Here’s the setup some 20 years ago: Two brothers, one a couple of years older than the other. It was the younger brother’s 3rd or 4th birthday party and he has asked for a policeman’s costume as a gift. My job was to whisk the boxed costume away just as soon as he unwrapped it and ditch the nightstick before any kid was any the wiser.
The older brother, though, was onto me from the jump. He followed me into the kitchen and kept his wee eagle eyes on me as I pulled the vest and the hat and the badge and all the rest out of the box.
“There’s something else in there, Sawah,” he said. Foolishly, I kept insisting, “No, kiddo. There’s only trash left in the box.”
And then, thinking I was really sneaky, I took the whole thing to the big trashcan outside.
My then-girlfriend, who had also followed me to the kitchen but stayed inside when I made for the trashcan, later described what happened next:
As soon as I was out of the door, my nephew dropped his head, shaking it mournfully from side to side and said, “Sawah’s a wyah.”
Sarah’s a liar.
It would have been so easy to say proactively what I ultimately ended up saying to him: There was a pretend weapon and it was my job to keep even pretend weapons out of your home.
The moral of this story?
So often, what can seem like the path of least resistance turns out to be a misstep. A little extra time, a little extra thoughtfulness, can go a long way.
Oh, and of course, never lie to kids. I was lucky that I got the inside scoop but so often, kids just squirrel that stuff away where we don’t get the chance to apologize, rectify our behavior, and realign toward the lessons we actually mean to model.