If you ask Persistence how old she is, she'll tell you she's five. She can't quite bring herself to say six, her sister's age. Is it because her sister holds a claim to that number right now, or is it an inherent talent for hyperbole---knowing exactly where the line is that she shouldn't cross?
On Saturday at a party several of us were laughing with a neighbor, my friend's husband, and he was spinning yarns about his upcoming trip to Italy.
"You need to learn how to lie, Jack," I said, "You go one step past believable. If you'd said you were biking from Paris to Florence, some of us might have partially believed you. But walking?" And we all laughed harder.
"Maybe it's intentional," he told me, "I get in trouble for teasing, so I try to make sure I'm way over the top upfront so nobody even starts to believe me."
Someone reminded me that I must be a very good liar because everyone thinks I'm truthful. I am an excellent liar. World class. Gold medal. I began lying at a very early age. I had to. Then I just never figured out how to be truthful. No, that's not true. I figured out that generally people don't want you to be truthful.
And because I'm contrary, I then switched over to often being truthful.
What's truth, anyway? It's not necessarily honesty, which doesn't preclude lying.
My family has me pegged as the Queen of Hyperbole. When I was a tween or early teen, we drove to Portland to visit my older stepbrother and sister, who had gone to college there and never came back. If you go to Portland, it's easy to see why. But this trip was close to when Mount St. Helens had erupted, and we hiked up Oregon's sister mountain to watch the plumes of smoke still puffing from the shattered crater.
"We hiked to less than a mile from the top," I said later, retelling the story to some people who hadn't gone with us, "And it was so clear, you could see it right in front of you, huge, and smoking, like an angry dragon." The smoke was lighter than I expected, and I waxed more poetically than prosaically about it.
My stepsister couldn't stand it. None of my siblings can. Their life goal with me is to make me prosaic. It's ironic, because in artistic circles I am considered very prosaic and practical. But not in my family, who believe themselves the Snopes to my myths.
My stepsister rolled her eyes and sighed, "Oh Juuuulllllliieeeeee, you make it sound like so much more than it was. We drove to the top parking lot and barely hiked a couple of miles at the most. You could see some smoke but there was nothing dragon-like to it."
Even today, whatever rolls from my lips is suspect and put through the family truth v. doubt-o-meter.
I want to teach my children to not exaggerate when it's not needed, but I also want to foster their strong and deep imaginative streak. Nevertheless, I find, horribly, Snope-like criticisms frogging their way off my tongue anyway.
Yesterday I told Patience, "That's showing off. Don't do things to try to impress people. Just make good choices in life, do your best, be yourself, and that will be impressive enough to the right people."
She had been hamming to get a laugh from the crowd. My insides turned to molten lava when I saw.
She did switch to making good choices, but I worried about her motive: was it to appease and please me, or to do the right thing? Will she make the right choices when my back is turned, at least most of the time, at least when it really matters? Or will she lie in her bed at night, regretting behavior over the course of the day, filled with the bitter reflux of self-loathing?
Can I ever be easy as a parent?
My lack of ease extends to her sister's lying, as well. Persistence lies for many reasons, but she does it easily, often, well and earlier than her sister did. She is very sincere when she tells people she is five. She will not budge from that position.
She is learning her letters and lying, which her sister did at five.
So what is truth?
Note: This Hump Day Hmm...talk about truth, honesty and lying---yourself, your kids, from a personal or parenting point of view, how you deal with it and how important it is, as well as loopholes or any other aspect you want to cover.
Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
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