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.
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.