All’s Fair in Love and War?

This is a guest post by Andrea Wright, a stay at home mom with three kids. The other day I remembered an exchange between my then 2 ½ year old, Anna, and me. It was a beautiful Sunday morning in sunny Arizona. We had just finished a presidency meeting at my house. My kids and I walked my friends out to the porch where we said goodbye. As I turned to go back inside I was horrified to realize the door was locked. Hmmn, my husband was out of town, I was (fortunately) holding my newborn, and the afore-mentioned toddler was inside with the entire house at her unsupervised disposal. I felt a rising panic inside, but tried to remain calm. I pounded on the door, rang the door-bell, and yelled – all to no avail. A young man from my ward walked up wanting to collect fast-offerings. I had to tell him that I was currently locked out and assuming I ever got inside would pay at church.I walked to the back of my house where there were several big windows and a door, also locked. I could see Anna lying on her stomach, chin resting on her hands, casually perusing a book. When I knocked on the glass, she looked up at me and smiled impishly, then went back to her reading. I pounded on the door and started yelling that she better let me in. I tried every threat I could think of. She completely ignored all of it. Finally, an idea came to me. In a very nice tone I yelled that if she let me in I would give her a cream-saver (her favorite candy). She jumped up, ran to the door and unlocked it. I walked in and as she looked at me in eager anticipation for her treat, I said in a not so nice tone, "IF YOU THINK YOU ARE GETTING A CREAM-SAVER, YOU ARE SADLY MISTAKEN!" She was mad and I was glad. Ha, ha, ha, I had won. Then I realized that my opponent who I was feeling so smug about out-witting was 2. Then I was a little bit ashamed of myself for the lack of integrity I had just demonstrated to my daughter as well, but hey all’s fair in love and war and this was both. So, what do you think, are we ever justified in lying to our kids? Ever been out-smarted by your 2 year old?


Blogger Heather O. said...


about the lying--I usually just lie to Jacob when he asks questions about things I think he can't handle yet--like telling him the skeleton in a scene in "The Incredibles" is just a broken robot. He came up with the identification--I just let him go with it, instead of having to explain what exactly a skeleton is.

I do try to do what I tell my kid I'm going to do, though. The times that I have cheated him, or changed the plan, he's gotten very, very upset, and there's little I can do to calm him down except make good on the promise I gave him.

3/18/2005 01:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Andrea Wright said...

Heather, I totally agree with you in the importance of doing what we say we will, that's why this isn't my proudest parenting moment. I offered the candy out of sheer desparation to get into my house and once I finally got in I just couldn't stand to reward her her behavior. So, I'm still not sure what I should have done because had I given it to her along with a negative consequence it felt like mixed signals, especially at her age. You'd think I'd have somethings figured out by now :)

3/18/2005 02:35:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

I'm not sure what the best thing to have done is, either. There is the possibility, however, that she didn't let you in because she may not have understood that you were locked out, and couldn't get in by yourself. Then when you offered her candy, well, all right, if mom's going to give me candy, then I'll open the door for her. I find that I often assume that my child can understand a concept that seems fairly obvious to me, only to find out that it's way beyond him. I've also discovered that some things that I treat as not that big a deal can be very important to him. I think one reason we get so frustrated with our kids sometimes is we forget to look at the world through their eyes, with their limited understanding, and expect them to function on a more adult level than they are capable of.

That said, I have also many times underestimated my child's understanding, and it's also possible that your daughter really was just having a bit of fun at your expense!

3/18/2005 04:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Mary said...

I just had to chuckle at the image of your daughter reading a book with her chin in her hands, and looking up to smile at you. What a stinker! I could see myself doing the same thing as you - feeling vindicated and then no being proud of it! It reminds me of my friend having to cheat to beat her genious 8-year-old nephew at a trivia game. Sometimes adults just need to out-whit the kids....hahaha

3/18/2005 11:24:00 PM  
Blogger annegb said...

Yes, this made me laugh, too. I would remind her of it often, if I were (was?) you. My daughter sometimes thinks I am evil.

I have made a lot of mistakes in parenting (you girls are so far ahead of me, honestly, you are doing good jobs), but I don't fault myself for this type of human-ness.

April fools is a scary day around here.

Yesterday I took my 18 year old daughter to breakfast. She's my baby. She is having a tough time deciding if she should marry, long story, and she is underwhelmed with my advice and my actions. I have discussed my concern with my best friends. I don't regret that, but I also understand and sympathize with her chagrin.

She was talking and I said something sort of oh, human and stupid, and she said, "You know, Mom, all the girls in young womens thought you were the coolest woman in the ward." Well, that is really high praise. But I know it's because I'm almost as stupid as they are. I drink pepsi and I let my daughter wear a beautiful dress that wasn't the most modest. I also cuss and be myself, I guess. Geez, you guys would be scared to have me teach your kids.

One story that my daughter laughs about a lot, is when we were fighting over the remote and I grabbed her boob to get her to let it go. Now, that sounds like abuse, but it sure worked. Now the threat, "I'll grab your boob" goes both ways in this house.

But you know, laugh a little, be human, perfectionism is a sin, in my book. Lighten up. I know that my dead son's friends did not like me, for that child, I did not laugh so much. I questioned and I lived in fear of not being a perfect mom, and I erred while obeying every letter of the law. Does that make sense?

3/19/2005 10:40:00 AM  
Blogger annegb said...

Oh, you know what you could have done, and maybe in the future you could do this, is give her the cream saver (keep your promise), then level some sort of consequence, like put her in her room. I would give a swat on the bum, but maybe you don't use violence. She really can't be locking you out of the house.

3/19/2005 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Bell said...

I agree with Annegb-- it seems like fulfilling your promise but also punishing her would walk the line in the right way. But then she'd still end up with mixed signals, even though you did everything with detailed observance to your commitments. Hard to know what kinds of complex signals a kid is picking up, and sometimes it might all just end up coming through as: mom is so weird. Remembering all the times I thought that, I'm sure that conclusion is pretty inevitable some of the time.

3/21/2005 09:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Andrea Wright said...

Heather, you make a good point that often we project adult reasoning on our kids. This particular child of mine went through an entire lock-out phase and understood full well that she wasn't supposed to, and that I was at her mercy.

Mary, she was a stinker -- an adorable one. Never a dull moment. I was often half terrified and half proud at at her creativity and audacity. I'm happy to report that she is now a very sweet 6 year old.

Anne, I'm very grateful I had never heard of your unique method of getting your daughter to give you the remote. :)

Ryan, our mom really was weird. :) I agree with you and Anne and Heather that I should have stayed true to my word. I think that was the last time I ever reneged on a deal with any of my children.

3/21/2005 11:42:00 AM  
Blogger annegb said...

Well, it sounds worse on paper. We were really laughing the whole time. Plus she is 4 inches taller than me. It was a fair fight. :)

Now she sort of proudly tells her friends not to take the remote from her mom because she fights dirty. I am the goofball mom. I don't do it on purpose. I would like to be the Molly Mormon mom, but that sort of flew out the window with a lot of other pipe dreams.

I don't try to be their friend, it just happens. Which is sort of dismaying at my age that many of my best friends are in their 20's, but I try not to think about it that way. Senility has its virtues.

3/22/2005 10:26:00 AM  
Blogger Ana said...

My Samuel locked us out when he was two. My dear husband (who really is a smart and reasonable man most of the time) "knocked" so hard on the window trying to get Sam's attention that he broke it. I finally got the new windows I had been wanting in that house for a couple of years. hahahahaha ...

3/22/2005 11:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Andrea Wright said...

Anne, you crack me up. I'm not surprised at all that young people find you fun to be around. I am often kind of old fogeyish and I'm not very old, so I admire people like you.

Ana, sounds like Samuel was really trying to help you after all. :) I love 2 year olds and their antics. It's funny what normally rational mellow people will do in the heat of "battle". I love to hear the things my husband threatens sometimes i.e. "I'm throwing all your toys away!".

3/22/2005 03:26:00 PM  

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