Ethan's a beautiful little boy, really. My mom noted yesterday that his hair, recently shorn to a summer length, can only be described as "minky." It's a light dirty blond, but the softly clipped edges around his forehead and neck take a silvery cast in morning and evening light. When he sings, which he's doing often these days, his little voice floats delicately straight to my pathetic, slobbering heart.
Remembering carrying him for 37 weeks, being together always, and then thinking of the crazy-miracle moment of giving birth...frankly doesn't do anything to change the fact that the kid's a despicable stinking liar.
Thrice he was told, and thrice he ignored. The rule around here is no picking green tomatoes. I'm willing to try the fried green variety, but I've never heard of fried green grape tomatoes. Or fried green pinky-fingernail-sized Roma tomatoes. So I told him, no picking green tomatoes.
There's an old adage about the letter of the law versus the spirit of the law, and by age three Ethan is already an expert at following the letter and ignoring the spirit.
He was playing out back while I worked in the kitchen. I peeked out every minute or so, and after a few minutes he had disappeared. I knew where to look. I peeked around to the other side of the deck, and found him standing beneath one of the towering grape tomato plants, reaching upward contemplatively, much like Eve must have approached the forbidden fruit.
"Ethan!" I shouted, as he plucked a barely orange grape tomato and hugged it to his chest. He shot me the cheesiest grin he could muster. "What are you doing?"
"Whaddya got in your hands?"
"I'm happy, Mommy."
"That's wonderful. What do you have in your hands?"
"Ethan, show me what's in your hands."
"I don't want you to see."
"What. Is. In. Your. Hands."
"Um, rocks." That's when he took off up the hill, with me in fast pursuit. He gave up when I was a few feet away (as most suspects do when the reality of defeat is imminent), slowly released his hands from what could have been a position of prayer in front of his heart, and guiltily revealed three not-quite-ripe grape tomatoes.
I set them in the windowsill and in a couple of days they'd finished ripening on their own. Although the outcome of this particular infraction was ultimately juicy and delicious, Ethan's lying remained rotten the whole way through.
He sat on timeout for three minutes for picking the tomatoes when he knew he shouldn't have. Kid felt the swift hand of justice, however, when after his timeout he was informed by me that he'd be spending the rest of the morning in his room. He could play, yes, and watch a video on the ancient TV/VCR in the corner (I mean, this isn't Guantanamo Bay or Singapore after all), but if he set so much as a toe across the open threshold of his bedroom door, the full force of the law would reign down upon him.
This was definitely the harshest punishment I've ever enforced, but third strike, amIright? And the lying! The bold-faced lying! I wondered if my punishment wasn't harsh enough (recalling a young Michelle Tanner singing "This is no fun, no fun, looking at the wall!" on Full House, the great moral authority of the early 90s). But he talked about it for the rest of the day. He told his daddy and his Nana and his Poppy. While he was by no means scarred, he definitely discerned the seriousness of the situation.
I'm still not sure if he truly "gets" what lying is, though. I mean, how do you explain the concept of lying without also talking about the equally cerebral and emotional concept of truth? In the end, I said that telling Mommy something he knew was the wrong thing was lying.
"And pickin' the 'matoes," he added gravely.