Kids – the “mini-me’s” of every family. I had three – the oldest, a girl, was someone I could take with me without fear of embarrassment. She knew her manners and used them, and for the most part minded me. The middle, also a girl, was much like her mother in that she didn’t care where she was or who was around – if she was “in a mood”, everyone suffered. Taking her somewhere was always an adventure. I deemed her the “epitome of heaven or hell with no middle ground”. The third, a boy, was pretty much a cross between the two girls – I could usually take him places without repercussions, but he did have one unsavory trait, which is why I nicknamed him “the lyin’ king” – like the movie, but for a different reason. Perfect legal or political material.
Anyway, as Father’s Day came and went, I was thinking of the kids, and of the stories they’d told me over their childhood. And the one that really struck me as the best was from my oldest when she was about 4 years old. We were living in a first floor of a house – me, the ex, and the two girls (the boy wasn’t even a thought then). It was summer, a nice evening and I asked the ex if she’d like to take a walk around the yard. The 2 year old was in her playpen asleep and the 4 year old was watching tv – 15 minutes within calling distance shouldn’t be a big deal.
So we let the 4 year old know we’d be “right outside” and began to stroll around the house, taking in nature, the yard, you know, just talking. A little “grown-up” time. But when we came around to the back of the house, there, strewn across the lawn, was every towel, face cloth and anything else that had previously been in our bathroom. Now it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who did it, but I was more curious as to why.
So we went into the house and there, sitting in front of the tv as if nothing had happened, sat the 4 year old. I asked her to come with us and we went back out into the yard to show her what we’d found. She was a little antsy (she knew she’d been caught), but when I asked her if she did it, she replied “No.” Now, the ex was pretty worked up before we even got inside, but this denial almost put her over the edge. I signaled her to be patient and I continued – “Who do you think did it?” I asked the 4 year old – and I almost choked on her answer – “A Stranger.”
As a parent, keeping a straight face with kids can sometimes be impossible, and this time I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing out loud. You see, we’d been explaining to her about strangers – that there were a lot of people out there that may seem nice, but really weren’t. And since it wasn’t easy for a kid to figure out who-was-who, the rules that we lived by were that we never talked to strangers, or went near strangers, without Mommy or Daddy there beside us.
Well, this explained the “Stranger” piece, but I wanted to know why she’d done this. Was she angry? Was she trying to see what she could get away with? So I asked her what she meant by “a stranger” – and this is what she said – “I think a stranger came into our house, went into the bathroom, opened the window, threw everything outside, then crawled out through the window and shut it when they left.” When I asked her why a stranger would do something like that, she replied “I don’t know…”
At this point I have a huge hole in my lip and an angry ex to deal with, but the 4 year old? Well, I told her that if I ever found that stranger I’d spank their bottom for doing what they did. Did she do it? Of course she did. Could I punish her? Not at all. The story was well worth the clean up effort – and the fact that she described it with such conviction only showed that she truly had a child’s imagination (she got that from her Dad). And isn’t that what having children is all about?