The Impster and I are discussing notable points in the school day.
‘Rupert was running in the corridor again so I told Mrs Roach,’ she says.*
‘What? You mean you told on him?’
‘Yes, we're not allowed to run in the corridor. Those are the rules.’
Tricky lesson number three: always tell the truth, but never dob in your mates.
Unless you're two.
'I'm afraid he’s in the accident book again today,' one of the nursery staff says when I arrive to collect the Boo.
The Boo is always in the accident book.
'Nevermind,' I say, signing the book.
'Got bitten by another child,' they whisper, preserving anonymity at all costs.
'Duncan did it,' he pipes up.*
It is impossible for a two year old to lie. The part of the brain that understands lying simply hasn’t developed. A four year old on the other hand can happily tell you a bare-faced lie. So in our house at the moment we keep replaying variations on a theme:
The Boo: Waaaaaa! She did it.
The Impster: No I didn't. He hit himself over the head, silly billy bumpkin.
Me: Of course he didn’t. Don’t lie!
Sometimes I bother with the naughty step; other times I just let him get on with it and biff her back over the head. I always know if he’s the culprit because the Impster will wail with righteous indignation, ‘I didn’t deserve that!’ It’s perfectly obvious that at all other times she does.
There is a stage in childhood development called Machiavellian intelligence, which kicks in around about the time children start school. They suddenly begin to grasp the power of a convincing lie and how to make it sound as believable as possible, but they still have a wobbly moral compass.
Thankfully the Impster is an extremely poor liar, and folds quickly under interrogation. She looks to me to pull rank, to settle quarrels and dispense justice, and is never more infuriated than when I simply choose to turn a blind eye. I wonder if this is what is meant by exemplary parenting?
* Real names have been tactfully omitted