which she's sticking out her tongue!)
As Lilly gets older and her innocence fades, I find myself savoring these childhood days.  I know she is still little--4 isn't exactly old in the scheme of life--but growing up brings with it inevitable conversations.  Lilly has always been inquisitive, so we've had quite a few of these conversations already.  We've talked about how it's not polite to tell ladies they look like they have a baby in their tummy.  And how pointing to people while we're out and asking if that person is a boy or a girl isn't appropriate.  We've discussed how no matter how excited she is about new undies, they're not for other people to see and how Lilly should practice using her own manners rather than correcting grownups on theirs.

Well, last night brought with it another conversation that comes with growing up.  Lilly told her first bold faced lie--and she looked directly at me while she did it.  The best part is, this lie was about ice cream.  Yes, I realize lying about ice cream isn't anything to write home about, but it's the idea that Lilly knew to tell the truth and decided not to.  After dinner last night, Jim gave Lilly and Jack little ice cream cones while I was putting Hannah to bed.  These two live for ice cream cones.  Even Jack is starting to understand that he has to eat his dinner in order to get one.  So, they had their ice cream cones and were getting ready for bed when I came into the kitchen and got myself some ice cream.  Lilly asked for some more, to which I replied, "Haven't you already had your ice cream cone?" Lilly paused for a few seconds before looking at me and replying, "No, I haven't had any ice cream yet tonight."  A quick glance to Jim told me she wasn't telling the truth, so I gave her another chance.  "Are you sure, Lilly?  You didn't have an ice cream cone after dinner?"  Another big confident, "Yes, I'm sure.  I didn't have any."  And then she said it again to make sure I heard her.  

Jim and I looked at each other, not knowing exactly how to respond.  I asked Lilly to go and sit in a chair in the other room so that I could think about how to handle this, and she started crying.  Well, actually, she tried to make herself cry because I think she was scared.  She knew she didn't tell the truth, knew that we had caught her, and she didn't know what was going to happen next.  She was testing boundaries, which is perfectly natural and I know she has to learn somewhere.  But I also knew that we needed to make sure that whatever conversation we had after this meant something to her.  We were calm--Jim took her to brush her teeth while the crying was in full force.  Then, I asked her to sit down next to me and we had a chat about telling the truth.  We talked about how you can tell the truth about ice cream and sometimes you'll get more and sometimes you won't.  But lying will never get you any more.  We talked about how lying can hurt people, and she responded by saying that she knew that not telling the truth made Jim and me very upset.  

I told her my vivid childhood memory about lying--the infamous "tooth chart" on the wall at school, where I put up at least 10 white rectangles (representing the number of teeth that I'd lost) because I wanted to "win the tooth chart," when a quick glance into my mouth clearly showed I'd only lost 1 tooth.  I told her how I cried and cried when Papa asked me if I told the truth and I kept saying I had.  I really do remember sitting on that chair crying, wondering why I'd lied about losing teeth.  I wonder if Lilly will remember last night--crying to the point of trying to make herself sick after she lied.  I wonder if Jim and I got our point across.  I know this is one of the easier conversations we'll have with Lilly, but I also know these conversations are important.  I hope Lilly understood that we were serious.  And I hope that Lilly's innocence and never-ending optimism stick around for a few more years.  Being little really does last for such a short time.