The Lying Game

All children lie.

Maybe not all the time. Maybe not maliciously. It can be as ridiculous as a 4-year-old exclaiming that a purple dragon stole their broccoli. Or it can be a 16-year-old claiming to spend the night with a friend when they’re actually going to hit that party that you just “have to be at!”

At my house yesterday, it was about YouTube.

My oldest son, the most responsible child and the one I trust the most, lied to me. And it stung. Probably more than it should have.

…because I trusted him too much and gave him responsibility. And maybe acted like he was a little adult when he’s actually just a 10-year-old kid. My expectations of him may be a little high.


I’ve tried to be a good Mommy–the perfect parent–by following my pediatrician’s guidelines for 2 hours or less of screen time daily (aka, video games, TV, all the things that my child lives for). And when I noticed my kids throwing tantrums and being ungrateful when it was time to turn games off or when we had to go somewhere during their screen time, I decided it was time for a break.

I declared that the month of June would be Video Game Vacation. As a family, we sat at the table and discussed their behavior and what Video Game Vacation entailed. We also made a list of fun things we could do as a family. This was not to be a punishment, but a bonding time: however, I did compromise and allowed the kids to watch Netflix and Hulu during screen time from 6 to 8, but there would be no video games or YouTube.

Why no YouTube? Well, if you have a kid school aged, you surely know already. YouTube is a way for kids to play games without actually playing games. It seems like everyone and their brother has a YouTube channel where they do video game play throughs or video game analysis or video game reviews, etc., etc., etc…..

I was relieved to have it gone, honestly, even if it was only temporarily. My kids have become so accustomed to hearing YouTubers narrate and criticize, that they actually narrate and criticize their own games. In writing, this sounds like it would be adorable, but the reality is this, “Oh man! Why is that guy here?! He’s so stupid! I hate that guy! Get out of here, man! Stupid! I’m going to blow your brains out!”

Adorable level 0. Disturbing level 100.

With that said, I didn’t want to isolate my kids or turn them into social outcasts. I wanted to find middle ground. I thought Video Game Vacation was a good way to reset their behaviors and teach them gratitude to have that privilege.

What does this have to do with lying?

Well, TheWiseOne has a tablet that we allowed him to keep to read books during Video Game Vacation. Not only is he a voracious reader, but an incredibly gifted reader! And, gosh, isn’t reading good for children? Shouldn’t they be allowed to read as much as they want? When TheWiseOne started spending hours in his room reading, I patted myself on the back.

He’ll be so smart! His teachers will be so proud in the Fall! He’ll be so academically advanced that the colleges will be busting down the door.

Well, not exactly, but I still felt like I was being a good parent. And it seemed only natural that he would want the door closed. After all, he’s maturing and desiring privacy. This is just a step toward teenage-dom.

Unfortunately, I have a delayed Mommy-sense, and it took to almost the end of June for my sensor to go off.

Why does he really want the door closed?

I felt guilty as I knocked on the door yesterday, but I had to ask.

Me: “Whatcha doing?”

TheWiseOne: *lying on the floor with tablet next to him… suspiciously shut off* “Nothing.”

Me: “No, really. What are you doing?”

TheWiseOne: “Reading.”

Me: *feeling like an interrogator* “What are you reading?”

TheWiseOne: *doesn’t miss a beat* “Harry Potter.” (I’ve been pushing him to read this, and he knows that’s what I want to hear.)

Me: *Mommy-sense is tingling strong now* “What page are you on?”

TheWiseOne: “I don’t know.”

Me: “Check.”

TheWiseOne: *starts to turn on tablet, but turns it away from me so I can’t see the screen*

Me: *Mommy-sense is screaming ‘Alert! Alert! RED ALERT!’* “Turn it so I can see it as you turn it on.”

TheWiseOne: “Okay, you caught me red handed.”

Me: “What were you really doing?”

TheWiseOne: “Watching YouTube.”

At this point, I’m shocked. I’m not angry. I’m just shocked. He defied me. He lied to me. My oldest. My good boy. My Boy Scout. How long has this been going on? After further interrogation, I find out it’s been happening for a while. Checking the YouTube watch history on my account only infuriates me.

Is YouTube so important to my kids that they would defy me and lie about it? Am I overreacting? Probably. Because I’m angry. And I’m hurt. And I’m taking the offense as a personal affront.

I take his tablet away and have to wait for TheBaldEagle to come home before we can rationally decide on a punishment. My reaction to the offense is crucial. I have to teach him the value of honesty without overreacting because I’m hurt.

Children will make you proud. And they will disappoint you, too. Because they’re human. If I were in his shoes, would I have decided to watch YouTube? Would I have resisted the temptation? Probably not. I can’t even resist a donut.

So, I go outside and pick a beautiful flower.

Me: “What is this?”

TheWiseOne: “A flower.”

Me: “No, this is my trust in you. It’s beautiful. It took time to grow. It’s delicate. And you earned it.”

TheWiseOne: *looks leery*

Me: *having a here’s-your-brain-on-drugs moment* “Here’s what happens when you lie to me.”

I destroy the flower. I pull a petal off one by one until there’s nothing left.

Me: “It’s dead. You killed it.”

TheWiseOne: *cries*

Me: (I feel bad that I made him cry. I might have been overly dramatic, but I want him to realize the importance of honesty.) “Can it grow back?”

TheWiseOne: “Yes.”

Me: “Yes, it can. Just like flowers return in the Spring. But it takes time. You have to earn it again.”

K-girl starts playing with the flower petals of trust, ending my touching mother-son moment.

I don’t expect my son to tell me everything. The teen years are around the corner and pulling away from your parents is an important part of maturing.

But I do expect honesty.

I think we both learned something from this experience. TheWiseOne learned that his mistakes make great blogging material.

And I learned to block YouTube.