We are in the car, buckled in, waiting a short, grating eternity for Rosie to confess that she did not, in fact, put socks on under her boots.
I wont be mad, honey, I just need you to tell me the truth, I say. And even as I pledge myself as a beacon of forgiveness bobbing in the stormy seas of consequence and punishment, I can already feel my frustration curdling. I diiiiiiid, Rose maintains, her own desperate and theatrical insistence the very chink in her witness-stand armor. I give her six more chances to tell the truth, but she stubbornly clings to her story, unable now to dig out from the avalanche of nontruth shes slipped under.
I unstrap myself from the front seat to whisk off her boots, revealing the naked, chilled and criminal feet. The drama is so heavy you can almost hear the hush fall over the studio audience, which is just Col, who observes with surprise, Rosie was lying, Mama!
Rose, theres no lying in this family. When you lie, it hurts our whole household, I tell her, which is like the manifesto of the Vague but Ethical Society and you can almost see the trajectory of my words sailing right over Roses head.
Well, it doesnt exactly hurt our household, Col adds, because our house doesnt have a mouth.
I realize the truth is a murky place in a childs mind, where fantasy and reality swirl together as imperceptibly as a twist cone of vanilla and, well, vanilla. Last month, after studying a newly received Christmas card, Rose pointed to a beautiful 4-year-old girl in the picture and said: I like her. Can that be me?
Two years ago at the childrens museum, Rose had uncharacteristically toddled away from me following her brother into the fray of loud, gallumphing children. Three minutes later, Col returned, announcing, Rosies crying! I praised Col for finding me and scooped up my wailing toddler. Later, walking to our car, I wondered out loud what had made Rose suddenly cry. Oh, maybe because I pushed her down. Col said nonchalantly.
As we work on this ethic of truth-telling me thanking Col and Rose for admitting to crayoning the tile floor, as weird as that feels examples of my own dishonesty start tapping me on the shoulder.
When Col was 3 and in the process of shedding his clothes in a public park in November, I spotted a man strolling by and whispered to Col that this man was patrolling the park, looking for rule-breaking children. Col grabbed his ankle-slung pants and pulled them up quick.
As recently as the year that ends in 11, I told Rose that a sign in the rec center locker room said, All children must pee before getting in the pool, which is a good idea, but not what the sign said.
Once again, I am learning alongside my children, trying to cultivate honesty, at least by the time they start reading.
Rachel Turiels column runs the first and third Sunday of the month. Read her blog, Growing children at 6512 feet, at http://6512andgrowing.wordpress.com.