A Lying Toddler

Elspeth & Fish, yesterday

For a little while now, Elspeth has been telling small lies – what I’d call fibs – about relatively harmless things. She’ll say she’s eaten all her dinner, for instance, in order to get dessert. But today she crossed a line.

We set up a fish tank yesterday, and bought some goldfish to go in it. We told Elspeth several times that she can look at the fish, but must never touch the tank or the pump, or put anything into the tank, or play with it in any way. Basically a “look, don’t touch” rule; it seemed safest for the fish.

Tonight, after finishing off my essay, I looked around for Elspeth, intending to change her nappy and start her bedtime routine. I found her standing in front of the fish tank, the surface of which was coated with fish food. She’d been ‘feeding the fish.’

Ok, now, I can understand forgetting something you’ve been told, especially when you’re not even three. But amidst stern explanations of how too much food can hurt the fish, and reminders of what we’d told her before, we included the question: “Did you put all that food in the tank?”

“No!” she said firmly, despite being caught with distinctly red hands!

It is upsetting and disappointing that she is figuring out so young that a lie may get her out of trouble. Obviously in this instance there was no chance of that; it was perfectly clear what had happened, and the lie stood no chance of being believed. But I’m sure it won’t be too long before she begins to figure out how to lie convincingly, stealthily.

For now, I am hoping that stern severity, disappointment on my behalf, and the deprivation of something she wants will teach her that lying is a bad thing. I put her to bed without reading her a story, without singing her a song, without talking to her about our day – all usual and enjoyable parts of bedtime. She just got changed and put right to bed. And she was told what she was missing out on, and why. One day, she may learn that I respect honesty more, no matter what the truth is.

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Random work of fiction

The knock on the door startled Amy. She’d been absorbed, playing with the baby on the floor in the sun. After ensuring the tiny girl was safe, she went to the door.

“Can I help you?” she asked politely, wondering idly what the guy was selling. Couldn’t be anything important, dressed as casually – even scruffily – as he was.

“Hello Amy,” he said, staring at her intently.

She was taken aback. “Yes,” she said hesitantly. “Do… do I know you?”

“You don’t recognise me?” The stranger seemed disappointed, but not very surprised.

Amy peered at the man, taking in each feature, considering carefully. It wouldn’t do to be tricked into thinking she knew him, if he was trying to perpetrate some scam. But finally, realisation dawned. He had changed a lot in the last decade, had aged poorly. He was overweight and red of face, where he had once been fit and handsome. But it was certainly him. “Paul?” An ex-boyfriend from a very long time ago.

“Yes!” he exclaimed triumphantly. “Hello.”

There was an awkward pause. “What do you want?” Amy asked finally.

Paul leaned towards her suddenly, making her recoil; up close he smelt of beer and sweat. “I want my daughter,” he snarled, viciousness coming out of nowhere.

Amy hesitated, unsure what he meant. “I didn’t know you had a daughter,” she told him at last. “Why are you here, at my house?” She thought perhaps re-phrasing the question might elicit a more helpful response.

“I am here for my daughter!”

“But your daughter doesn’t live here, Paul. This is my house. Are you alright?” It occurred to Amy suddenly that perhaps he was drunk, or confused. The smell of beer was quite strong.

“Your daughter,” he answered slowly and deliberately, as though speaking to a child, “is my daughter.”

All Amy could do was to stare at him, realising in horror that he was quite serious. “Do you mean my pre-schooler, Emily?”

“Yes!”

“Paul,” Amy explained, “Emily is four years old. I haven’t seen you in over ten years. She couldn’t possibly be your daughter.” He said nothing, so she continued to make it a question: “Could she?”

“Four years. Ten years. What’s the difference? She’s mine, and I want her!” Paul’s face turned even redder in his anger.

“Well, the difference is six years. Human gestation period is only forty weeks. What you’re suggesting simply isn’t possible, Paul.” Amy was trying to stay calm and rational, but even she could hear the tremor in her voice. He was much bigger than her, and even if he was drunk he could probably overpower her if he wished.

“Where is she?” he roared, paying no attention to Amy’s logic.

“She’s not here! Her dad has taken her shopping.” Too late, she realised what she’d said. Not only had she incensed him still further by mentioning her father, but she had also revealed that there was no man in the house; she was alone with a baby. Vulnerable.

“Where?” Paul demanded, stepping still closer.

“Paul, you need to leave,” Amy told him, trying to sound firm. “You really need to go. I think you might be sick. You need help, yeah? A doctor, or something.” She stepped back quickly, and wrenched the door closed between them. Paul grabbed hold of it, but fear lent her strength and she slammed it shut, catching his fingers and causing a yell of pain from the raging brute.

“You open that door right now, Amy! I’ll call the police!”

You’ll call the police?”

“I know every cop in town, bitch, I’ll have my daughter back!”

And then suddenly, silence. Amy paused, worried for what it might mean. She peeked out the window beside the door to see Paul disappearing around the corner – towards her back gate. She hurriedly locked the front door, then ran to the back to lock that too. She glanced at the baby, still lying happily and quietly on the floor. “Stay quiet, bubba boo,” she murmured. “I don’t think he knows about you. Stay safe.”

She took up position just inside the back door, out of the sight of any window, crouched quietly, waiting. The bang on the door, simultaneous with a yell, made her jump and she bit back a yelp of surprise and fear. There was no point pretending she wasn’t home, but maybe if she didn’t respond or show herself, he might get bored and go away.

The banging continued. “Well,” Amy muttered to herself and the baby, “I know where he is. He’s not going anywhere. I think it’s time to make some calls.”

Minutes later, sirens rang out in the distance, coming closer, getting louder. As the police cars pulled up out the front, the banging at the back stopped. Amy stuck her head out the front window and yelled, “Around the back!”

There was a scuffle. Some yelling. A police car pulling away with an angry face in the back. A very welcome bang on the front door from a man in blue. And it was over.

Quiet… for a while…

It’s a chilly Autumn morning in Melbourne. There’s scarcely a breath of wind. The heater is on, and besides the sound of hot air rushing through vents, my house is filled with silence. My husband sleeps, having worked the night shift last night. The baby enjoys her morning nap in utter stillness. Usually a toddler would be running around right now, talking and singing and making up words, but today even that noise is absent. She holidays with my parents.

I try to fill the space with study; I have an essay due at the end of the week, and this was partially the purpose of Elspeth’s holiday. To study, I need tea. The click of the kettle as it reaches the boil sounds ridiculously loud today. Even as I know that my husband can sleep through the usual baby and toddler sounds, I wonder if that little click disturbed his slumber.

I always get a feeling of triumph from actually drinking the first cup of tea I make in the morning. All too often it is forgotten, left to go tepid on the bench, as I attend to the various wants of my children. But today I get to drink it while it is still piping hot.

As I sip my expensive tea, and read about disastrous famines in Europe in the twelfth century, I wonder if I have enough gluten free bread left to make a nice cooked breakfast – poached eggs on toast, maybe.

But even as the thought enters my mind, the baby stirs. My peace is gone, obliterated, and I put my Mummy persona back on like a mask.

Who’s my beautiful girl, then? Did you have a nice nap? Oh yes, I think you did! Come to mummy!

I like tea

A small selection of the teas I own

A complete list of the varieties of tea I own:

English breakfast, Irish breakfast, Melbourne breakfast, Brisbane breakfast, Prince of Wales, Russian caravan, Earl Grey, Lady Grey, peppermint, white jasmine, French Earl Grey, white tea, green tea, green with jasmine, traditional afternoon tea.

A relieving anti-climax

People with long memories will recall that a couple of healthcare professionals have pointed out Evelyn’s small anterior fontanelle with some concern. Today, at last, we saw a paediatrician about it. She was a very nice lady, very friendly and competent, and inspired far more confidence than our regular GP. And she says she has no concerns at all about Evelyn’s fontanelle or her development in general. Everything is fine.

I know I’ve been Little Miss No-Blog lately; I’ve been quite busy and tired, what with the two kids and uni, but I promise I’ll be better.

One thing I do want to note excitedly is that I got my DLSR camera for my birthday! A Pentax K-r. Very happy.