Kids have amazing imaginations. They can listen to a story and ask to see the pictures, even though there are no pictures to see, because their brains are constantly working out what it is they're seeing in the words. They're able to imagine things like a cross between Batman and SpongeBob Square Pants, which we'll call Squatman for our purposes, and they're able to imagine what they'd like for dinner instead of this nasty spaghetti squash, and they can efficiently imagine a better world without parents like us telling them to go to bed and put those LEGOs away and eat all their vegetables.
But sometimes their imaginations can come back to bite them. Say, when they're in trouble and they are locked in an erroneous belief system.
Here are some of the most ridiculous things that kids believe:
1. They'll never find out.
Every day, when I lay my twins down for naps, I post up a spot right outside their room, mostly because they cannot be trusted, even at 4 years old, to be in their room by themselves. Sure, we've cleared it of everything but beds and blankets and pillows, but I tried it out last week, that leaving them alone for nap time, because Husband and I were trying to design a book cover for a new book release, and they managed to pile their blankets and pillows on the floor of their closet, and, even though all the clothes are hung fifteen feet in the air, pulled down all their brother's 12-month clothes and tried to squeeze into every shirt.
What I've noticed about my twins is they believe that if I'm not in the room with them, I'll never know what they've done. If I so happen to leave my post for a minute, because I've finished a passage of the book I wanted to read and I'm going to get another one, they will sneak on silent feet out of their room and into their brothers' room. They won't even have the foresight to shut the door, so when I come back out, there they are standing by their oldest brother's desk, next to the forbidden art supplies he got for Christmas. They'll look at me like a deer in the headlights and go completely motionless, as if maybe I won't see them if they stand perfectly still.
Kids believe that if we're not right there with them, we'll never know what it is they've done. Well they're wrong. I know every time, kids. I know when you pee off the side of the van because you think it's a great idea; and I know when you've had a couple of extra treats, even if you round off that cookie so it looks like a mouse has nibbled the sides of it; and I know when you sit down and stand up and when you're awake and asleep. I'm like Santa Claus on steroids. I have eyes everywhere. So don't even think about it.
2. If I can't see you, you can't see me.
So many times this has happened: The twins are in their room, I'm sitting right outside their room, but I'm hidden behind the crib, and they can't see me. So they think that means I can't see them. I get a kick out of this, because they're usually headed into the bathroom to try to find another tube of that yummy mint toothpaste they ate this morning. I'll let them come all the way out, still oblivious to my presence, and when they're dead even with me, I'll call out their name. They'll startle and go screaming back to their room.
Gotta do what you gotta do. Natural consequences and all.
3. Even though we've done the same thing every night for the last six years of my life, tonight is probably different.
This is just ridiculously ridiculous. We run our house on a strict routine. Every single night we have dinner time and after-dinner-chores time and bath time and then story time and then mama-reading-a-chapter-book-out-loud time and then silent reading time and then prayer time and then snuggle time and then bed time. We've done this every single night since the oldest was born nine years ago. And still the boys seem to think that somewhere in there is a jump-on-the-couches-naked time and a play-freeze-tag-in-the-house time and a throw-books-in-the-air time. Nope. That's never been a part of the routine, kids. Get back in your chairs, open your books and read.
4. If I complain/scream/whine enough, I'll get exactly what I want.
You know what complaining/screaming/whining actually makes me want to do? It makes me want to take away anything I've ever given my kid in the first place (life being the exception. I don't want to take away their lives). Doing it longer or louder or more annoyingly is only going to guarantee that the crazy will come unleashed. And I can't be held responsible for whatever happens when the crazy is unleashed. Whoops. Sorry I just threw away all your LEGOs. You were complaining too much about how all your friends have the newest Minecraft set and how you really think, because you're so great at school and all, that you should be able to get the new one, too, and can I take you to the store right this minute so I can buy you the latest $90 set?
Whining/screaming/complaining doesn't work.
5. Making myself into a boneless puddle means they'll let me stay at the park longer.
"Let me stay at the park" could be replaced with anything a kid wants. It's just that the park experience happened more recently than anything else.
We get these crazy ideas sometimes, like, "Hey, let's a have a picnic out at the park so the boys can play after they're done eating." Which ends up more like, "Hey, let's have a picnic out at the park so we can drag one of the boys kicking and screaming away from the slide he wanted to go down one more time."
With six boys, it's highly probable that I'll have at least one of them who's not ready to leave the park when it's time to go home. It doesn't matter if we're going home to eat dinner or if we're going to another friend's house for a playdate or if we're doing something fun like seeing a movie and we're going to be late if we don't leave right this minute. They're not ready to leave, so they're going to collapse into a boneless puddle, at which time their daddy or I will drag them to the car, trying to ignore the way the asphalt is tearing at their jeans--not so much because we're concerned about scraping their knees (natural consequences and all) but because those jeans still have to make it through one more kid.
What turning into a boneless puddle really means is that I get to work on my strength training for a second time today, and, also, we're not coming to the park again for at least a year.
6. That's not going to hurt me.
There are so many times this comes into play when you're the parent of boys. But the one that sticks out most, right now, today, is when my boys are sliding head-first down our stairs, just for the fun of it. When the stairs snap into their rib cages, they shout their laughter, and they can't stop. It's the most hilarious thing ever, apparently, to have a rounded bit of wood jab into their internal organs and bruise them from the inside out. I watch this, horrified, from the bottom of the stairs. Someone is going to break something, but they are disturbingly unafraid. They have no idea how much it will hurt if this little slide goes wrong.
This erroneous thought also drives them to play bounce-wrestling games on the trampoline and ride bikes without helmets and soar down our cul-de-sac hill lying flat on a skateboard.
7. Vacuum cleaners can suck you up (or other crazy terrors).
When our oldest was little, around 3, he was scared of the vacuum cleaner. He would have nightmares and tell us all about them. In his nightmares, there was such thing as a vacuum cleaner that could suck up a person, and he was terrified that our vacuum cleaner would come into his room in the middle of the night and suck him up inside it. The vacuum cleaner could not be anywhere near his bedroom or he would spend twelve hours awake instead of sleeping. We could not turn it on without one parent being very near him so that he could clutch an arm or a leg or whatever appendage may be closest. Ear, eye, lips. Didn't matter. As long as he was assured someone was there protecting him.
I remember being more terrified of escalators than a vacuum cleaner, but maybe that's just proof that I need to get my kids out more.
Fortunately, as kids grow older, they give up these ridiculous beliefs. They learn better. They do better.
So maybe it's cute while it lasts. Or something like that.