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My 3-Year-Old Is a Fantastic Liar

Photograph by Getty Images

Lately, the lying here has gotten out of hand. When my 3-year-old daughter first started with her fibs a couple months ago, it was all bad cover-up jobs: Who drew on the wall? “It wasn’t me, “ she’d say calmly, crayon still in hand.

Back then, her attempts to fib were so bad they were funny. But recently she’s not only perfected her poker face, she’s gone full on pathological, lying about everything, even when she has little to gain from it. And here’s the rub: She’s really good at it.

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For example, she had a conversation with her father that contained not a single ounce of truth. I took her out to meet a friend of mine and her daughter for brunch at a newly opened bakery, but when we got back she told her dad we’d met her cousins for lunch at a Cuban restaurant. We had sat outside, she told him we ate inside. “What did you eat?” he asked. “Shrimp and rice,” she said, not missing a beat.

Mind you, she had a goatee of chocolate still on her face from the huge slap of toast covered in a rich nutella-esque spread that I’d let her eat at the café. It was only because of the evidence spread literally all over her face that my husband even sensed something was afoot.

Did she play with so-and-so like she said at school? Did she brush her teeth? Was Batman at ballet class?

Why the sham, kid? She didn’t need to cover anything up—I’d ordered her the chocolate toast (mainly because I wanted half), so she knew she didn’t need to conceal its consumption. Still, she lied through her tiny teeth about every aspect of our afternoon. Just for kicks, it seems.

I’ve long known she is an unreliable narrator, but since she’s taken on lying as a sport, I never know what to believe. Did she play with so-and-so like she said at school? Did she brush her teeth? Was Batman at ballet class? Now when she pees, she rushes in to tell me to come look at the “giant poop” she made. As I stand over the toilet and explain, once again, the difference between the two, she stands there smugly, like I’m the idiot in the room.

And I guess I am.

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Deception, it appears, is just an amusement—a play with reality that she can shape to her liking and get others to buy into. It makes sense she likes lying so much because she also loves magic tricks. I guess nothing feels better than pulling one over on all the know-it-all adults in her life—namely, her parents. Apparently, she sees her mother as one big sucker. As her mom, I’m a little bummed to be the punch line of the joke, but, as a writer, I applaud her ability to fabricate stories, stick with them and sell the hell out of them to others.

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