And with that, the question over whether or not he was telling me the truth was answered.
We caught Noah in his first big, sustained lie yesterday. The details are exhaustively boring, but suffice to say he'd figured out a way to game his token/reward system at school and make us think he was earning more points for good behavior than he was. Then exchanging those points for treats at home like playing video games or getting some Halloween candy. (That is not actually from Halloween, but just what the boys call candy year-round here.)
I'd grown suspicious and questioned him a few times, and he remained consistent with his cover story (his teacher couldn't find the stamp so she marked his paper with a crayon instead) and insisted that he was telling the truth.
"I promise, Mom," he'd say, cooly and calmly, with perfect eye contact and an earnest, dimpled smile.
That was what made me back off, every time: the eye contact. Noah remains a jumble of different quirks from both on and off the Spectrum -- at his last IEP his teacher said she absolutely didn't want to change his diagnosis code from the catch-all "Developmental Delay" yet because she simply cannot figure him out, because he simply ISN'T just one thing or the other and doesn't seem to really fit any of the "usual" codes -- but eye contact is a big deal. If he's upset or overwhelmed in the slightest, it's the first thing to go.
But yesterday the cover story took a turn for the improbably convoluted. I listened to him chatter on, asked a question and sensed the teeniest, tiniest bit of "OH SHIT MAYDAY MAYDAY" in his voice as he quickly tried to backtrack -- yet his words never seemed to fail him, and he continued to speak clearly and articulately. He wasn't making sense to me, but in a different way. There was no hint of his word retrieval/processing problems; he just sounding like a typical kid attempting some verbal gymnastics while trying to assure me that I'd misunderstood the first version of events he'd just described.
Finally, I told him I was going to call his teacher and ask her about it. He jumped back three feet and froze. "Don't call her," he whispered.
He wouldn't tell me why he didn't want me to call her. He repeated the story again. He promised he wasn't lying.
"Why don't you believe me, Mom?" he asked, his voice so full of hurt that I wavered again, because if there's one thing Noah is not, it's an actor. He still won't wear costumes or pretend to "be" anyone during play, and he gets unnerved when Ezra incorporates emotions into their games, like fake crying or anger.
But still, I didn't believe him because my gut didn't believe him. The developmental stuff was a convincing smokescreen, but if I pushed it back and stared at the piece of paper covered with suspiciously childlike scribbles that he insisted were done by an adult, well. Come on, dude.
I repeated my intention to call his teacher.
"You CAN'T!" he wailed.
"Why not?" I asked. "Is she going to tell me something different?"
"No! I don't know!" he paused. "You can't call her because...TEACHERS DON'T HAVE PHONES."
Aaaaand there it was. The wheels were falling off. We'd hit the limits of the logic ceiling.
I gave him another chance to fess up -- I assured him that I cared much, much more about the truth than I did about how many points he was getting at school, but that there would be definite consequences and loss of privileges if I had to find the truth out from someone else.
Instead, he opted to double down. "I am telling the truth," he said, with a perfect poker face.
I went upstairs to get my shoes on -- we needed to leave in a few minutes for his occupational therapy appointment, after all -- but apparently Noah thought I was calling his teacher right then. Jason found him staring up after me with a look of nervous, stomach-churning agony.
I was halfway back down the stairs when the confession started.
"I just wanted more Halloween candy," he admitted.
Lying is bad and wrong, of course. And being lied to by your child is annoying. Choosing punishments and reinforcing the importance of the truth while curbing your own white-lie fibbing habit is an exhausting and not-particularly rewarding part of parenting.
But oh, you guys, it's also just so normal.