The Kidling has approximately 17,482 bath toys. Wait a minute, I take that back. I threw away a rubber duckie that was growing something it ought not have been growing last week. So now she has 17,481 bath toys. Seriously. Okay, maybe not, but she has far more than one might expect to find in the typical four-year old’s bath toy box o’ goodies.
One of the goodies that Alice has been playing with quite frequently as of late is a bubble tray. Not a tray that is bubbly, but rather a tray in which children dip their bubble wands, blow gale-force air through the unsuspecting wand opening, then hand the wand to a parent, declaring, “You make the bubbles.”
One day last week, I found Alice twirling around a concoction that looked suspiciously unlike water in the bubble tray with the flagpole of her pirate ship. Sniffing, I discovered what I expected: The Kidling had put more than a few squirts of our fabulously citrus Savon de Marseille* hand soap in the bubble tray. Hmm (Insert disapproving Mama grimace here). Figuring she deserved one free pass, I said it was okay, but that she needed to ask before she used the soap to do anything other than wash her hands. So fair, Mama. So very fair.
Time passed. The day went on. Several times when she used the toilet, I walked in after it took just enough too long for me to continue my delusion that she was on her best behavior. The Mama is often suspicious of extended periods of quiet. Each time, The Kidling 1) was standing right next to the bubble tray, 2) made a sudden motion of the sort one makes when one doesn’t want you to see what one is really up to, and 3) looked guilty. Very guilty.
Eventually, Alice needed to use the toilet again (kids pee a lot). And again, it seemed to be taking quite a long time. I popped my head in.
The Mama: Alice, you didn’t put more soap in the tray, did you?
The Mama: (in a stern, questioning voice) Alice?
Alice: I didn’t!
The Mama: Sweetheart, it’s not a big deal. Just tell me the truth. Did you put soap in the tray? Yes or No?
Alice: No, Mom.
The Mama: Alice, it is more important that you tell me the truth than that I like what you say. Did you put more soap in the tray?
Alice: Yes. (wide-eyed with jaw-dropped, she slaps her palms dramatically to each cheek in guilt and (let’s be honest) fear)
Let’s pretend for a second that I didn’t beg The Kidling to fib to me by giving away my displeasure in the wording of my question. I did not ask a fair question. Clearly, there was a correct answer, and we both knew it was, “No, Mom. Of course I didn’t. I wouldn’t do that!” I really didn’t give her any space for honesty. Oops. Bad Mama.
So, we had the requisite conversation about honesty and the importance of candor and trust in a parent-child relationship. As a side note, you might not believe (yet it remains true) that she actually asks for these conversations. As in, “Mom, can we have a conversation about my behavior? Can we talk about the good consequences first?” Alice agreed to be candid with me, even if I wouldn’t like the response. The Mama—with her calm reaction, her level-headed reasoning, her firm but kind rules—saves the day.
Aaaaand, back to reality. Damn. I kind of liked the music that was playing in the background.
Later that night, I was just about to leave to go teach. Alice and I were upstairs and The Dada was calling for her from downstairs. We trotted down the stairs and parted ways: Alice headed toward the bathroom (yep. that is suspense. do you feel it building?) and I headed toward the back door. Suddenly, a very calm yet stern baritone asking, “What is this?” stopped me dead in my tracks. Shit. Turning on my heel, I marched back toward the bathroom.
As I started to walk into the bathroom, Alice turned and said, “You don’t have to come in here” and then shut the door in my face. My daughter. Shut the door. In my face.
Hey, by the way, A lovely conversation with the lovely (and darned funny) Cristy Carrington Lewis of Paltry Meanderings of a Taller-than-Average Woman inspired me to write a post that takes longer than 60 seconds to read. I hope you were able to stick with it. Oh, don’t stop now. Did you see those asterisks? They are footnotes. Don’t you know you should always read the footnotes?
*Okay, this is sort of its own funny story. I bought a five gallon jug of this soap a few years ago. Really. Why, you ask? Because it is amazing. And it was 40% off. This means that, for a one-time expenditure of an embarrassing amount of money, I could have five (5!) gallons of the best hand soap ever for about the same price per ounce as Dial.** Really. I did the math. Yes, I am crazy, but if you smelled this stuff, you would absolutely understand.
** Okay, this is sort of another funny story. The jug sprang a leak and we probably lost about a gallon of it. All over the basement floor. Ugh. Which means the above explanation isn’t really true any more. Now it costs more than Dial. Boo-hoo. You know what they say about the best-laid plans…