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The Spy in the House

Do you believe this child (me) could be so sneaky?

When I was a little girl I was a spy. I spent most of my childhood listening in stealth mode — to my mom on the phone, to her talking to her friends, to adults. Until this weekend, I thought I knew why.

I’ve blogged about this before. My dad died in Penn Station sitting on an eastbound train. I was two months shy of my sixth birthday. That night we got a knock on the door. It was his friend Mike. He told my mom that he thought there had been an accident in the city, and that my dad was part of it. There were no cell phones or smart phones back then, so information was sketchy. He came inside, and went into my parent’s room to make phone calls. I wanted to know what was up, so I crawled under my parents’ bed and listened. That’s why I heard the news before my mom did: My dad had died of an aneurysm hours before Mike knocked on the door.

I remember crawling quietly from under the bed and going back into the small room I shared with my sister, then two-and-a-half. I was scared and upset, but I still expected my mom to tell me right away. She didn’t, though. Instead, she lied. Everyone around me lied, actually. They lied right to my face for days. Right up until the day of the funeral they were saying he was sick and in the hospital. I guess they just didn’t know how to tell me, so they chose to take the path of least resistance.

It was horrible, playing along. Especially on that first night when my neighbor tried to get me to go to sleep by telling me to save the rest of my ice cream for my daddy. I was crying as he lifted me up to the freezer. My hand shook as I placed it inside. It really is no wonder I had/have the trust issues I do. It’s also why (at least I thought it was why) I snooped from that moment on whenever and wherever I could. You can’t be lied to if you have all the details, right. It’s actually a skill that’s served me very well. I’ve bought houses and boats and paid for private school tuition (my own and my daughter’s) with the money I’ve made being nosy.

But this weekend it became apparent that Big Girl is following in my footsteps. Weird, since she has no reason to have trust issues. I have actually done the opposite with that kid — I tell her the truth no matter what. There are no surprises in the House of Big Girl. My husband and I have disagreed, actually, on the level of information that’s been available to her. Right or wrong, I felt like my way was going to create a trusting child. Someone who always assumes people are telling her the truth. But I digress…so it started last week, I guess. We’re watching TV and we hear a noise. “I think someone’s on the stairs,” says my husband. He gets up and sure enough, Big Girl is sitting there listening to us. Happens two nights in a row. Then it happened again on Saturday night. We had some couple friends over. The talk is a little salty to say the least, and we hear the pitter-patter of little feet.

Yesterday I had a discussion with Big Girl, telling her that I was a snoop, too, when I was little, but that we were not going to tolerate her to:

a) be awake when she should be sleeping
b) listen to conversations without having context
c) be disrespectful of someone else’s privacy

I think she understood. I also told her she could come to me with any questions or requests. That she didn’t have to scrounge around for information. Now we wait and see if the lesson sunk in. It had better because so far, Big Girl’s snooping is really cramping our style.

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