My daughter owns The Care and Keeping of You, which is a really wonderful and fairly comprehensive book for girls about the changes that puberty wreaks on unsuspecting females. It doesn’t talk about sex, just the various physical and emotional changes of growing up. I recommend it to people all the time, because it’s age-appropriate even for little girls (I think we got it when she was six or seven), but also includes things like illustrated cartoon drawings of how to insert a tampon. (You’re welcome; it’s not often I can work the word “tampon” into the very first paragraph.)
Anyway, I’ve always appreciated that there’s a lot of discussion in there about MOOD SWINGS. It says things like, “You may be angry or unhappy and not know why.” I have considered making that into a giant banner for Chickadee’s room. As it is, I often tell her that she suffers from PPMS (Permanent Pre-Menstrual Syndrome). Because I’m a loving mother.
I do have one quibble with the book, though, and I hope maybe they’ll correct it in the next version: Nowhere does it talk about how hitting puberty activates the Lying Gene.
Look; I’m not saying the kid NEVER lied before puberty. She did. Nor am I saying that the current state of affairs is SOLELY due to hormones. But what I am saying—and I think is supported by fellow parents of children at this same age—is that while all of this OTHER stuff is going haywire in the kids’ brains, while the hormones are busy causing body hair and boobs and what have you, the facilities meant to contribute to good judgment are severely impaired. And one of the side effects of that decrease in judgment coupled with the aforementioned MOOD SWINGS is that my darling daughter, the light of my life, the shining star of all that I love…
… has become a pathological liar.
It started innocently enough. Really, all she wants to do is ARGUE, on account of I am WRONG and BAD and STUPID now that she has estrogen circulating through her system. So if I say it’s black, she says it’s white. And if I say it’s raining, she says, “NO IT’S NOT” reflexively, before she’s even peeked outside. This slides down the slippery slope into just plain making shit up a lot more often than someone without a pubescent child might imagine.
I would love to tell you that what happened last night isn’t typical, but that would be a lie. And as I am no longer an adolescent I don’t feel the need to lie to you.
The background: At eleven-and-a-half, I have finally started letting Chickadee spend short stints of time alone in the house. I never leave BOTH kids without an adult, because if I did that I’m quite certain that Monkey would end up hogtied in the closet. But for the most part Chickadee can be trusted to manage on her own for a half hour or an hour if the situation requires it. So far, the worst I’ve been able to ascertain of her self-regulatory periods is that she’s prone to eating something for snack I probably either wouldn’t have approved or would’ve demanded she have something “healthy,” first. To my mind, that’s an acceptable trade-off.
Yesterday I took Monkey to the grocery store before Chickadee got home from school. I left her a note, telling her I’d be back soon, and as it turned out, Otto actually got home before we did. So all in all, she was alone for maybe twenty minutes. All was well.
At dinner, however, she was just sort of picking at her food, which is unusual because—as we know from her Care and Keeping of You book—puberty generally makes you eat anything that isn’t nailed down.
“Aren’t you hungry?” I asked her. She kind of shrugged. And then I remembered that she’d been home alone. “Ohhhh,” I said. “I know what it is. You must have had a GIGANTIC snack when you came home. No wonder you’re not hungry.”
“No I didn’t!” she shot back, immediately. “I had a banana. That’s not very big.”
Otto and I looked at each other, and then I turned to look at the fruit bowl. One of the things I’d bought at the grocery store was a fresh bunch of bananas, because we’d been down to just two before I went. Now, sitting in the fruit bowl, was the new bunch topped by… the other two.
“You didn’t have a banana,” I said, quite calmly.
“YES I DID!” she protested.
“There’s no peel in the compost container,” Otto pointed out.
“I threw it in the garbage by accident,” she huffed.
“Really?” I said. “That’s funny, because there were two bananas when I left and there’s still two bananas besides the ones I bought. Why don’t you just tell me what you really had for snack?”
Chickadee’s eyes darted around. “I had a banana, and I threw the peel in the trash! Do you want me to DIG IT OUT?”
Otto and I looked at each other, again. Finally Otto said, “Don’t bother, I’ll look for it. Because Mom is right, there were two bananas this morning and they’re still there.” He got up and poked around in the trash. “No peel. You didn’t have a banana.”
“YES I DID!” she tried, again.
“Chickadee,” I said. “You did NOT have a banana for snack. And that’s FINE. But this is an incredibly stupid thing to lie about. Just tell me what you had.”
She glared at her lap, furious. “FINE,” she spat. “I had some baby carrots.”
Otto and I burst out laughing. Seeing us laugh, Monkey joined in, too. Naturally, this made Chickadee even angrier.
“You lied about eating CARROTS?” I finally managed. “Did you think you were going to get into TROUBLE for that? Because carrots are candy?”
She relaxed and giggled a little. “Well, I didn’t know if I was allowed to have them if they weren’t in my lunch.”
“Honey, you can eat all the carrots you want,” I told her, even though I know she probably had them with half a bottle of ranch dressing. “But lord, child, that is SUCH A STUPID THING TO LIE ABOUT. And I gave you a bunch of chances to come clean and you kept INSISTING you weren’t lying, when you were. This is a terrible habit of yours.”
She pushed food around on her plate and tried to look guilty.
I was ready to launch into a full-scale lecture, but she lucked out.
Just then, Monkey sneezed. He had a mouthful of food, so he dutifully clapped his hands over his mouth to prevent any wayward spewage. Unfortunately, in doing so, an impressive globby spiderweb of snot issued forth from his nose and coated his hands.
“GROOOOOSSSSSSSS!” Chickadee squealed, as I led him from the table to have another date with his beloved Neti pot.
If you ask her today if that happened, though, she’ll probably tell you it didn’t.
I’m not sure I’m going to survive the teen years. Just sayin’.