When a child's mind turns to telling tall tales, pork pies and outright lies, it can be fun to stand back and relish the show.
My child has learnt to lie and it is both worrying and delightful to me. I guess you have to be careful what you wish for, because when he was about six months and I was getting impatient to converse with him, I remember saying to my partner, "I can't wait until he can talk! And, you know, start fibbing."
I've always loved watching tiny people concoct whopping great lies. Mainly because they have no idea how obvious it is that they're lying. When you know, you can enjoy the performance.
Last week we noticed our above-ground pool (better than a beach in your own backyard!) had started to develop a slowly dwindling water level. If the slightest thing goes wrong with that thing I call the professionals immediately. Frankly, it's like a big, blue, moody mistress is living in my garden: great times to be had, but you don't want to hear about its problems. Within a few days, someone in a wetsuit had found a hole and patched it and we were all fine.
It was on this pool guy that my three-year-old decided to unleash his very first lie.
Leo loves a visitor, even a tradie. He follows them around chatting and inspecting their work. First stop with any pool problems is the filter-and-engine thingy. In our case, the machinery is housed under the decking in a dirty, spider-infested crawlspace. I've never been in there because it gives me the creeps, but pool guys and three-year-olds are clearly impervious to its perils and in they both went.
It was a beautiful day so I was standing outside holding my one-year-old and listening to the barrage of questions that Leo was firing at the pool guy: "Is that a spanner?" "Is that your tool bag?" "Did you know my dad sometimes locks me in here?"
Ummm ... what?
That's right. My son was telling a total stranger that sometimes, you know, just for kicks, his dad LOCKS HIM UNDER THE DECK WITH THE POOL MACHINERY.
Before anyone calls the authorities, I can assure you that I have spent many hours with both the accused and the alleged victim, and Leo's dad has a hard time keeping a straight face even while telling him off for breaking his favourite Star Wars figurine.
I mentioned the Pool Guy Incident to my friend and she said, "Yep. He's nearly four. That's when they start lying like rugs. It's hilarious. But also scary. Caitlyn told everyone at kindy I had a hairy penis." Another friend confessed she'd been called to the school because her daughter told her teacher that Mummy had chopped up her bed and had stopped giving her breakfast.
I must confess, I remember the first whopper I ever told. It was 1979 and I was playing at the Penrys' house at the end of the street. For some unknown reason, when Mrs Penry asked how I was I feigned sadness and told her my dad had died ... in the war.
Maybe I'd been watching too much Apocalypse Now, who knows? The strangest thing is that now, as an adult, I have no idea why those adults believed me. Sure there was a war going on between Vietnam and China, and the Cold War was yet to wind down, but 1979 wasn't a big year for Australian involvement in wars of any kind. And besides, they'd probably slowed down the Falcon and had a quick chat to Dad while he was mowing the lawn that very weekend. Why didn't they know I was lying?
Nevertheless, Mrs Penry turned up on our doorstep with a Corningware pot full of curried sausages and a message of condolence. I came to the door behind Mum just at the moment Mrs Penry was mouthing something mournful to her. The penny dropped as I realised what the curried snags meant. My immediate reaction was to bundle my things into a handkerchief, attach them to a stick and hit the road forever, hobo style.
But I had to face the music. Thank goodness my mother was sensible and realised I was four years old and just, well, lying my bottom off. I'm not sure Dad was even told about it. It might have hurt his feelings, actually...
Perhaps it's tales like these that prompted the story I heard recently about a local primary school slipping notes in the schoolbags of its pupils, cutting a deal with parents: "If you don't believe most of what your child says about school, we won't believe most of what they say about what goes on at home."
This article first appeared in Sunday Life.
Has your child ever told a whopper? Or did you, when you were little? Have your say in the comments below.