I can't imagine why any young child would ever be used as a witness in a court case. It shouldn't happen in any court, in any country, at any time. There is generally no malice behind it, but . . . they lie like rugs. I always think of all those daycare workers who were railroaded in the 80s, with some of them sitting behind bars for years because the prevailing theory at the time was "children don't lie." Obviously a parent needs to take their child's word for it and do some investigating if the child says he/she has been touched inappropriately, but if the kid claims that his/her daycare provider was conducting ritualistic animal sacrifices and forcing the children to drink blood . . . ah, maybe not.
My own daughter is, at times, not all that well acquainted with truth. They have been introduced, but truth is often cast aside, like the unpopular kid on the playground who is left out of the kickball game time and time again. Sometimes the teacher forces the kids to be friends with truth, but it never lasts.
Here is a recent example:
Me: Who spit toothpaste all over the bathroom mirror?
Her: Ella. She came up here and spit all over it.
Ella Fitzkitty is, of course, our cat. She is more comfortable downstairs, away from the dogs, so that is where she generally stays (the basement is carpeted and she has a couple of couches as well as one of those kitty condo things next to the window). We have a cat flap on the basement door so that she can come upstairs, but I really thinks she only attempts it when we're not home and the dogs are in their crates. She dislikes our daughter, hates the dogs, and barely tolerates me and my husband.
Me: You mean to tell me that Ella came upstairs, climbed up on the bathroom counter, filled her mouth with your Spongebob toothpaste, and then spewed it all over the mirror?
Her (nodding): That naughty cat.
Sometimes it is Gretchen who performs the evil deeds. A has a set of princess dolls that she adores. The princesses have these little rubbery outfits that are, even for an adult, somewhat difficult to get on and off. If I were her, I'd just keep Cinderella and the gang in whatever outfit they arrived in. But, it seems that daily costume changes are needed. Sometimes she asks P and me to wrestle Sleeping Beauty into a ball gown, and sometimes she attempts it on her own. This is how Jasmine lost her head. Literally. The guilty party hid the body and put the head back in the bag, which was no doubt horrifying to Snow White. She's got a delicate constitution, you know.
Yesterday, I noticed that several of the bodices and tops were torn. "What happened here?" I asked.
"Oh, Gretchen did that."
Even if Gretchen did get her paws on the princesses and their communal wardrobe, she would have chewed up the pieces and, in all likelihood, swallowed them. No, the clothes were torn by a curly-headed girl who lost her temper a few times. It reminds me of when she was two and she got a train set for Christmas. She couldn't figure it out so she did the sensible thing, which was to erupt into a fury and bite the plastic track. That phase lasted the better part of a year: if something pisses you off, just bite it.
As a final example of the fibbing that goes on in our house lately . . . before church this morning I asked the kid if she had brushed her teeth. She assured me that she definitely had, but something seemed off.
"Um, I think I'll just check and see if your toothbrush is wet," I told her.
She paused. "Oh, you don't have to check, Mommy. I brushed them." As if I might, in turn, say, "Well, of course I don't. What was I thinking?"
She ran to the bathroom and blocked the doorway, spreading her arms and legs as wide as she could against the door frame. "You really don't need to check!" she exclaimed. I pushed through and grabbed one of her six toothbrushes, all of which were dry as a bone. I squirted some toothpaste onto the bristles and handed it to the kid.
"Well, just brush them again," I suggested.
On one hand, her tactic of blaming the cat and dogs for everything is vaguely clever in that they can't defend themselves verbally. What she doesn't seem to acknowledge, though, is the pure implausibility of her explanations. As if it might actually make perfect sense that our hapless tabby spits toothpaste on the mirror every chance she gets.
I finally sat the kid down and tried to lay it out for her.
"You're an only child, do you know what that means?" She shook her head. "Well, it means that you don't have any brothers and sisters living here. It's just you. So, everything that happens in this house . . . is your fault."
Undeterred, she skipped back to her bedroom and grabbed her bag o'princesses. She proceeded to put Sleeping Beauty in Jasmine's harem pants. Jasmine, what with not having a body and all, apparently won't be needing them.