The lie – two portraits

Looking back at the mom I was twenty years ago vs the mom of today elicits various emotions – sometimes I smile, shake my head and get a kick out of the younger me and other times I feel regret and sadness over “what might have been”. I imagine that twenty years from now, I will do likewise about this season of parenting.

A scene from 20ish years ago: It was a time of internal naiveté and unrealistic expectations for my children. The memory is crystal clear of the very first time I knew for certain that our first-born child lied to me. I was crushed and devastated. Our neighbors had an old tree house that they allowed our boys to explore. We received a phone call – things had been broken and destroyed – throwing things from way up high is quite a temptation for a little guy and his friend. Inquisitions ensued – lies were told – mom couldn’t deny the facts. More prone to legalistic parenting -this lying issue was one of the ten commandments for goodness sake – the reaction was regrettable.

I don’t recall the exact response, but I am quite certain it was some combination of shaming, punishment and mom’s sermon # ____. What child, knowing that was on the horizon, wouldn’t give lying their best shot? My crazy fear that we were raising a pathological liar kicked into full gear and led to an unleashing of a series of harmful and relationship damaging words. If I had known more about typical child development and been more honest about my own occasional lying tongue and what situations triggered that, it would have been helpful. But I wasn’t “there” yet.

A scene from last week: after reading enough experts, understanding that traumatized children often have a hair trigger fight or flight response and being convinced that lying in my children is at the foundation a fear response, this scene played out. It was over a simple hygiene issue. The question: have you brushed your hair? – the answer yes. The mom sense activated and knew this was not the case. The big old knot in the skewed pony tail was a dead giveaway. I know from experience that if I “call her out” in that moment, we are going to have an escalating situation. My old legalistic fear was slightly triggered, yet thankfully I remembered to take a few deep breaths, send my daughter to locate the brush and we reconnected in a few minutes. At that time, we then had a conversation about how important it is to tell the truth so that we can trust each other and keep our relationship healthy and strong; I assured her that she would not have been “in trouble” if she had told me no, the hair wasn’t brushed; and the importance of pausing before answering such questions was discussed. Sometimes we tell a lie before we even know what has come out of our mouth – a type of survival skill for some. Children of alcoholics are a case in point on this matter. Image

At the end of this interaction, my daughter said, “some moms aren’t like that”, expressing that big trouble is often around the corner for those who haven’t brushed their hair (and admit it) or choose to lie about a myriad of everyday mom requests. When I asked her how she knew that, she replied, “I don’t know their names, but I’ve seen them.” What she does, on some level, but doesn’t fully know is that her own mom used to be and can still be among that crowd. My hope is that this interaction put one more drop in the trust bucket of our relationship. It seems that a more gentle and grace filled conversation went a lot further in relationship building than the old shaming, punishment, sermon route. We have come a long way but still have a ways to go, together.

Note: for anyone who wants to explore more fully lying as a fear response, I highly recommend The Great Behavior Breakdown by Bryan Post. It tackles lying plus 26 other problematic behaviors families face.

About inpursuitofatoolbox

I am a God lover, wife of Mark and mom to 5 incredible children. Our 3 sons came to us by birth and our 2 daughters came through adoption.

Posted on March 18, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. So true. And really hair brushing shouldn’t be blown into evil sinner. I often avoid the topic all together. have your brushed your hair? Yes hmmm well it looks like it needs a little bit more brushing. Why don’t you try again…Sometimes I fear I am “allowing them to lie” but often one will come out with…well yesterday I brushed it but not today..hahah tricked you.

  2. I love your concept of putting “one more drop in the trust bucket”!

  3. Oh my, have we had this in the past. 🙂 We have similar lives…. btw…. but I am older. 🙂
    4 boys from birth, 4 girls through adoption. They are all teens now…. 13,13,14, and 14.
    The guys are 30, 31, 32, and 34.
    I found your blog through another blog I follow and she mentioned your “jewel of trauma” post. I agree. It is the right perspective!

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