I have a confession to make. When Casey turned three, I became a compulsive liar.
One day he asked me (and this is the kind of question that three-year-olds ask), “Dad . . . do you like monkeys?”
For some reason I answered “No, Casey. You see, I was attacked by monkeys when I was a baby, and ever since then I’ve been scared of them.” He accepted this without question, because people of that age just do. When you are young you don’t know anything, and you have to ask the adults around you. And so began my campaign of misinformation.
I started lying to him all the time. Once, we were driving in Carnation, where he’d never been before, and he asked where we were. I said, “You see that river over there? Everything on this side of the river is Zombie Territory.”
A look of alarm crossed his face and he asked, “Dad, is that guy a zombie?”
“Yep,” I replied. “Look! He’s mowing his Zombie Lawn right now!”
“Dad . . . let’s get out of here!” For years afterward, whenever we came anywhere near the river, he’d reach over and lock his door.
Pretty soon the lies started rebounding, coming back to me in funny ways, like little “lie-bombs.”
I got a call from his mother. “Casey brought his homework home today. He had to write five things about himself. Number five says he was born with a tail,” she reported disapprovingly.
I laughed. “Oh, yeah. We were in a hurry, so I just helped him with it.”
Another time, I had purchased a birdhouse and Casey asked me what it was. Without missing a beat, I told him it was a bird trap. “See,” I explained, “you pound nails in around the hole so the birds get in but can’t get out. Then when it’s full of dead birds, you open the top like this and drop the birds into a fryer.” Later, Amy called and said Casey was patiently explaining Dad’s bird trap to the neighbors.
I was starting to feel a little guilty about lying all the time to someone who believed everything I said. I did some research and found that I was not alone; many, many, many dads lie to their sons. I’m not trying to justify my behavior, but I was comforted to read that sociologists think it might be some kind of training to help kids think independently and challenge what they’ve heard.
All my lies came back to bite me one night in the dead of winter of 2006. Casey and I were home alone. His mother was in the hospital, and it was serious. I was beside myself with worry and just trying to stay busy to keep from going crazy.
I was cleaning under the bed, so the mattress was on the floor, and Casey was jumping up and down on it. I realized my new laptop was under the mattress, right where he was jumping.
“Casey!” I screamed. “That’s my laptop! You’d better hope it’s okay, or I’m going to kill you and bury your body in the back yard, next to your older brother that you never knew!”
Casey ran out of the room. I examined the laptop; it was fine. I sat there on the bed -- mad, but not at Casey. He came back in and climbed into my lap. He was shaking. I looked at his face and realized he was crying so hard that no sound was coming out. He croaked, “Dad, I don’t want you to kill me. I love you.” And then he hugged me. It felt like a punch in the gut.
I sat there and held him, and I told him that of course I’d never kill him, I would never even HURT him. I explained that I had been lying to him. I apologized for every lie. I told him there was no older brother. I told him that it was Carnation and not Zombie Territory. I told him that it was a birdhouse and not a bird trap.
Everything changed between the two of us that night. Somehow he got it, and ever since he’s been able to determine whether I’m lying or not. For example, one St. Patrick’s Day I explained, “Casey, today if you see anyone NOT wearing green, you can pinch them!” Somehow he knew it was true, even though it’s completely implausible and sounds exactly like something I’d make up.
I still lied to him from time to time, but it was always with a wink or a smile or something in my voice that made it an easy giveaway. Once, when he asked me what I thought of Demetredons (that’s a type of dinosaur, for those of you without kids), and I replied, “I’ve hated them ever since I was attacked by Demetredons when I was a baby,” Casey just said, “Daaaaaaaad.”
The best little “lie-bomb” I ever planted, and this still makes me laugh, came back to me when Casey and I were at a big-box store in Washington. We were walking past those tiny display beds when Casey stopped me said, “Dad, Mom told me the truth! Those beds are NOT for people who lost their bodies in car wrecks and are just heads! Those are display beds!” For a second, I had no idea what he was talking about. And then I realized I must have told him that YEARS ago, and all this time he’d believed it.
Casey said, “Daaaaaaaad!” and we both burst out laughing.
© 2017 David Holmes
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