Animals Don’t Wear Pants... and They Don’t Lie

>> Tuesday, October 30, 2007


“Hey! Where are my pants?”

That’s Lizzy, suddenly discovering that the black bicycle shorts she wore under her dress are missing. We just picked her up from daycare.

“Are they in your cubby?”

“No.”

“Where are they?”

“I forgot.”

“Where did you take them off?”

“I forgot.”

Why do I have a sinking feeling this will not be the first time I hear these words?

“You don’t remember? Were you in the bathroom?”

“No.”

“Were you outside?”

“No.”

“Were you abducted by aliens who stole your pants?”

“What?”

“Elizabeth, you had to take them off somewhere. Try to remember.”

She stops. She thinks. She sobs. “I want my pants! They’re my f-favorite!”

“Honey, they must be at school somewhere. We’ll find them tomorrow.”

We arrive home and she retreats to her bedroom to sob into her pillow over the loss of her beloved pants. (Who among us hasn’t done the same?) Eventually she recovers and rejoins the family, only to suddenly remember her MIA pants and then run crying into her room again. Perhaps it’s the GAP ad on TV or when I say, “Oops, I spilled something on my pants.” Regardless, this scene repeats itself throughout the evening.

At one point she cries, “I’m worried. The w-w-wind and the rain will b-b-blow my pants awaaay!” This causes us to point out the many discarded items in our backyard that still remain, despite the hurricane-like winds and torrential rains we often experience here in San Diego. (Ahem.)

But wait -- the wind and rain? A clue!

“Honey,” I ask, trying to learn more. “Were you outside when you lost your pants?”

“Y-yes. In the Dora tent.” Now we’re getting somewhere.

“Annnnd...” I prod, “what were you doooing?”

“I was an animal. And animals don’t wear pants.”

Of course.

All of which would surprise me if this scenario wasn’t repeated at our home on a regular basis. After all, how often have we entertained guests at our house, only to have Elizabeth disappear and return completely naked and meowing like a cat. That animals don’t wear clothes is something we hear on a frequent basis.

Also, this isn’t her first pants-less transgression at school. A couple of weeks ago, Mr. Billy (her teacher), pulled us aside and told us (with a very grave expression) how Lizzy removed her pants in the school yard. “I told Elizabeth she needs to remove her pants in the bathroom. It’s not OK to do it outside,” he said. He nodded at us slowly, and we nodded back like we were supposed to. Yep, we all agree. We have issues.

I wanted to say, “But Mr. Billy, you don’t know what I’m dealing with. That’s nothing. You should see what she does at home. I mean, at least she’s still wearing underwear.” But I didn’t. I just kept nodding.

Later, Elizabeth walks into the living room with a worried, yet determined look on her face, as if she’s going to declare something important.

“Well,” she says. “Mr. Billy asked me today if I took off my pants again. And you know what I said? I said ‘no’.” Did you hear that, Mommy? I said ‘no’!

So this isn’t about losing her pants or an odd obsession to imitate animals accurately.

“Oh.” I say. “So you lied to Mr. Billy.”

“No. I... I just forgot.” Apparently animals don't lie, either.

I believe her.

So far she’s an honest little girl. Strangely honest. If we tell her she can only have two cookies and we forget how many she’s had, she’ll say she had “two” cookies -- because that’s how many she ate. Accuracy is very important to her, and since lying is by definition inaccurate, she finds it difficult to lie.

In Mr. Billy’s case, I think she was disturbed because she inadvertently lied. How terrible to lie without meaning to, simply because you forgot! That is the childlike innocence of four year-old Elizabeth (and certain presidents).

But the day may come when she sees the benefit of an occasional, planned lie -- when innocence gives way to perceived practicality. Gradually she’ll feel badly about her natural whims. Or, more accurately, she’ll realize that others feel badly about her whims and perhaps it would be less troublesome to say “I forgot” instead of “You bet I took off my pants!”

And when that day comes, then what? Should we match her lies with our own in a feeble attempt to manipulate her into telling the truth -- at least for a little while?

Honey, when you lie to your teachers, it makes Mommy’s tummy hurt. When you lie to your Mommy, a kitten’s eyes are plucked out with a hot poker and its tail thrown into the fire. So sweetie, you better not lie and you better keep your pants on. After all, we wouldn’t want anything to happen to the cat, now would we?

Because telling her that people may stop trusting her -- that won’t work, will it? She won’t understand if we tell her that lying robs her soul of self-respect, and that ultimately the only person you ever lie to is yourself. Will she? Hmmm...

“Lizzy, what are you doing on that chair?”

“I’m trying to unlock the front door so I can play with chalk in the driveway.”

Gah! Deep breath...

“Thank you for telling the truth, Lizzy. But if you leave and something bad happens to you -- like you get hurt -- we won’t know it. We won’t be able to help you. You’ll be outside, by yourself, in pain, and we won’t be able to help. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

“Do you promise you will never go outside again without telling us?”

“Yes.”

So far, she hasn’t. Of course, we keep our ears and eyes open because, you know, she could always forget. And as any successful politician knows, honesty and forgetfulness go hand-in-hand.

Whoa, I just had a light bulb moment.

A propensity to lose her pants... honesty combined with forgetfulness... Wow. Lizzy’s going to be the President some day! Lizzy for Prezizzle! (Is that the proper Snoop Dogg translation?)

Regardless, whether she’s the President of the United States or the Piggly Wiggly, she's my Lizzy and I'll do my best to follow her example of honesty (not forgetfulness). Because you never know, this honesty thing just might work -- with or without pants.

(We found the pants at school the next day. She hasn't worn them since.)




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