I heard them arguing all the way up the stairs. The mom sounded consoling but confused. The little boy sounded angry, hurt.
“Why you lie?” he demanded.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” she countered, frustrated.
“You not suppose to lie!”
“I didn’t … oh, just drop it, will you?”
“Nothing, okay. Just climb up, we’re late already …”
Two frowning faces, one a smaller version of the other showed up at my door. The little guy took one look at his mother, letting her know that he was not done with this discussion, and announced to me: “My mommy lied!”
She shook her head, sighed.
“Let’s go in and sit down and you’ll tell me about it,” I suggested.
The story unfolded: there was a party planned. A surprise birthday party for the dad, and both the boy and his older sister were in on the plans. All very exciting.
“Actually, initially I didn’t want David to know,” the mother interjected, “I worried that he would not be able to keep it secret … but he found out, and of course he went right ahead and told my husband …”
Little David gave her a withering look. “I didn’t mean to, it slip out,” he noted, vindicated by fate. He then turned to me, righteously riled, “and anyway, my mommy lied!”
“What did I lie about? What did I say?” the mother was clearly tired of this back and forth. She looked at me, “he’s been at it since we left the house. I didn’t lie to him about anything. It’s been really ridiculous.”
“You say I spilling things and I didn’t! I was careful!”
“What did your mom say you spilled, David?” I asked, slightly amused by the exchange and the boy’s insistence, and by a suspicion that was already forming in my mind …
“Beads. She say I spill the beads. I didn’t!”
“The BEANS,” the mother corrected.
“I don’t even LIKE beans,” he snapped and rolled his eyes, and I struggled to keep a straight face.
“It’s an expression, David. To spill the beans, means to tell a secret … maybe your mom was saying that about you telling your dad about the birthday party?”
The little boy glared at me suspiciously–one never knows when adults gang up to take another adult’s side–then looked back and forth from his mom’s vigorous nodding to me. I smiled.
“But why she lie?” his voice was hesitant now. He knew that there was something he had missed.
“She didn’t lie. She used an expression. Remember when we were talking about it ‘raining cats and dogs’ when it actually meant that it was raining really hard? How it was a silly way to say that it was raining hard but it did not mean that dogs and cats were REALLY raining on us? How ‘raining cats and dogs’ is an expression for strong rain?”
“Or when we talked about ‘giving a hand’ meaning helping someone, and how a ‘couch potato’ is someone who sits around too much watching TV and doesn’t go outside and play and move around?”
Another nod then an eyebrow started going up. A dawning. “Like ‘heart of gold’ thing being nice?”
“Oh,” he pondered. Then his lip curled up in distaste. “But why spill beans? Can’t I spill something else? I HATE beans!”