Trusting your children is easy when they’re little, but as they get older, as they develop their own moral compass and become their own people, it gets a little harder. When they look you in the eye and tell you what you want to hear, how do you know for sure that they are telling the truth? I had to ask myself recently whether or not I could take my child at his word.
In the past, I’ve left the Easter basketing to my son’s grandparents. This year, in the midst of a global pandemic, without a traditional church service, no special lunch using the fancy dishes, and no grandparents with armfuls of gifts, I realized that Easter had already been watered down to a theoretical version of its former self. That’s when I caved.
If we didn’t have church or lunch or grandparents, I decided that we would have lots and lots of chocolate.
I put on a mask, drove to Target, raided the holiday display, and saved Easter, or at least some secular imitation of Easter.
Sunday afternoon, I emptied an entire bag of Hershey’s chocolate eggs, each individually wrapped in pastel-colored foil, into a glass dish in our living room. The dish is on an end table. The end table is approximately an inch from the couch.
The next morning, I got ready for work as I normally do. I packed my lunch. I poured my coffee. And then I thought: I think I’ll grab a couple chocolate eggs.
I went into the living room and stared, completely stunned, into an empty bowl. All of the chocolates—the entire bag of Hershey’s eggs, each individually wrapped in pastel-colored foil—were gone.
Both my husband and my son swore to me that they didn’t take the chocolate.
I asked them over and over again, Where is the chocolate? Did you take it? Where did you put it? Over and over again, they promised me that they didn’t touch it.
The only other answer was that we were living with some extremely determined and prolific mice. Assuming the mice unwrapped their bounty before shoving it into their little chubby mouse cheeks, we went on a hunt for foil wrappers, but none could be found.
Eventually, I had to leave for work, but all morning the Case of the Missing Chocolate ate at me.
Desperate for answers, I posted on my local moms Facebook page describing what had happened.
I wanted to know if a mouse (or several mice) could remove an entire bag of chocolate from a candy dish on an end table. Was it physically possible? Or was there another explanation that I hadn’t considered?
Instead, what I got were dozens of replies telling me that my husband and my son were lying to me. One woman actually phrased it this way: “There are liars in your house.”
They shared stories of finding Halloween candy wrappers under their kids’ mattresses or tucked into their pockets. They told me to check the garbage cans—even the ones in the garage. But the thing is, I know my kid. And I know my husband. This was not an inside job.
At five and a half, my son is, and always has been, a rule follower.
He lives for structure and routine. When I asked his preschool teachers if he was ready for Kindergarten—could he sit still and listen even though he was only four—they immediately answered that he was the one telling other kids to sit still and listen.
My son knows that he gets dessert every night as long as he eats a decent dinner. He knows to ask if he’d like a treat during the day. I could accept that he might take a piece of chocolate without asking, but he would never empty the entire bowl.
As for my husband? He’s (annoyingly) not that interested in sweets. He’s the kind of person with enough self-restraint to save Girl Scout cookies for months, just because he’d like to enjoy them in the summer. While he’ll occasionally split dessert with me when we’re out to dinner, he’d much rather end his meal with a good whiskey. He certainly has no desire to take an entire bag of Easter candy.
I did consider the fact that my husband would 100% hide a bowl of chocolate just to mess with me, but eventually, he would confess and gleefully take credit for gaslighting me all day.
Now I had two problems: the missing chocolate and the doubting moms.
It bothered me that woman after woman, mother after mother, insisted that I was wrong and that the only answer was that someone in my house took the chocolate–case closed.
These women weren’t trying to be mean or insulting; they were simply speaking from their experience. I started to think about the future when my son will inevitably and intentionally lie to me. And not an, “I don’t know how marker ended up all over the couch” kind of lie.
What happens when he tells me a blatant lie to my face? Will I catch it? Will I call him on it? Or will I believe it? What happens when my sweet rule follower grows into a teenager, rebelling against me and testing the boundaries of my trust? Will I end up on Facebook telling a young mom that her son is a liar too?
It makes me sad to think of that day, though I’m not so naïve to believe it will never come. Even good, trustworthy kids will lie to their parents at some point.
For now, I believe wholeheartedly that my son is telling me the truth.
He would not look me in the eye and tell me he didn’t take the chocolate eggs. He wouldn’t swear that he doesn’t know where they are. For now, I’m going to put my faith in him and believe what he tells me. We are too early on this journey to start distrusting each other.
As for the chocolate…
I was mostly convinced that my family was innocent, but that night I conducted an experiment. Without my husband or my son knowing, I put six pastel M&M’s in the glass bowl. The next morning I went into the living before anyone else, and sure enough, the candy was gone.
My house is not filled with liars. It’s filled with mice.