Monday, February 4, 2008

Third Eye Blind

When I picked up Maddy from preschool today (late, as per usual, meaning I had to go in and get her rather than the very convenient carpool line that I could have used had I gotten there in time) the preschool director stopped me and said, "Maddy did the funniest thing today. Show Mommy!" I had to close my eyes, and wait. When I opened my eyes, Maddy was standing there with a googly eye stuck to her nose. "Look Mommy! I have three eyes!" We all laughed and then the director said, "tell her what you told me!" Maddy closed her eyes and said, "now, even with my eyes closed, I can still see you!"

Indeed. Everybody knows, of course, it's the Mommies that have the third eye, proverbially located on the backs of their heads. ("All the better to see you do something I told you not to, m'dear.") But I have to say, sometimes being Mommy is a surefire way to totally miss things one ought to see.

With my first, she was honest to a fault. Even the thought of telling me something other than the truth, even if she desperately wished the truth to be otherwise, would result in a beet-red face and an outburst of tears. So I figured I was clearly a stellar parent to have raised such an honest and trustworthy young lady, and assumed that any future children would of course benefit from my superior method.

Needless to say, my second daughter decided not to subscribe to the method. A couple of Hannukahs ago, when Maddy was 2, I'd been noticing bags of chocolate gelt were mysteriously disappearing from my pantry stash. With a candy-addicted husband, this, in and of itself, was not terribly unusual, though Hannukah gelt was not his drug of choice. I casually asked Maddy if she'd been eating any, and the answer was an easy, confident denial. Abby also denied having any. A few hours later, I called for Maddy and she didn't answer. I called again, and after a moment, from behind the sofa, came a tentative and strangely muffled "yes?"

"What are you doing back there?"

I heard the distinct tinkle of metal foil. "nuffin," she claimed, again oddly muffled.

"Are you eating chocolate?"


Justly skeptical, I went back there and discovered my adorable, honest, and trustworthy little toddler with sticky chocolate fingers, and a sticky chocolate mouth, holding a bag of Hannukah gelt. She hadn't been able to rip the mesh bag open by herself, and so had opened the chocolates within the bag, and sucked the chocolate through the mesh. Worse, she was surrounded by three or four more bags, all empty except for the foil rounds. It was only now that Maddy had the self-respect to burst into tears, but the damage was done. I dragged her out, washed her off, and sent her to The Step.

Upon investigation, I discovered that the Hannukah gelt was only the latest in her quest for pirate booty. I found a treasure trove of Halloween relics: lollypop sticks, kit-kat wrappers, and ring-pop rings (stripped of their gems, of course) all stuffed into a toy bucket behind the sofa. And I had blithely assumed her to be as trustworthy as her sister. Never would I have deemed her capable of such subterfuge. I had effectively blinded myself to this less-than-admirable trait. Being a parent comes with the biological drive to see everything in the best light possible, even if the only way is to turn off the lights entirely.

Brian was secretly proud. She was smart, he proclaimed. Lying in children shows intelligence. Scant comfort. I just saw her, 20 years later, an incorrigible kleptomaniac, and me on the witness stand, "I never saw it coming."

No comments: