Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tell Me Lies, Tell Me Sweet Little Lies

Last Wednesday evening, Husband and Gabriel fell into a pair of tickets to our local Triple A baseball team. (A team made famous the world over by a certain cross-dressing corporal on a wildly popular military-themed sitcom from the '70s and '80s.)

Husband and Gabe were going to catch some hot dogs at the ball game, so, when I picked Lana up from school, I told her she could pick where she wanted to go for dinner, and I was a bit surprised when she said, "Let's go eat pancakes, mommy."

So we went to a pancake house and we each ordered some pancakes and scrambled eggs, and we played tic tac toe while we waited for our food, and talked about Lana's day at school.

When her eggs arrived she attacked them like she hadn't seen food in weeks. (This is her usual reaction to scrambled eggs. It's pretty much been her reaction to scrambled eggs since the first time we ordered them for her at a tiny little restaurant in Hanoi fifteen months ago.)

When she finished her eggs, she asked me to cut up her pancakes.

As I was cutting the pancakes into neat squares, she said,

"Mommy, I don't like bad men."

I was startled.

"What bad men do you know, baby?"

"In Vietnam," she answered.

I think my heart skipped a beat or something. Some deep and ugly fearsome thing shoved it's arm down my throat.

"What did the bad men do?" I asked her, my hand shaking a tiny bit as I placed the plate of perfect bites of buttered pancakes in front of her.

Lana picked up the strawberry syrup and carefully poured a puddle of it onto the plate her egg had been on. (She likes to dip her pancakes into syrup as opposed to pouring syrup on them.)

Lana speared a bite and dragged it slowly through her syrup puddle and said, nonchalantly,

"They hit me. The bad men. In Vietnam. They hit me. Hard."

I am choking on my pancake and the pecan syrup I love so much suddenly tastes like battery acid.

"Did they have a name? Did they live at your house?"

I try very hard not to sound alarmed or concerned. I probably failed.

"No." Lana studies the five kinds of syrup on the table and the waitress pours more coffee into my cup.

"You want more yellow sugar in your coffee, mommy?" (Lana likes to pour in the packet of Splenda into my coffee when we are eating out and I am drinking coffee. She especially likes to do this when we are alone because she doesn't have to fight with her brother over who gets to put the sugar in mommy's coffee.)

Lana opens the packet of fake sugar and pours it into my coffee cup. "Jessica going to wear a pretty dress to school tomorrow, mommy. Maybe I wear a pretty dress too?" she asks me.

I know then we are done talking about the "bad men". And I am conflicted - is she lying about them?

This girl CAN confabulate with the best of them. I am not kidding. She can look me in the eye and tell a lie the likes of which would bring a flush of blushing red shame to my cheeks, and she can tell it without batting an eye.

What am I to do, with this conversation, exactly?



Anonymous Christina said...

Oh my. I really wouldn't know what to do. The question is, how much does she remember, and is there a chance she's making it up? Zeeb makes things up about Vietnam - or he tells me things that I really think he only "remembers" because he has seen pictures. But she was a little older than him and her memory has always seemed better. And the question is - if someone DID hit her, what can you do now? I mean would it do more harm than good to dredge it all up? Would it be enough just to tell her that it is NEVER okay for anyone to hit her - ever and she should tell mommy/daddy if ever she is afraid? I really don't know. Prayers for you to have wisdom as you figure this one out.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008 7:34:00 PM  
Anonymous rachel said...

Very interesting, and horrifying. I don't really know what to say about this. Like Christina said, what IF she is telling the truth? Heartbreaking to be sure, but what would be the best way to handle it at this point?

Although I can totally understand where you are coming from in thinking it might not be true. Sera also tells lies. A lot of them. She lies about who drew with pen on mommy's computer screen (lets just say her sister was at school and I know I didn't do it myself) and she tells many stories about Vietnam, which I'm sure are at least 1/2 fabricated, as they are full of whimsical impossibilities. But thankfully we haven't heard of any as heart-stopping as "bad men".

I would maybe just start a dialogue on how it is never OK for someone to treat her badly, emotionally or physically, without actually mentioning Vietnam or the "bad men", and see if she talks about it again. Even if there was no truth to her story, it would be a good lesson anyway.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008 7:48:00 PM  
Blogger * said...

Oh snap! That is messed up. I guess there's nothing to do right now. At least you jotted it down for future reference. I tell ya... the realities of's not all ladybugs and pixie dust. thanks for sharing.

Saturday, April 19, 2008 1:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, it's a pretty well demonstrated scientific fact that fishing for memories results in confabulation. What's extra frustrating about it is that it is ususally confabulation that the person confabulating doesn't recognize as not being the truth. I doubt she would be purposefully lying, but I also doubt that there is any good way to find out the unvarnished truth, and digging for more details makes it likely to become even less truthful. Maybe dwell on the fact that she is safe and loved now? :/ Wish there was a better answer.


Saturday, April 19, 2008 2:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I know that is disturbing. Our son was brought home from VN at 3 yrs, 10 months, and we have had him almost a year. Surprisingly, I suppose, from reading the other posts, he doesn't lie much. When accused of something, if he didn't do it, he denies it vehemently. If he did, he just doesn't respond. However, I know that he gets confused sometimes about his past, and I don't know when to take seriously a 'memory.' It appears that his dreams--good and bad--get mixed up in it, and he can't distinguish between what he has dreamed and what really happened.


Monday, April 21, 2008 1:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Children rarely lie about abuse. She obviously feels comfortable taking to you, so just leave it until she brings it up again. She is well and safe now.

Thursday, April 24, 2008 7:17:00 PM  

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