Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Lying Conundrum

My 11-year-old son lied to me this morning.

Spencer came downstairs for school, wearing his school patrol belt. Only - it wasn't really HIS belt. This belt was stretched so tight around Spencer's belly that he had to suck in his gut to get it latched. Spencer didn't say anything about it, but it was so blatantly noticable that I had to say something.

"What's wrong with your patrol belt?"
"Let me adjust it for you."
"No, Dad. It's OK!"
"Did you lose your belt?"
"You spent all winter wearing that belt over your heavy coat, and now you can't wear it over a T-shirt?"

At this point, Mom came downstairs and set the record straight. Spencer had indeed lost his belt last week, and the Patrol manager at school had given him a loaner. Robin knew this, because she's a teacher at Spencer's school, and she knows everything that goes on with him.

So at this point, I'm pissed. I'm pissed, of course, because he lied to me. No one wants to think that their kids are capable of deceit, but they certainly are, and I'm not going to beat myself up thinking I've been a terrible parent because this happened.

But I must admit, I'm perhaps even more pissed because his lie was a stupid one. If he had told me the truth, I wouldn't have been upset or even gotten angry. Spencer would lose his head if it wasn't attached to his neck, and he'll probably always be that way. But the fact that his Mom knew the truth, and he knew she knew the truth means he really wasted a lie on a lost cause. And that's just stupid.

Spencer is terrible at lying - perhaps because he is so gullible himself. He never did figure out the truth about the greatest lie of all - Santa Claus. I had to break the news to him just before Christmas when he was close to turning 10. I did it because I feared that he'd become a laughingstock at school, because he still so clearly believed. The fantasy aspects of the Santa Claus legend simply never occured to him.

I should mention at this point, for the sake of full disclosure, that Spencer has Asperger's Syndrome, a mild form of autism that makes it challenging for him to interpret social cues - to read faces for proper expression, or to sense how to act appropriately in certain social situations. I don't offer this as an excuse, because we believe that Spencer has to learn to live in the real world, and the world is not going to pause to learn how to live in his private Idaho.

The fact is that Spencer is never going to be a great liar. That's probably a good thing, because honesty is the best policy. However, I do worry for my son. Someday, when he really needs to conjure up a good Whopper, I fear his efforts will fall flat. I'm not about to start giving him fibbing lessons.

But I'd be lying if I said it didn't cross my mind!

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