Puberty = pants on fire

By Mir
December 1, 2009

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’.


  1. Zilla

    Oh my…how this story sounds like things that happen at my house. My preen daughter has come up with many a good stetch of the truth. I agree that topic should be added to the book. Good luck!

  2. MeganM

    Love that book! I gave it to my now 14 year old daughter at around 9. It has really helped her to understand what she is going through is normal. Now if only they had “That Care and Keeping of Your Sanity” a manual for raising girls!

  3. Aimee

    There are so many things to love about this post, but I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned how much I love your titles. You really do have a knack for creating titles that work on more than one level, like this one does; or that are surprising or sneaky or funny or touching. Well done, you!

    Oh, and good luck with the lying. I don’t suppose it’d work to tell her that her nose will grow until she looks like Karl Malden?

  4. Erin

    Oh man. My sister (4.5 years younger than me) used to do that ALL THE TIME.* Of course, my mom & I always used to say that Amy was a teenager from the age of 10 until the age of 21. Seriously. The lying, the mood swings, the HATRED FOR EVERYONE IN HER LIFE, the firm belief that NO ONE LOVES HER. *sigh*

    She’s 24 now and happily married, so I’m glad she grew out of it. Eventually.

    *As far as I can recall, I NEVER lied like that–firmly holding on to the lie even beyond the point of sensibility. Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Ahem.

  5. Lessa

    Our copy of The care and keeping of You is very VERY well read and dogeared and beloved by both my girls.

    And uh. The lying gene. I understand OH TOO WELL. Rest assured, my mom says it gets better – when the kids hit their 30s or so.

  6. My Kids Mom

    Will my child grow out of it before growing into it? Really, the topics the 5yo thinks are worth lying about aren’t any better than Chickadee’s. Only– I wouldn’t have believed the story of the carrots. I’d assume there was a Cheetos bag in the bottom of the trash can –or for a 5yo, on the top or still on the table b/c 5yo’s aren’t very good at lying. (Thank God)

  7. Lori N

    LOVE the Care & Keeping book — it’s led to many many discussions with my soon to be 10 year old about why she’s so moody & sad & happy &…well, you get the idea.

    This morning, she was upset that we all slept in & she was going to be late, so rather than hurry up and try and be a little less late, her hormones kicked in & she had to try and pick a few fights with us while lolly-gagging around the house. End of story — rather than be 5 minutes late to school we were 25 minutes late to school. On the plus side, I managed to get my rational/happy child back before I dropped her at school. The teachers can thank me later.

    And now you’re telling me I get to look forward to lying on top of all this. Thanks Mir, I’m going back to bed for the next 10 years.

  8. Beachgal

    See, I’d happily take the snot over the lying any day. Which is why I was blessed with a boy. I could not possibly raise a girl. Love you Mir.

  9. pam

    You’ll survive. You’ll not have any hair or fingernails but you will survive!

  10. Katie in MA

    Oh, god, do I remember going through that stage. It was awful. Things would fly out of my mouth before I even knew I had said them. And then I had to stick to them! Or my family would hate me and think I was horrible! Thankfully, my mom was wise and kind enough to tell me one day that I could get away with a lot more if I played it straight and just ‘fessed up when/if I messed up.

    You are doing a great job, Mir. You defused the situation and got her to laugh. I hope I am half as awesome at this when my girlies are a little older!

  11. Jamie

    My 8yo boy is the liar these days. And the insistor of “NO” to every possible statement or question his parents ask him. It’s automatically “no” regardless of the question. Ugh, some days I just hate being a parent!

  12. Jenni

    This sounds so familiar.

    My 10 yr step-daughter is doing this (and has been for a while). Although she wouldn’t have had baby carrots…she would’ve had candy or something like that.

    Also, the inability her to talk to me (or her dad) without the tone of “life is so horrible that I must be forced to live with these people” is about to drive me insane.

    Also, I will be buying that book in the very near future.

  13. PunditMom/Joanne Bamberger

    As mom of a soon-to-be 10-year-old, I want to say, “La, la,la,la — I’m not listening.” But I just need to say, “Thank you” for the head’s up. :)

  14. Niki

    This is so very true. I have 2 girls, 19 and 14, and have watched this phenomenon with great interest in the last 10 or so years. They lie for no reason, some reason, or just because they don’t feel like you should be allowed to know the truth. The next several years will be a great guessing game for you guys – “Who Knows What the Truth Really Is?” I feel like we’re starting to get past it with the one in college (yeah, I’m probably just being gullible) and it’s in full-swing with the one in high school. Good luck, and hopefully boys don’t suffer from this same syndrome.

  15. Lylah

    The idea of Monkey hogtied in the closet made me laugh, because that is EXACTLY what would have happened in our house, if I left any younger child home alone with any tween child for any length of time. I am certain of it.

  16. Tracy H

    Oh Mir! You are scaring me! I have 2 little girls at home ages 7 & 5 and I may run away from home before they reach puberty!

  17. Katherine

    I’m just beginning to think about letting my younger son stay home alone, maybe next month when he turns 11. But I’m unwilling to let the 10 and 13 yo’s stay home alone together for longer than about 10 minutes. DH thinks we should – I’m a little worried about blood and broken bones – or maybe hogtying…

  18. Mary

    Another reason to be happy I chose to remain childless! :-)

    I was at a craft fair with a neighbor and her two granddaughters Friday and the oldest (11) had gotten her period for the first time. We had to stop at the lady’s room roughly every 20 minutes. When I got over the shock that that happens as early as 11 (which I’ve since learned is NOT uncommon) I felt pretty bad for the poor thing! Now??? I feel really bad for her parents!

  19. MomCat

    Oh Mir…so sorry! Gets worse! The only way I survive my 15 year old is by knowing, deep down, that it’s not (entirely) her fault because of all the neurons growing in her brain that aren’t yet connected and therefore cause bad judgement. I also remember (sorry, Mom) my teen years, so I try to temper my own reactions with those memories plus a dash of perspective.

  20. B

    Oh man, I have a 13 yr old son, and I sooooo understand the lying thing. He started back in like 6th grade. He’s in 8th now and I am honestly scared spitless for the next few years to come. I mean, how can I let him drive away in my car if I can’t really believe what he says about where he’s taking it and what he’s doing while he’s gone?!?LOL My 17 and 19 yr olds–I can see lie written all over their faces, but this younger one…he’s good at keeping a straight face…and geez, he takes it to the bitter end and then some, even though he’s given MANY opportunities to fess up! He may give me every gray hair I get!

  21. Kendra II

    First off, my siblings and parents got off way too easy with me, if I do say so myself.

    Secondly, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m glad I have 2 boys…it may not be my automatic ticket into heaven (which I feel all mothers of girls should be shoe-in’s for), but I know I wouldn’t survive.

    God speed, Mir, Monkey and Otto…God speed. :)

  22. Bonnie

    Thanks for the reminder. I’ve heard of this book before and just now added it to my wish list. With three girls 8, 3, and 0 I think it will get a lot of use!

  23. Nicki

    I know all of you are hating me right now because Rachel has never put me through this. (okay, there was a rough patch when she was in 7th grade that I manage to remind her of whenever she gets too proud of herself.) And last night, she asked me if I could chaperone her prom. She likes me AND she’s not ashamed to publicly admit it. Apparently, I live in Camelot.

  24. Heather

    Oh dear. I haven’t been at this from the parenting side yet, but I know I was absolutely awful as a kid. I think I’ll go call my mother now to apologize…

  25. Kelly

    I’m sorry for the laughter but I thought I was the only one with a child like that and she is now 19 and were still having those conversations. Gotta love em!!

  26. ApplesH

    Ohmy good luck with your teen. I think most girls grow up going at it with their moms. I know that I did (and most of my friends did). It was kind of automatic to say something totally opposite of what your mom would say. I guess that’s when reverse psychology became popular. I still think you’re doing great! Cheers!

  27. Dawn

    Oh lord, that is all so familiar. I had a joke with my two when they were teens. If they automatically argued with me, I would reply, “No, it’s not, it’s white.”

    They would laugh.


    A momma’s gotta keep a tight grip on her sanity during the teen years.

  28. Sara

    How will you survive the teen years? Possibly the same way I do. I spend my childrens’ therapy jar money on booze. Lots and lots of booze.
    I kid. Sort of.

  29. Randi

    So either she really didn’t want to get in trouble about the carrots, OR she lied about the carrots :). Yeah, lying – always fun. I think when my kids really start doing that (Toad is getting close, I can sense it with my mom-vision), I’m going to pull out some of their toddler books about lying LOL.

  30. Lori B

    Okay, I must be the only one that comes down hard on lying. In our house you generally do not get in trouble if you fess up to whatever it is you have done. But if you lie to cover your assets, you will be in a world of proverbial hurt. As I type this, my 9-year-old is copying 5 verses about lies, actions, and the father of all lies. He lied about something completely random when he got home from school, and fessed up later claiming it was only a “half lie.” I’m flabbergasted. I get lying to cover your butt — we’ve all done that — but lying about a random drawing from school? I don’t get it.

    BTW, when a friend suggested copy work as a consequence, I was afraid it would make him hate Bible verses, but it’s been just the opposite. It’s the only thing that makes him truly contrite (at least until he gets the urge to lie again). So, if what you’re saying is right about tweens, he’ll have a good chunk of the Bible memorized by the time he’s 14. At least there’s that…

  31. Paulla

    A question – you mentioned that you told Chickadee that it was a stupid thing to lie about and that lying is a terrible habit. I’m curious, does this communicate to the kids that some things are OK to lie about? Or that it is little more than a bad habit?

    I’m not trying to split hairs or nitpick about what you said – just curious. I was lied to a LOT as a kid, as a teen, and by two lousy boyfriends, early on. I’m paranoid about lying and it is the big, bad NO-NO in our house. Has been since my kids were little (they are now 22, 16 and 15).

    My kids and I are very open and we talk about any and everything – no subject is taboo. I’m not saying they’ve never lied – they have. Heck, everyone has – but I don’t tolerate it. One lie makes everything suspect. KWIM? Bad behavior and wrong choices can be dealt with and fixed. A lie can destroy trust for a very long time.

    Ok, I’m done. :)

  32. annette

    The lying is done by my 10 year old son. We adopted him at 6 years old. I think lying was for survival in the orphanage. I am just praying we can get over it before the teen years. Because, honestly he is very, very good at it.

    My 10 and a half year old daughter just threw a fit tonight of monumental proportion which caused me again to explain to her the mood swings and the value of the virtue of self control. I only felt a little guilty knowing the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. SIGH.

    What does KWIM mean?

  33. Lauren

    Thank you for recognizing that lying often comes along with puberty.

    I teach 6th grade, and I encounter so many parents, that just cannot believe that their precious one may have-gasp-lied to protect their self-interest, or you know, just to lie.

    “But, they didn’t do that in 5th grade!” makes me want to yell, “Hello, Hormones!,” but that would be unprofessional.

    Thanks for not being in denial.

  34. Megan

    Oh dear heaven. YES! I lied. I lied up and I lied down (heh). I was, I admit, an inventive, inveterate and total liar. Ah. I feel better.

    …Except I was also sat down time and again and given to understand that a lie branded me forever and a day with a goll-darn scarlet letter ‘L’ because it wasn’t just play acting or self-confidence boosting or even creative writing 101 or whatever, it was a forever-and-forever character flaw that I would always carry with me because A Lie Is a Betrayal of Trust and a Liar is Offending Against [deity of choice]. Hand to heart I didn’t realize for YEARS that maybe, just maybe, the urge to lie didn’t mean I had some mark of Cain carved deep into my psyche and branding me forever a Limb of Satan.

    You did good Mir, you did real good. You called her out (as the child of a perennially optimistic and gullible mother I salute you) but you did it with kindness and humor and made it not a huge deal. Some day, when the carrots are totally digested and you have been redeemed from the ranks of the terminally-parental-and-therefore-uncool she will love you for it. I kinda think she already does.

    Chickie seems pretty amazingly aware that way.

  35. Brigitte

    She’s not really sneaking bacon? (Oooh, now accusing her of that would generate some SERIOUS righteous outrage, hee hee)

  36. Mom in MN

    I love that book. The rule in our house though is that my 9yr old daughter cannot “read ahead” without me. We just finished the section on getting your period. It took us a couple of days to get through it though because she just couldn’t wrap her brain around the fact that something like that would happen (repeatedly) to a person! Ha!

  37. Amy

    Oh my. My oldest is almost exactly the same age and we go through this all the time! It’s always about stupid stuff too. The big things she usually owns up to, but little crap gets lied about. Usually it blows up into a huge argument because I KNOW she’s lying and she just can’t make herself come out and tell me. I make it a point to try not to overreact if she does own up after the first warning. I don’t want to give her any excuse to continue lying if possible. It is getting better, but it still persists, especially when her sister is crying with a big welt on her arm and she insists she didn’t touch her.

    Her punishments for lying are always more severe than her punishment for doing something wrong (unless she hurts her sister, then it’s always fairly severe).

    My biggest concern is peer pressure. She has one friend who, when certain things are related to us about her, we (DH & I) automatically call bullshit. That friend scares me a little, especially when thinking about high school and boyfriends, and…..oy, I need to lie down and not think about it too much.

  38. Morse


    I understand that she’s lying. A lot. Unreasonably so.

    But you just fucking interrogated your pubescent daughter about her food. She isn’t “compulsively lying” on this subject, it’s that she doesn’t trust you.

    I can’t blame her, at this point.

    I am not going to soften this for you, because if you aren’t willing to take in the fact that you may be seriously fucking your daughter up with your behavior, then you aren’t going to.

    You probably think I’m overreacting; I’m not. My mother always made these things into a “joke”, har har, you know. I laughed along too, because after all, it was just a joke, it’d be unreasonable to take offense (and it helped that my mother never accepted that I could have a valid complaint, because I did this-and-this-and-this). What really happened, though, was that I ended up deeply distrusting her, and hiding everything I could from her, simply because she never saw how what she was doing hurt me.

    Please please please please rethink the way you are treating your daughter. Please. I don’t want her to have to go through this shit.

    [Ed. note: Wow. All that from one post, huh? Sorry for your difficulty. This conversation could’ve just as easily been about homework or clothes, but thanks for your (projected) concern.]

  39. Dave

    Oiy vaye! I am SO not looking forward to this stage of life…my daughter is three right now. Much as three can be a defiant age, can I keep her at three forever?

  40. Sarah

    Thanks for the reminder! Just went and ordered it from Amazon. I’ve been meaning to get it for my almost 10yo for a while, now.

    And I lol at your post. Literally.

Things I Might Once Have Said


Quick Retail Therapy

Pin It on Pinterest