Tots Tell Tall Tales

My youngest brother Chris was quite the story teller.  At the age of 3 his day care teacher had to consult with mom “perhaps you should have another talk with Chris, he has been telling the class “mystep-father is dead but that’s okay because I have my daddy.”  The word lie was considered a harsh and ugly word in my childhood home, the word fib was the appropriate title for these shenanigans.  Chris was the true teller of ‘fibs’, when anything went wrong in the household he blamed the poor household german shepherd.  Broken sentimental item?  “Duke did it.”  A huge mess of toys in the middle of the floor, “Duke did it”.  He came home one day without his jacket and told us the mystical tale of how “it just flew away”.  Mom had already had her share of tall tales a couple of years before when my other brother, Chase, was in kindergarten.  Mom was called in for a special parent-teacher conference.  Chase had been telling terrible tales that did not shine my mother or his teacher, in a very positive light.  The teacher being incredibly familiar with such young mentalities sat mom down and said, “I’ll make you a deal this year, I won’t believe anything he says about you here if you just not believe anything he says about me at home.”

5 Reasons Toddlers ‘Fib’

  • Dream vs. Reality-  At such a young perception it is difficult sometimes to still perceive the difference between their dreams and their reality.  I can still remember being adamantly convinced that I was run over by a car in the Gerland’s parking lot when my grandmother’s back was turned.  There was even a two centimeter scratch that was lay on my palm that had to be from the incident.  I would argue with my grandmother until I was blue in the face, “Don’t you remember when the car drove over me?!”  In reality, as an adult, I still don’t remember it as a dream, but I do know, logically, there was no way this story could be possibly true.
  • TV vs. Reality-  Sometimes what a young toddler sees on television can be mistaken for reality.  A lack of understanding of concepts and perceiving their own reality from it.  My grandfather suffered from Alzheimer’s at the very end of his journey.  His mind had returned to the fresh new slate of a child.  Mom picked him up for a Doctor’s appointment and he was incredibly nervous, he then opened up to the doctor that he believe he had molested a child.  Much like Chase in kindergarten mom was filled with a shock and embarrassment, “Dad, that is not true!”  The doctor only chuckled and said, “Do you watch Law & Order?”  Mom nodded for her father and the doctor offered reassurance that he didn’t honestly believe her incredibly religious and kind father was a pedophile,  “Alzheimer patients come in all the time telling similar tales from watching those marathons all day long.”
  • Unable to Understand the Full Picture-  Life happens, we can’t always protect our children from all that may scare them despite our attempts, life is not all full of rainbows and we are not always prepared for the downfalls.  Chris was only an infant when dad had died, he actually had no clue that our step-dad was not indeed his real father, and why should he need to at three?  Chase at the incredibly young age of eight was filled with rage during one of their very common brotherly spats, and in response to Chris explaining that he was going to tell ‘dad’ poor Chase mistakenly lashed out before he could think, “your dad is dead, David is your step-dad”.  Chris was too young to really process the severity of these words, too young to really recognize the difference in terms.  He was perplexed, and when a toddler is processing new and very earth rattling ideas they will repeat in the best way they can for reassurance sake.
  • And the Obvious Avoidance-  They also tell tales to protect their behinds.  Their is nothing more traumatic than disappointing a parent as a toddler, there is nothing quite as horrible than the two people you love the most becoming mad with you.  What toddler doesn’t point the finger to imaginary friends, siblings, or sometimes the other parent in efforts to push the harsh light off of themselves?
  • To Gain Approval- There is nothing a toddler needs more psychologically than the acceptance of their mother and father.  My sister Keri has two children with her ex-husband who have been traded between the two homes for a few years at this point.  In response to some questions or concerns I had about my precious stepson ‘B’ she responded with something I really wasn’t as prepared to hear as I thought I would be.  “They will tell you anything they think you want to hear.  They will profess their undying love for me and their disinterest in their father when they are at my house, and then turn around and say the same thing in light to their father when they are there.  I wish they felt they could just be honest, I don’t need them to love me more.”

What does this mean to me as a part of a “Split” Home?

Take a moment before calling your lawyers when your 5 year old tells terrible stories about their step-parents or parents at the other house.  If there is true concern it is fine to present the story to the other household without being accusatory.  It is difficult as a step-mom to watch my husband bud with delight as little ‘B’ tells him that he is happiest at our house and never wants to return home, but then ‘B’ crawls in my lap to tell me of his homesickness for mommy.  Of course he does, that’s mommy and that is just expected.  At his other home he talks to his mommy about how much he misses his daddy, but of course he does, that’s a boy’s dad.  But he sees the very apparent light that dawns on his dad’s face when he says he wants to stay with us forever; so around daddy that is just the story we tend to stick to.

We have also heard some incredibly terrible tales as told by ‘B’ about his stepfather.  (We have never met in person, despite my extreme urges to do so on one of the exchanges, it’s just too hard for the parents and I guess in the end it is not my place to get into their personal struggles.)  In B’s tales his stepfather is incredibly cruel and terribly mean, and I just nod and chuckle to myself, thinking back to my brothers.  Nothing B suggests is any sort of physical abuse, and his body exhibits no bruises.  It’s situations that any adult would find unjust, and B turns it into the traumatic situation that he perceives it to be at such a young age.  “He just threw away all my toys in the trash one day, just came in and threw them all away!”  Josh was outraged at the news as I calmed him quickly, “Josh, don’t believe all of what a toddler says.”  Upon further innocent inquiries during our private Colorado Chronicles chats the truth may have slipped out that maybe possibly it was just a toy or two, and maybe possibly it was that his poor stepfather had urged him again and again and again to pick up his toys in the common areas of the house, a problem ‘B’ (and any toddler) is infamous for in our household.  I have hung a Target sack on his door before telling him what my mom would tell me, “if anything is left on the floor, that’s okay, I can just donate it to another little boy or girl who doesn’t have as many toys.”  ‘B’ has a very big, sensitive heart but when it comes to his toys nothing does the trick quite like that.  I have never in my life ever actually done it, but to be honest with a warning he has never given me cause to.  I can only imagine the tales he tells his mom about my cruelty.  Luckily, or hopefully, she is just as wise to know that in the end, despite our personal differences, I do love our ‘B’ and would never hurt him.  I have reached out to her several times in the past to assure her of that, knowing these days were ahead of us, the days of the tall tales.

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