Click here for shortcuts to regional language blogs and city-specific events.
The fuzzy line between imaginative and deceptive makes a mama's job complicated. But then again, easy is highly overrated :)
I am having some trouble with my daughter. She does not see the importance of reality. It is totally incidental to her. It is just one of many possibilities. Her descriptions of events, start off in reality, edge towards tall tales, crawl in to the realms of fiction and finally dance in an exaggerated fantasy.
Sometimes it seems like she herself believes every version and very possibly she does. I mean we all deceive ourselves about something or the other. Me, I like to think I can sing. Okay so my delusions thankfully desert me when I am in public, but in the shower or when I am alone at home, I sometimes wonder if I can really sing and may be I just do it badly when other people are watching. You know, how in quantum mechanics, reality is observer dependent?
Anyway, back to my daughter. We often encourage her to make up stories at family play time. I personally write children's stories. She has been helping me edit them, for a long time by listening to them and providing feed back through her interest level during various parts of the stories.
About 6 months ago she stared contributing more actively to the stories I write, with her own ideas. She would start out with a really simple idea based on a recent experience. I would encourage her to build on it. In this way she inspired the story in Tania Makes Trouble. She also tries to come up with ideas for the Toast stories, which are simpler. This was all so good.
Off late, I have found when I ask her about her school day, I get exaggerated tales about the happenings in school. Sometimes they are amusing and usually fairly harmless.
But recently I faced a conundrum. My daughter said a certain X had been pinching her several times, for a couple of days. These things happen in a Nursery class and the teacher usually separates the two children and things work out. So I informed the teacher of my daughter's complaint. That afternoon, after school, I asked my daughter if the issue was resolved.
She said “Yes teacher talked to X.”
“So she stopped pinching you?”
Just to make conversation on the way home I asked “Did X say sorry?”
“Oh. Never mind. At least she did not pinch you again.”
“She pinched me again.”
“She did? I thought you said she stopped.”
“Teacher told her not to pinch. She made her sit next to Y. But then she came back and pinched me. She does not listen to teacher.”
“And what did teacher say?
“Teacher did not see.”
“Did you tell teacher?”
“Then what did teacher say?”
“Ignore her. Let it be.”
Now I was puzzled. I went through the same set of questions again just to make sense of the thing. This time she said X pinched her during the National Anthem and X pinches everyone in class and a few other details were different too.
I asked, “Should I talk to the teacher and tell her that X is still pinching you?”
“But earlier today you said she wasn't pinching you. Why did you say that? ”
“Just like that.”
“But if you say that she did not pinch you and later you say she pinched you, it is difficult for me to know which is true.”
“Why? The truth is she pinched me.”
“I need to know the truth because that is the only way I can help you out with your problem. I need to be able to explain to your teacher what problem you are having.”
So she told me yet another version of the day's events. Sigh!
It seemed like she was telling me a story. She had an idea that might have been based in reality and she was building on it. This was something we had praised her for before. So she could not see what the problem was. She could not see why reality mattered.
To help figure out what was going on, I asked her papa to ask her about the pinching issue casually a few hours later. May be she would be out of the story telling mode by then and may be, if someone other than me asked she would tell what really happened. It was worth a try. This time her story was that, X pinched her and she told the teacher and then teacher scolded X so X beat up the teacher. She was very pleased with herself after this narration. But she insisted I talk to the teacher so X would stop pinching her.
I was at a loss. I don't want my daughter to think I don't take her seriously. I want her to feel comfortable, confiding in me. I also want her to be imaginative and exercise her creativity in make-believe. But this situation was a puzzle. Finally I told the teacher that my daughter claims that X is still pinching her, but I was fuzzy on the details and I could be wrong . I added that it would be nice if the teacher could just keep an eye on them.
I don't know how I am going to deal with this in future but I guess it is going to have to be on a case by case basis.
The thing is these are not malicious lies, and I don't want to label them such. It is a lot like, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. Yet if action is needed from me, then I would like to have an idea of what really happened. Conundrum, conundrum.
What about you mothers out there? Have you had similar experiences? How did you deal with them? How did you coax out reality or work around it?