Pants on Fire


pants on fire


This morning went how most go. Around 7:30 I started cleaning up from breakfast and making my daughter’s lunch, sending her upstairs to get dressed and brush her teeth. Unfortunately it also went how the last several have gone. Upon returning downstairs in an outfit completely different than the one agreed upon the night before I again asked her about that teeth cleansing and she once again answered in the affirmative. After I performed a newly necessary breath check, she headed back upstairs to actually brush her teeth.

This morning was slightly different, however. After three straight days of this charade, today I got angry.


About six months ago I was sitting at a traffic light and took a minute to look at a notification on my phone while waiting. A town police officer pulled up next to me, rolled down his window and yelled at me for it. I had already put the phone back down, held up my hands in what I thought was a gesture meant to convey that I was done, and carried on my way when the light turned green. Apparently he interpreted these hand signals differently, pulling me over and subjecting me to what might have been one of the most severe beratements I’ve ever suffered through, at one point causing me to have concerns about a possible imminent stroke.

He wasn’t mad because I was looking at my phone. He was furious because he thought that I had lied to him.

What is it about being lied to that causes such a visceral reaction? I’m going to assume that this particular officer had something else going on in his life that morning and that I was the unfortunate recipient of anger that was really directed elsewhere, but the truth is that there really isn’t much that is as painful or disappointing as the knowledge that you have been intentionally told untruths.


It’s silly really. We all do it,  probably more than we even realize. Sometimes it’s even for noble reasons, the sparing of somebody’s feelings and such. Other times it’s to avoid confrontation or consequences. Sometimes it just seems easier. How many times have you told somebody the truth about something and then actually wished you hadn’t? How many times have you found out the truth about something and then wished you hadn’t?

I have no idea why my daughter hasn’t been brushing her teeth. It only takes a minute, she likes the flavor of toothpaste we have and her Avengers electric brush enables her to reach areas of the bathroom that she wouldn’t be able to spray toothpaste all over otherwise. I’m guessing that she just gets excited about whatever ensemble she’s put together to wear and can’t wait to come down and show me, forgetting the other half of her assignment.

I do know that I was pretty mad, angrier than I should have been to be honest.  I didn’t threaten to wash her mouth out with soap, something that I once did when her older sister was caught lying too many times for my patience, but I was close.

After school we talked about why daddy lost his shit this morning. About how it makes a person feel when they can’t believe what they are being told, about how fragile trust can be and how much harder it is to re-gain than to lose. I gave her the Mark Twain quote about how “If you tell the truth, you never have to remember anything” and then spent twenty minutes explaining who Mark Twain was and why she should listen to what he had to say.

I also told her that her nose would grow, her pants would catch fire, and that I’d be keeping a closer eye on her for the next few days. The most nefarious thing about lying is how easy it is, how quickly it can become habit.




24 thoughts on “Pants on Fire”

  1. Uh oh! You lied to her… her nose won’t grow her pants will not spontaneously combust. You see how we all as adults lie. My way to stop was this. I gave my three a time to lie. A time where they could make up the most extreem of stories and hold all of our attention for five minutes once a week. I then I described the art of storytelling and when they were older they wrote there elaborate stories down. I also taught them the difference between truth lie and makebelieve. It didn’t cure it all but I knew a lie was now understood and they understood how it actually hurt me to know they lied. Parenting is tough and we will never get it all right. You are doing a good job.

  2. Lying is a major thing. We’ve had these conversations in my house. My son’s dad is an excellent minimalist. He tells a version of the truth, but not exactly the whole truth. I’ve done this too, it softens things, eases the conscience, achieves cognitive ease. But isn’t this a lie by omission? I had my son, my ex and myself (and my husband) all make a pledge to each other, “I will not lie to you, and I will not lie for you,” we said. When I caught my son in a lie I had him write a note to himself about how it feels to tell a lie and how it feels to tell the truth. We framed his note to himself and put it on his wall as a reminder. This had a little backlash. He came home from school almost every day confessing his various sins: running in the hallway for example. So we’ve had to walk back little. Not EVERY little thing is worthy of a confession, but until he figures it out, and finds balance, I want to hear the truth and nothing but the truth.
    The other challenge is how it feels to be lied to. It feels terrible, it’s a betrayal of trust. For that officer, I can’t imagine what it would be like to pretty much expect that everyone has a vested interest in lying to him to minimize the consequences he has the power to deliver. What a strange world that must be.

    1. Thats an interesting point about the police officer and probably dead on. I’m sure thats a pretty tough burden to bear. I’m not sure how I feel about adults pledging to be completely honest with each other at all times. It sounds good in theory but I’m not sure the situation here presently is overly conducive to that.

  3. Liar, liar pants on fire, hanging on a telephone wire. Now it going to be in my head all day! P.S. I haven’t brushed my teeth yet either. 🙂

  4. My mum used to tell my brothers and I that if we lied our tongues would shrink. So, guess who would stand in front of the mirror yanking at her tongue to see if it looked shorter than last time she stood in front of the mirror?!

  5. Gosh what a day!! No one equips us for being grown up, let alone bringing up our own children! Parenting is hard. They can push us to limits at times!

    Don’t beat yourself up. Your child doesn’t think of not brushing her teeth as lying. She just can’t be bothered! If they can get away with things they will! I have a 7,18 & 20 year old and I can tell just by their face when they tell porky pies.

    None of us are perfect, so we can’t expect our children to be. All we can do is put them on the right path!

    Get her to brush herself for longer each time she doesn’t, she’ll soon start brushing them!

  6. Interesting my older children all know that the one thing that will disapppoint me more than anything is lying to me and I can always tell when they are tell me the truth and we will deal with it together. If you have messed up it’s not a problem we can solve it. Saying that kids will always tell pork pies I guess it depends on the severity of the situation great read mate Thank you for linking to #Thatfridaylinky please come back next week

  7. I wouldn’t see it as a lying issue, I would see it as an authority issue … just like you didn’t like getting dressed down by an overbearing cop, she is asserting her individuality, the no we all hate, but have to kind of admire. I’m sure you know all that, but worth remembering sometimes, it’s directed at us as parents, but it’s also kind of not personal; it has to be done for her to ultimately assume her individuality

  8. This is such an interesting and thought provoking post. My little one can tell some real corkers and it’s really hard to know when he’s lying. It’s something we are working on! Fab post. Thank you for linking up to the #itsok linky.

  9. We have this same thing ALL THE TIME! it’s so infuriating, as often my son lies to try and get out of trouble so makes the whole telling off situation worse! I’m hoping it’s a phase and they grow out of it… fingers crossed!

  10. I am so thankful that as a parent my kids have always had pretty obvious “tells” when they’re lying and I have been very careful to not let on how I know when they’re lying for fear that they’ll improve! #FamilyFunLinky

  11. Everyone tells little lies! Just knowing the difference between something that’s saving grace or something that’s really bad! My two year old refuses to get his teeth cleaned I can imagine I’ll have the same difficulty by the time he gets to your daughters age! ‪Thank you for linking up to the #familyfunlinky‬

  12. My sons try to lie but are so blatantly obvious that they can’t get away with it. They slowly learn that actually asking for something generally within reason gets a solution without having to hide it from us X #familyfunlinky

    1. She usually doesn’t try and pull anything over unless its one of her “pranks.” Not sure where this came from

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