Thursday, October 14, 2010

What Goes Around Comes Around

Karma got me today. As a kid, I had all kinds of tricks for not eating my vegetables and the other foods I was served that I didn't care for. I was a somewhat picky eater, and maybe I still am by some people's standards. I can remember doing the standard things like spitting my food out in my napkin, hiding veggies under my plate, feeding food to the dogs, etc. I often took a really long time to eat so it wasn't uncommon for me to end up alone at the dinner table. Those situations allowed me to tap into my more creative side, pulling tricks like dropping all my peas on the floor and showing my dad (who was in the living room) my empty plate, hiding food in the trash, and stashing my green beans in my sister's milk cup. Each of those situations I remember getting caught, whereas the old standbys of feeding the dogs and spitting the stuff into my napkin probably were more successful because I was able to get rid of the evidence.

So today just before lunch, Zach had a few minutes at the kitchen table while Drew and I were in the bathroom washing hands. We got to the table and we were all eating. The boys each had half of a pear cut into slices, some broccoli and ranch dressing, a ham sandwich and half of a pickle. Zach quickly ate his broccoli, pickle, and sandwich, and Drew immediately devoured his pear and then went to work on his pickle and his sandwich. After a few minutes, I looked at Drew's plate and realized that he seemed to have a lot of broccoli, and some of the pieces were definitely bigger than what I thought I had given Drew. I find the texture of broccoli to be a little difficult to just chew and swallow without a milk chaser, so I always try to cut Drew's pieces pretty small for his small mouth. So I picked up a couple of these larger pieces of broccoli and asked Zach if he put some of his broccoli on Drew's plate. As his eyes shifted all over the place, he told me he did not. He exhibited classic signs of lying, so I pursued the issue. He was pretty much immediately in tears about me not believing him. I pulled out a paper from his guidance teacher that he got a few weeks ago about what trustworthiness is, and the paper says, "Being trustworthy means being honest. You tell the truth, even when it is hard."

Zach stuck to his guns and insisted he did not put any of his broccoli on Drew's plate. And I tell you, it's a terrible feeling as a parent to be stuck between feeling like your kid really is lying and feeling like he could be telling the truth but you're not believing him. The thing was, I really wasn't sure. From his actions and a couple of similar past situations, I felt like he was lying. At the same time, I knew there was the possibility that I hadn't cut all of Drew's broccoli so small, but I really thought I had. Plus, I thought, "Well, Zach is usually quite good about eating his broccoli, so why would he do that?" And then I'd have this tremendous guilt, thinking, "He's telling the truth, and I'm saying I don't believe him, and what kind of a message is that sending?" But in my gut, I just thought his actions when we discussed it all really made him seem guilty.

So I let it go for a couple of hours, and Zach and I talked about it again when Drew was napping and Zach and I were laying on his bed. I was very calm; he insisted he didn't do it, but acted all fidgety and nervous, and then literally fell asleep in front of my eyes in about 2 minutes. I think the whole situation wore him out emotionally that he just needed to sleep.

When the boys were in the bath tonight, Zach said to me, "I'm sorry, Mom." I asked him what he was sorry for, and he said, "All the bad things I did today." I said, "Like what?" He said, "Like saying your veins were disgusting." (He's been reminding me that the veins in my leg are gross, and the first time I let it go, the second time Mike heard him and told him how rude it was, and tonight I was just tired and got mad and told him again how rude that is to say to someone.) So then I said, "Thanks. And for putting the broccoli on Drew's plate?" And he sort of half-smiled and gave me a breathy "Yeah" while looking away. Huh? Did he just admit to the whole thing? So I asked him point-blank, "So, Zach, are you saying you put some of your broccoli on Drew's plate?" "No," he said while looking away. Anyway, I'm not sure what I said next, but he did then admit to it all. Thank goodness! I really hated the not knowing. I didn't say anything, and we finished up the bath, brushed teeth, and read books in Drew's room. I had Zach then go to his room while I finished up with Drew, and then Zach and I discussed the whole thing. I asked him what he thought an appropriate consequence would be, and after thinking a while, he said, "I got it! Take away a few of my books." I'm kind of a book nut, so Zach has tons of books, and each week we check out about 15 books from the library just for Zach, so taking "a few" of them away doesn't really seem appropriate, so Mike and I need to figure something else out. Zach does understand that the consequence is for the lying, not for putting the broccoli on Drew's plate.

So, I figure in about 30 years it will finally dawn upon Zach that he should have just fed the broccoli to the dogs or something (something totally forbidden in this house because of our dogs' food allergies). Spitting it in his napkin just won't work because we use cloth napkins. I do give him credit for trying, though. And really, it was a pretty clever move, and chances are if it had happened with Mike here and not me, he would have gotten away with it. I mean no offense to Mike by saying that, but it's like when a police department uses a reformed master thief to help solve crimes. Zach's working against an expert here, so I guess he (and Drew and Three, when they're older) will just have to get more creative. In an effort to show that I have made bad choices in the past and to coax the truth out of him at lunchtime today, I did tell him the green beans in Aunt Sandy's cup story, so hopefully he's smart enough to not try that one!

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