My daughter eyed the Lifesaver in her hand. So shiny. So delicious.
"Momma, can I eat this candy?"
"No, sweetie. Maybe after dinner."
She trudged upstairs to her room to look at some books. Ominously, she closed her door.
My wife went upstairs a little while later to check in. She came back down and reported that our daughter was acting strangely. She wouldn't let my wife kiss her and refused to look my wife in the eye.
"I think she ate the candy."
I laughed. Our daughter is only five years old and doesn't really know how to lie yet. Further investigation was required. I went up to her room, knocked, and entered.
"Baby, did you eat that candy?" I gently asked, lowering my head a bit to see straight into her eyes.
"No." she answered flatly, meeting my gaze calmly.
This is new. That answer came out of her mouth way too smoothly for someone who stank of sweet fruity goodness.
"So, where is the candy?"
"I don't know. Maybe it's lost."
Dang! She's unflappable. This is NOT my child! My daughter cracks under the slightest interrogation. Deceit is alien to her! This was a troubling development for my good little girl. I blame other children and the public school system and TV. Anyone but me.
I looked her dead in the eye. "Honey, did you eat the candy?"
She paused, looked down, and sloooooowly dropped her head. It took about 10 full seconds for her head to travel from the normal level position to the shamed, head-down position. Once her head was fully hanging low, the mournful tears began.
"Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!! I just waaaaaaaaaaaaaaah really wanted....waaaaaaaaaah! I'm waaaaaah sorry!"
Ah, there was the guilty reaction I was expecting. There's the remorse welling up inside her. I awkwardly snuggled up to her and put my arms around her sobbing little body. I told her that I loved her. I also realized that I was going to have to come up with some sort of disciplinary action. This felt strange. I gave her a little squeeze and pulled away.
"Sweetie, you weren't supposed to eat that candy, so I'm going to punish you. First, I need you to say you're sorry to your mother. She told you not to eat the candy and you did it anyway. You owe her an apology. Also, there will be no dessert tonight after dinner."
She nodded somberly at this pronouncement and I was relieved to have finished my little speech. I told her that I loved her again, and then I left her alone in her room, per her wishes.
I realized in hindsight that it was a completely inadequate punishment. The apology part was good, but asking her to skip dessert missed the mark. She probably just would have eaten that Lifesaver for dessert anyway, so it's really no net change in total sweets consumed. It's like punishing a thief by docking his pay to cover the price of the things he stole. In the end, he's no worse off than when he started.
Also, I didn't really address the worst part of all, the lying. Blech. This was her first real act of willful disobedience and cover-up, and I muffed the response.
Hmmph. Where's the do-over button? Reboot? Smart-bomb?