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Under the bus

Last weekend I saw what looked like a bite on Lucille’s shoulder. She was sitting on my lap facing forward when I first noticed the two thin red stripes.

“What’s that?” I said.

“I didn’t do that,” Eliza said. I wasn’t even really talking to Eliza. I was talking out loud, to the air, a little shocked at what looked to be a painful mark on my two-year-old.

“I didn’t think you did anything babe,” I said. “But, well, do you know what happened?”

“No. I didn’t do it,” Eliza said.

At this point I was pretty suspicious. How did Eliza even know what I was talking about if she knew nothing about it? Why such a quick response? My gut told me that Eliza had done something to her sister and she was afraid she’d get in trouble if she fessed up.

I asked Lucille and she didn’t have a clear answer. I asked Eliza again if she knew anything about it.

“Logan bit her on the shoulder,” Eliza said of a friend of hers.

“Really?” I said.

Then Eliza told me that this little girl had bitten Lucille when they were at her house for a play date a few days earlier. When I asked if she told the little girl’s mom, Eliza was quick to say that her mom hadn’t been there but that she’d told her dad and that he had handled the situation.

I thought it was a little odd that we wouldn’t have heard about it so I called my wifey, mother of the accused. I told her what Eliza had said and that Lucille had confirmed her story. I also told her Eliza was acting a little squirrely on this whole thing and just asked if she would ask her husband if anything had happened.

We all know this is a slippery slope and I tried to navigate it as best I could. I’m not saying Logan did anything. I’m just checking because Lucille does have something on her shoulder and Eliza is stuck on this story. Something is up with her but I can’t tell what. It feels like she’s not telling the whole truth but I can’t get to the bottom of it unless I ask. Can you just check, then I have something to go back to her with. I was looking for a yes or a no, then an explanation, from someone, as to what really happened.

The whole thing made my stomach turn. But not because of the reasons you might think. My wifey, she took the fact that my kid had put her kid in the bull’s eye in stride. No worries, she said. She’d ask. And when she did it was pretty clear from the look on Logan’s face that she had not bitten Lucille. I told Eliza this and in my next breath sold my soul to the devil.

“I won’t be mad if you did something, I just want to know the truth. I just want to know what happened to sister so I can keep her safe,” I said.

Eliza asked if she could she whisper something in my ear.

“I kissed her,” she said “real soft like this.” She kissed me on the cheek. “And it just happened.”
So Eliza basically gave Lucille a hicky on her shoulder which is no soft kiss, she made up a story about it, got Lucille to believe it and threw her friend Logan under the bus in the process. And I couldn’t be mad, couldn’t show I was upset because I told her if you only tell the truth…

When I think about it I wasn’t so much mad as disappointed. I really didn’t expect this from Eliza. In so many ways she’s the easy one. She’s older, she’s kind, she’s helpful. I often worry that she’s too easy going with other kids and maybe needs to be more assertive sometimes. Truth is, I worry about her all the time. She’s sensitive, she can be quiet, she gets overwhelmed. But really I think it’s that she’s first and, for me, everything with her is a little jarring, a little tinged with the unknown, and in that way, mildly terrifying.

And when I look at all the reasons why she hurt her sister and then lied about it I keep wondering if she just doesn’t trust me enough to tell me the truth. Am I too overbearing that she rather lie and take her chances than fess up? Is this a trajectory that will only lead to sneaking out, lying about drinking and stupid teenage boys? Am I overreacting? Who is this really about?

Deep breath. When I have a moment of clarity I think about how gentle she normally is with her sister. I think that she’s playing with fantasy and reality and that they are really one in the same to her these days. I think she, for some reason unknown to me, thought it would be a good idea to suck on her sister’s shoulder and it left an unintended mark. It probably freaked her out. She didn’t know what to do so she said she didn’t do it.

Am I overbearing? I don’t know but I try really hard not to be. Is she headed down some downward moral spiral? No. Will she lie one day about boys and sneaking out? Surely she will because, even though I haven’t been one in while, I’m pretty sure that’s what teenagers still do. But we have been working since the day she was born to build this bond between us and I have to think that will one day translate into my daughter being a strong and confident girl who trusts her parents and, more importantly, one who trusts herself.

And I suppose that all starts here, with her whispers in my ear and me keeping promises.

Categories: essays

Jennifer Savage

Jennifer Savage is a writer and mama of Eliza and Lucille. Lately, she's learning to be a farm girl, again. She writes from her home at the base of the Mission Mountains in Arlee, Montana. She is also one of Mamalode's favorite writers and you can fall in love with her too at Savagemama.
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