A Thin Line Between Lies and Imagination

 

Logic will get you from A to Z. Imagination will get you everywhere. -Albert Einstein

 

Several times this week I’ve caught myself doing nothing but sitting and watching the toddler play with her toys. One of the most fascinating things about her continuing development is the expansion of her imagination. The way her varied little “people” interact with each other and the dramas that play out between them are growing increasingly complex and varied. This has led not only to a much appreciated increase in independent play, but has made it more tolerable to actually play with her.

We’ve always done our best to try and encourage imaginative thought. Between family and friends we have assembled a pretty sizable book collection for her. She gets a story every night before bed but there are other times she is encouraged to look at the pictures in a book and make up her own story. These are often wildly surprising and entertaining.

She’s also in the early stages of learning how to lie to avoid consequences. When accused of wrong-doing or questioned about how something happened she will now sometimes either deny culpability, or worse, blame somebody else.

So far she is not very successful at it. Most of the actions she is denying have been done within the sight of the person she is denying it to. It only takes a few times asking before she will smile sheepishly and admit to the crime. Because her cousins are younger than her they tend not to be as well behaved, making them good scapegoats. It seems to surprise her when her credibility is questioned, but blaming somebody that was last at the house a week ago for something done that morning isn’t overly effective.

 

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Recently we encountered a situation that defied easy classification. Over the past several weeks, Alaina has been telling her teachers and classmates stories about her little sister Ally. She’s regaled them with tales of helping change diapers, how much her sister cries, and how mushy and gross her food is.

The problem, of course, is that Alaina doesn’t have a little sister. Her teachers, recognizing that my wife never appeared pregnant, asked her multiple times if this was true or if she was telling them stories.  Knowing her tendency to come clean fairly quickly when confronted with a lie, they were understandingly confused. Impressed by the depth and sophistication of Alaina’s story, as well as at her ability to keep her details consistent, but confused.

A week later I still don’t know what to make of the whole situation.  She was reminded that she shouldn’t tell things that aren’t true, but as there was no self-serving aspect we didn’t think it made sense to treat this necessarily as “lying”, a concept that is still new to her.  Alaina often pretends that her baby dolls are her little sister. I’m just going to chalk this one up as an overly long make-believe session.  Apparently the line between fibbing and imagination for a three year old is thinner than I had imagined.

There is some cause for concern. The teenager is a terrible liar. I’m not going to give away any of her “tells”, but very rarely does she get anything by us. If the little one is going to be good at it, we may be in trouble.

 

 

Daddy Knows Everything

 

Like most fathers, mine has very rarely uttered the words “I don’t know.”  To his credit my dad actually does know quite a bit about a lot of different things, more than enough in most cases to at least be “in the ballpark” of the correct answer.  On the occasions when he is completely BSing, he does so with such confidence that I’m not always sure whether or not he knows what he is talking about.

I like to think of myself as possessing above average intelligence and make a great partner in a trivia contest, but lag far behind my father in “practical knowledge.” I have very little idea how things work and even less idea about how to fix them. Renaissance man that I am, I leave such matters to my wife.

Like my father and most other fathers I know, I have determined that my children will think that I know everything for as long as I can get away with it. I may not have inherited my father’s mechanical aptitude, but his unmatched ability to BS has been genetically transferred successfully.

Technology makes this easier with the teenager. Whenever she asks a question that I don’t have an answer to, I tell her to “google it.” By making her search for herself I am both empowering her and teaching her independence. Because I have managed to remain pretty hip, I’m able to avoid the usual teenage assumption that I don’t know anything because  I’m so old.

It amazes me that teenagers don’t seem to realize that their phones have this capability. They literally have the answer to any question attached to their hands at all times.  It seems technologically impossible to do poorly in school.

The toddler has asked approximately 100 questions a day for about a year straight now.  Most of the time they are pretty straight forward and she accepts whatever answer is given. “You can’t wear shorts to the store because it’s too cold.” “The lines in the road tell me what side to stay on.” “That little boy isn’t in a carriage because he listens”, ect.

That’s not to say she doesn’t argue with me.  After asking what time it was today,  Alaina spent twenty minutes arguing with me about what the numbers on the clock signified. I’m not proud of the fact that I spent twenty minutes arguing with a three year old about what time it was, but I confess to being a little proud that she thinks it’s funny to mess with me.  Being a smart-ass is a valued personality trait in this family.

So far there have been no metaphysical questions or anything about fixing the toilet, so for now Alaina still thinks daddy knows everything. When the time eventually comes when she may start to figure out my BS, I’ll just tell her to “google it.”

 

 

Eggs and Gametes

 

We were a week late due to my work schedule, but this weekend we hosted the family for this year’s Easter celebration. My parents were here, as well as my mother-in-law, my brother, his wife, and their twin children.

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Alaina spent the morning embracing her “girly” side.  She needed to find the perfect dress and badgered us repeatedly until she got her nails painted.  Kayla attended church.  I spent the morning cleaning the house and doing my best to stay out of the chef’s way.

 

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After a quick egg hunt for the littles and a delicious ham prepared by my wife we all retired to the back yard to enjoy the fantastic weather and let the children tire themselves out.  One benefit to waiting the extra week was that the last of our snow had finally melted. Three kids under the age of four doesn’t seem like many, but their capacity for chaos inside the house isn’t to be underestimated. For someone too old and cool to participate in an Easter egg hunt, Kayla was more than willing to “help” and was also very good at “helping” catch bubbles. It’s always nice to see that teen angst facade drop for a few hours.

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As is often the case on occasions like this, there was lots of talk about how fortunate everyone was to be in good health and able to attend these gatherings several times a year. I spent a lot of time thinking about how fortunate my wife and I were that our gametes fused to develop only a single organism.

The twin birth rate in the United States has increased 76% since 1980. Some of this can be attributed to advances in medical reproductive procedures but growth hormones in food also plays a part. My grandfather was a twin as are two of my cousins.  Alaina has out of state cousins that were single births but the six that she knows consist of three sets of twins. It always surprised me that she never questioned why there was only one of her.

I know there are many benefits to having twins. Couples that want two children only have one pregnancy to endure to get them. The tax benefits are doubled. Twins always have a special buddy with them to share their experiences and keep each other occupied. Watching her cousins I’m sometimes sad that Alaina doesn’t have that, though I’m not sure she really needs a permanent partner in crime.

None of this was crossing my mind as I watched my brother frantically chase a pair of two year old gremlins around my back yard, each one  determined to go in a different direction than the other. I was too busy laughing my ass off and thinking “better him than me.”

 

 

 

 

Fear of Furries

There has been very little so far has has intimidated Alaina.  She’s always been willing to go down the tallest slides, jump right into the water, climb any obstacle. I spend fair season convincing carnies to let her on rides a three year old should be petrified on. I’m pretty sure that she really thought we were hunting dinosaurs in the woods last week.

Two things have always stopped her in her tracks, however. She doesn’t like ladybugs or people in suits.

Not Gentleman’s Warehouse suits, but big furry costumes. At a renaissance fair last fall she ran up to every fairy, knight or wizard that would talk to her, but when this guy crept up behind her sister she was out of there.

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You run into these characters more often than you would think. Zoos, carnivals, at the beach. Even car shows will sometimes have guys in Crash Test Dummies suits. She was always fine telling Santa what presents she was expecting, but the Easter Bunny was a no-go.

My concerns were selfish. Disney World is one of my favorite places, and I can’t wait to bring her in a few years, but if she was going to be terrified by every Mickey or Goofy walking by we were going to have a real problem.

It now seems that we are going to be fine. Over the past few weeks we have encountered both the Easter Bunny and Clifford with no problems whatsoever.  My child has overcome her first phobia.

 

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I’m not sure what has led to this change in attitude. My hope is that she is just a little older and braver. My fear is that she has figured out that there is just a regular dude under all that cuddly fur. I’m very proud of how smart Alaina is, but I don’t want her to start questioning these types of things just yet.

I still have no idea what the deal is with ladybugs though. Her room is decorated with them, her nightlight is one, and we read a ladybug book that she likes. The sight of a real ladybug, however, will put her on a kitchen chair faster than a housewife in an old Tom and Jerry cartoon.

Indiana Jones doesn’t like snakes, Ron Weasley hates spiders. I guess everybody has their “thing”.  As long as I get my trip to Disney in a few years, Alaina can fear all the bugs she wants.

 

Tiger’s Legacy

The Masters golf tournament started yesterday, which to those of us that torture ourselves with the game is the real official start of spring. The average weekend duffer will hit the ball between 90-115 times over a three hour period. The difference between scoring a 90 or a 115 is usually only a few of those shots. Its both a fantastic way to spend a nice day outside or an easy way to ruin one, depending on a person’s temperament.

Like many golfers my age, I started playing the game because of Tiger Woods. He was a transcendent superstar, like Michael Jordan or Mike Tyson. Even if you didn’t follow the sport, you knew his name. Here was a kid my age completely dominating a sport I had considered an “old man’s game.”

Since turning pro in 1996, Tiger has won more tournaments than any other player. He has spent the most consecutive and cumulative weeks ranked #1, and has been the Player of The Year 11 times.  He’s won 14 major championships, second all time only to Jack Niklaus.

But that 14th major was the US Open in 2008, a long time ago. He opens this week ranked 111th in the world. Injuries have played a part, including back surgery in 2014, but conventional wisdom is that the messy and very public breakup with his wife after serial infidelities are to blame for possibly the sharpest decline in a professional athlete’s skill level ever.

My hypothesis is different. I believe it’s because he had kids. The car crash in 2009 that led to his marital problems becoming public is also the same year his son was born. His daughter, two years earlier.

Having children completely changes a man. Even somebody with such a single minded desire to win is going to see his priorities change.  Tiger may have been exposed as a crappy husband, but he still fought for split custody of his children. The man once known for his relentless practice schedule had his kid’s caddie for him at this week’s par 3 competition. Scowling press conferences about the minutia of his swing are now smiling stories about his children.

I don’t play or watch as much golf as I used to.  As I type this I’m waiting for the end of Pooh’s Humphalump Movie  so I can switch over to the tournament. When I’m out there my old competitive spirit returns, but I’m also just as likely to bore my playing partner talking about my wife and kids.

I hope Tiger plays well enough today to be relevant over the weekend, one of my favorite in sports viewing.  He’ll still be considered one of the greatest ever one day, but I like him even more now that he seems to be more concerned with a different kind of legacy.

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Adventures with girls, from preschool to proms