How to Lie to a Toddler
My son is 2 ½, and he sometimes obsesses about things. For instance, if we see his friend N as we’re leaving daycare, he’ll screech, “I want to see N’s car,” over and over again, long after we’ve left the parking lot.
I’ve found a strategy to minimize the screaming. I lie.
I point to a random car and say, “There’s N’s car.” My son says, “That’s N’s car? That’s N’s car! What’s N’s car doing?” There’s repetition, but it’s contented, not screechy, and everyone’s happy.
Now, lest you think I’m teaching my son dishonesty, I’d like to argue that he’s learning about imagination and storytelling and creative embellishment. The other day he pointed to a black postal worker driving a mail truck and said, “That’s A’s daddy.” (A’s daddy is Vietnamese and drives a Honda Pilot.) He seemed very pleased with himself.
Yesterday my husband and I were seeing if some friends could have dinner with us. We told our son that we might have dinner with Dave. (I’m using his name because it makes the story better. You’ll see.) It turned out Dave wasn’t able to make it. Our son started crying. “I want Dave. I want Dave.” This turned into “I want food. I want food. I want dumplings. I want dumplings” when we got to the restaurant. But then he returned to Dave. “I want Dave. I want Dave.”
I wanted a quiet dinner. “There’s Dave.” I pointed to the waitress behind the counter. My husband gave me a look that said, “That’s so wrong, but what if it works?”
And it did work. For about a minute.
Our son brightened and smiled. “That’s Dave. What’s Dave doing?”
“Dave is getting people their food.”
Blissful non-screaming. Until eventually he remembered that Dave is a tall white man with a beard, not a short Asian woman, and the yelling recommenced. “I want Dave! I want Dave!”
There’s a moral to this story, but I don’t think it’s going to sink in.
P.S. I don’t actually know if A’s daddy drives a Pilot. I may have made that up.