and not just lie. We're taking stone cold scheming. At age 5. Up until now no history of lying, only proud confessions, such as:
Did you hit her?
YES! (proudly beaming)
But now it's a whole new day. I'm not sure when the deception and scheming skills kicked in but they are revealed (which is odd because of the whole "Theory of Mind" and autistic people. They usually have a hard time understanding that everyone has their own mind and aren't able to think from the perspective of another person, which is necessary in order to lie and sneak.).
Last month Little Squirrel brought home a "plan paper" which is a large piece of school lined writing paper that details an incident that happened at school. One side is the No side, where the child draws and/or writes what they did wrong. Then on the Yes side, the child writes and/or draws the plan for how that behavior won't happen again. The last one that came home was about growling at the librarian at school, and the plan was to sit criss cross quietly and listen to the librarian from now on and "use Yes words, not growling." I had to sign it and send it back to school. That day I told Little Squirrel that if another plan paper comes home she won't play computer games for a week.
This morning as I was putting her lunch in her backpack I noticed a large sheet of paper crumpled up at the bottom. I had emptied all the papers out of the backpack after school yesterday so I figured I just had missed one somehow. But when I pulled it out I recognized it as a plan paper! I was reeling from the realization that at some point between after school and this morning she had hid it and sneaked it back into her bag. But I didn't tell her I found it right then because I didn't want to be late for school. Then while we were waiting for the elevator in our building and I unzipped her backpack to check that we brought her library book to return, she looked at me and the backpack very nervous. Then she asked me to close the backpack. I asked, "Why? Is there something in there you don't want me to see?" And she answered me, smiling, "It's a surprise." (!)
Then I told her the jig was up, that I saw the plan paper already.
She briefly whined about losing the games for a week, but didn't really get upset until we were in the car on the way to school and she asked me if I brought the plan paper. I told her no, that it is at home and we will be talking about it after school.
"OOOohhhhh no! Now I won't get my hornet picked!!!" She wailed.
Just further proof her teacher is a genius.
The school mascot is a hornet, and the kids get hornet tickets for "getting caught being good," and then there is a daily drawing of tickets. The idea is, the more you get caught being good, the more tickets you have in the bucket and the greater your chances of getting a prize (like a sucker or pencil, nothing big at all for most kids--but it's life or death for Little Squirrel).
So when the kids get a plan paper, Little Squirrel's teacher makes the kids take the paper home to get it signed, and in the meantime their name is on the board, on the naughty list, and their hornet tickets are not eligible for a prize until their name is off the board, which Little Squirrel also wailed about in the car, about her name being on the board. It's hard to tell what bothers her more: losing the games for a week, not getting a hornet prize, or just having her name on the board. I'm not really sure which of that trifecta was the more likely motive.
After I dropped her at school and came back home to finish getting ready for work, I examined the plan paper closer. On the part of the paper where there was a line for me to sign my name, there was already a scrawl in pen!!! It took a minute for the reality to sink in and my blood ran cold. She had tried to sign my name! Even the most sneaky kids this age would likely only try to pass off "MOM" as a signature. A forgery for a 5 year old is very advanced!
I emailed the school psychologist about it and asked him to talk to her. Since I am a single parent I need all the back up from authority figures that I can get. Then when she got home I told her that not only was she losing the games for a week but that her weekly pizza night with her best friend was canceled because we were going to be too busy learning some new words and writing definitions. What we ended up writing was TRUTH, EARN, TRUST, PRIVILEGES--and writing easy definitions, then using the words to make this sentence: When I tell the Truth, I Earn mommy's Trust, and get Privileges.
Also chilling was her confession that to do the forgery she had waited until I was getting her bath ready and then used her homework folder that I sign all the time to copy my signature. Then she asked why I write my name like that! So she didn't even know what a signature was yet understood that she couldn't just print my name or write mommy. She knew that it had to look like how I write it on things like that homework folder.
Her ability to think and plot this way came on overnight and is shocking to me. It's like I'm living with a stranger!