On Saturday Hannah built an enormous snowman. Bigger than any that she had ever built. Then she came inside and had hot chocolate with HUNDREDS of marshmallows. After she finished her delicious hot chocolate (that she made all by herself by the way) she played “roll the ball” with Luke where she taught him to push the ball back to her, in between her legs. If it went between her legs he got a point, if it didn’t, he lost a point. She won that game but he was getting better the more he played. Later in the afternoon, she played Candy Land with Tim and me. She won six times in a row.
Sounds like a fun day for a five year old, doesn’t it?
None Of It Actually Happened.
When her babysitter asked her Saturday night what she did that day, this fabrication is what came out of her mouth! In reality, Hannah was sick. She stayed in her pajamas the entire day and moved from the couch to the floor all day to draw or play with her My Little Pet Shop. And that’s it.
This is not the first “story” Hannah has told recently. She tells me little stories all day that I know aren’t true but when I ask her if they really happened she says, “Yes Mommy! For Real! It really happened!” So I let it go. Her stories don’t hurt anyone. They aren’t malicious or mean spirited. I wouldn’t go so far as saying she’s “lying” but she certainly is telling some Tall Tales.
What to do. What to do.
I have always encouraged Hannah to use her imagination. We put on puppet shows. We play doctor, diner, teacher, mommy, veterinary hospital and pet shop. She sits for HOURS with her dolls and plastic toys making up stories. She sits in her room with her books and the words she can’t read, she makes up, to become the story she wants it to be. And now, the stories have creeped into her own life. And it makes me wonder (go figure).
I can’t help but think that the stories she tells are a reflection of what she wishes was going on in her life. I’m sure she WISHES she had been able to go outside and build a fantastic snowman instead of being sick inside. Maybe she is looking forward to teaching Luke little games like roll the ball. How do I encourage her to TELL me these “dreams” instead of pretending they happened and telling other people they did? How do I teach her that stories are wonderful to create but when it comes to her, she needs to be truthful? Where do I draw the line?
I’ve tried to communicate that it isn’t necessary to make up stories. That she can feel safe with the truth. Some of the fibs she tells are more along the lines of denying having done something that I am certain she’s done. Teaching Luke to burp for instance. I’ve asked her not to, but she finds it hilarious so she does it against my wishes. I’ll hear him burp from the kitchen and I’ll ask her if she told him to do it. “Oh no mommy! I told him to moo like a cow but he doesn’t understand moo like a cow, so he burped. I bet if I ask him to moo again, he’ll burp so you can see that he’s confused between mooing and burping.” See, she doesn’t just deny… she makes up an elaborate story to go along with it. I pry over and over to get her to be honest with me. I tell her I won’t be upset if she tells me the truth, that she’ll feel so much better having said what actually happened, but she knows I’ll be disappointed. So she clams up and sticks to her story. A few times she’ll come to me an hour after the story was told and says she just “remembered” that, oh yes, she had told him to burp. She was just “confused”. And I hug her and tell her I’m so proud of her for telling me the truth in hopes that she’ll keep it up.
But I don’t want to hinder her imagination. I want her to know the right places to weave these stories into life. I want her to know when it’s wrong, where the line needs to be drawn. She’s five. I’m not worried about cheating and plagiarizing and other forms of lying (yet). I just want to trust her. I don’t want to fear the stories she tells at school about what goes on at home. She’s already gotten one of her grandmothers in trouble for telling me that “Grandma put makeup on my cheeks and lips before we went out because she said you ALWAYS have to wear a little makeup for special occasions”. I was furious. I’m glad I found the strength to bring it up with Grandma because I found out sweet Hannah had made up the story. Grandma hadn’t said that. And Hannah hadn’t worn any makeup. Yikes.
I’m sure there’s no clear cut answer here. When to stop the stories from being told. How to prevent the stories from growing out of control. It’s normal, I know. All little kids want things to sound bigger, better, more exciting. They want to be the best, the strongest, the most experienced. But there has to be a limit. A stopping point. Where stories can be told, but with more fact than fiction.