I’m not sure what I just did…
I just got back from Home Depot with my 5-year old, where he had made a heart-shaped box that he wanted to give to his mother on Valentines Day, and he asked me where he could put it so she wouldn’t see it.
I refrained from the obvious joke: “In the closet, next to the vacuum cleaner,” and went with the obvious answer: “In your bedroom.”
He looked at me wide-eyed. “In my bedroom?”
Now, up to this point, I had taken full responsibility for the hiding of gifts. Christmas and birthday presents that “we” bought for her, I left in my truck. Handmade things he created for her, I stowed in the garage. So, I mistook his confusion as simply surprise that I was deviating from the script.
“Sure,” I said. “Run up there now while she’s in the other room.”
“But she goes in there!” he said. “She’ll see it tonight, because it’s her turn to read me a story.”
“Just put it somewhere where you don’t think she’ll look…”
“You mean, I can hide things in my room?” he asked, his eyes gleaming with mischief.
Oh shit, what did I just do? Did it really never occur to this boy that that’s precisely what bedrooms are for?
I know he’s only five, but isn’t it ingrained in our DNA that bedrooms have doors, and doors equal privacy?
Then again, based on how he disregards bathroom doors, I shouldn’t have been surprised. It took me weeks to train him that, when in a public bathroom, it was not polite to peek under the closed stall door to “see who was in there.”
At least he’s always been pretty good about bedroom doors, knowing he should knock before entering. Granted, he does not wait for our permission to enter, but there’s usually enough time for us to, um, disengage, thus saving any awkward explanations about why we were just acting out the cover of Hop on Pop.
But there I was, enlightening my son that his room was not just a place to sleep and play, but also a place to keep secrets from his parents. And even though it’s common knowledge, and a basic human need, it still felt wrong. It was like I was teaching him how to be devious.
Growing up, I had three older brothers, so I knew all about closed doors and hiding spots. But even if I was an only child, there’s no way my dad would have taken me aside and said, “Son, see how this here mattress lifts up? It’s the perfect spot for hiding thin items, like, maybe, that Cosmo mag you “borrowed” from your mom. As for things that you don’t want to crush, like, say, that pack of cigarettes you stole from me? That old Boggle game in your closet, the one with the missing timer and no E cube, is a great place. Now, let me tell you what you can do with those socks in your top drawer…”
Disturbing, right? But I feel like that’s what I just did. On a much smaller scale of course. It just never occurred to me that being sneaky is a learned behavior. I assumed it was something we are all born with. Yet, I clearly just taught my kid his first lesson on how to hide things from his mother. Sure, it was for a cute reason, and he has the best of intentions, but how long until he’s using the same strategy for “bad” reasons?
I’m not looking forward to those days, but at least I’ll know where to start looking!