the invention of the lie

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I was babysitting my young friend L., who was just on the brink of three years old*. Her parents wanted to spend a grown-up afternoon together, after which we would all gather for dinner. At the end of of the afternoon, L. suggested we get ice cream cones.

“Oh, we’ll have to do that next time, L.,” I said. “We don’t want to spoil our dinners!”

“I don’t mind,” she said, reasonably enough.

“Oh, but your mom** wouldn’t like it, would she?”

She said nothing for a moment, her little face pursed in wry understanding.

Then, suddenly… a light dawned on L.’s face. It was the light of revelation, of a world-altering discovery. It erased those wrinkles of displeasure, smoothing them over with wonder. In the spirit of innovators everywhere, L. had found a solution, a way to keep everyone happy. She bounced on her plump little legs, swept up in the delight and sheer novelty of the idea she was about to share.

Breathless and utterly guileless, she looked up at me and gasped:
“We could… not tell her!

*I think — this was several years ago, and L. is now in middle school.
** Not to reinforce the all-too-common trope that Mom = responsibility and green beans, Dad = ice cream, ill-advised wackiness, and skateboarding injuries, but in this family… well, yeah.

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