Mom's Little Forgery Expert

Gosh, isn't she cute? Especially all toofless?

Don't let that face fool you.

Seymour and I are having an interesting week, if you define "interesting" as "so stressful that physical symptoms manifest." It takes a lot for our kids to blow the top off our OMG meter at the moment, but that Mali, she always comes through.

Today, while picking her up from school in my savior Jennyalice's car (as mine died 45 minutes before I needed to pick up five different children from five different locations), the principal came over and put her head in the car window.

I jumped. She smiled, tightly, and said, "You know that disciplinary letter I sent home last week, the one you never got?"

"Yes, but we talked about what happened, correct? Or has there been another incident?"

"Well," said the Directora, "I actually found the form. I guess Mali didn't want you to see it, because she forged your name and turned it back into us."

Mali forged my name. My six-year-old forged my name.

I told the principal we'd talk the next day, and drove away as my dropped jaw was stopping traffic.

"Mali," I said when I could actually talk again, "did you know that it's illegal to sign someone's else's name for them on an official document? It's called forgery. People go to jail if they're convicted of forgery. It's a big deal."

Her eyes became huge. "I didn't know about forgery! I just didn't want you to see that I was in trouble!"

"I know. But this is serious. And we're going to talk about it with Daddy when he gets home."

And we did. And Seymour used the jail metaphor as well, once again proving there's a reason we're together.

Much as we try to be a preemptively positive-behavior-shaping family, this time we're using consequences: No screen time for a week. It's going to suck for everyone. But this kid, she's not going to thrive in a wishy-washy household; she's going to take it over and make us all into her minions. That's not healthy. That way lies clinical narcissism, or at least a tendency to manipulate first and ask questions later.

I'm not happy about any part of this scenario, and while I intellectually get the laugh factor in a six-year-old who is wily enough to -- as far as she knows -- invent forgery, I am not even remotely amused.

Later on, as I sat on the living room couch posting today's entry in the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism Parent/Self-Advocate Dialogues (between Zoe at Illusion of Competence, Robert Rummel-Hudson of Schuyler's Monster, and ASAN President and co-founder Ari Ne'eman, heady, provocative, necessary stuff that you must check out), a shoe descended from the second story, tied to a string, with a note rolled up inside. It landed on my laptop desk. The note read, "Do you still love me?"

Of course I do, I told her, that is a question you never have to ask. But that's different from approving of your actions. I love who you are, I don't like what you did.

She still seemed unsure. I feel very rocked by this incident, by the sneakiness and defiance it represents. Or maybe it's just boundary pushing? I have no idea. Iz and Leo never did anything like this.

After all, this is the same thoughtful girl who kept asking me about autism all morning, wanting to hear more about Lindsey, whom she now thinks of as a beautiful musical autistic princess with a handsome meteorologist prince, and who has a brother with the kind of autism that means it's hard for him to communicate, just like her brother -- the same girl wanted to know more about what autism means, how for people like one of her beloved adult friends it can bring cool things like superhero hearing, but also sensory overloads that hit faster than in a person without autism and can lead to physical shutdowns. The same girl who then talked the same-aged cousin who is staying with us for a few days into building "yogurt obelisks."

She's amazing. She's frightening. And sometimes I worry that, as a parent who may not have the energy level necessary to properly guide a kid of her intensity and latent criminal tendencies, I'm not the best person for the job.

But yes, I do love her, silly question or not.


  1. This cements my suspicion that Mali is a born hacker. I will teach her lockpicking and ethics!!! Cannot wait.

  2. Anonymous8:59 AM

    Am I allowed to say holy shit on your blog? Hang in there, mama... you are just the right parent for her, no doubts there. But man. Six. Years. Old.

    It's a long road to adulthood.

  3. Wow! She is a smart one! Work quickly and harness that mind! That power must be used for good and not evil!

  4. Just keep her away from politicians, religious leaders and anyone discussing "plausible deniability " . As an aspie kid . I recall much about being 6 and was capable of much more complex reasoning ability then adults would ever guess . I could not out right lie well but if I reasoned that a punishment would be meted out for a my behavior that I did not feel was really "bad", I was capable of using some form of deception to avoid what I believed would result in an unfair punishment. I was just trying to keep the universe "fair" . I think it would frighten parents if they knew how much more complex a childs brain is compared with that childs ability to communicate their reasoning .

  5. Hooboy, you've got a handful there. Smart one. I don't think it's adult-level deceit at this age. She's just very, very smart. And adorable. And I'm sending you virtual libations since you're not here in person. And OH MY GOD DO YOU MEAN YOUR ODYSSEY?

  6. what Emily said--not adult level deceit. Just holy shit smart/clever. seems like she's the kind of the kid that needs a TON of distractions/challenges to keep her engaged...though I could be totally wrong!
    I confess that my first impulse was to laugh, but I understand why you wouldn't find it funny. If it were my kid I wouldn't either.
    Did you ask her where she got the idea? I'm wondering if she read it somewhere or just thought of it?

  7. Catherine6:37 PM

    When my boy was about 6, over the course of a couple of months he stole about $100 cash from my purse. and a couple of checks from my checkbook. Fortunately he wasn't so good at hiding. We live in the middle of rural central Iowa. The closest store is 7 mile away. I have no idea what his plan was to spend cash. The checks, I have no clue, did he think he could cash them at kindergarten??? We pulled out the big guns for consequences. I worried myself sick thinking he'd never make it to adulthood without prison time. The rest of his childhood was not without other gut wretching worrisome exploits, but we made it through. Well he's 27 years old now, a good man, well respected, good job. He is about the most non-materialistic person I know, he gives his money freely to all sorts of organization doing good works. Those smarty pants kids just think way too much for their own good. I won't tell you what kind of worries you'll have once she DRIVES! The fun is only beginning! Keep up the good parenting and it'll be OK.

  8. I have no doubt whatsoever that you are the right mother for her. She is smart, so very, very smart, and creative (always a dangerous combination in the young, but brilliant harbinger of her possible future!) AND the youngest. We (ahem, I mean SHE) learns from those who have gone before her. She will be fine. You and Seymour may sport some more gray hairs sooner than you anticipated, but she'll be fine. :-)

  9. I love this girl, Shan.

    But fasten your seatbelt.

  10. ps. not that I'd ever be teaching at an institution of higher learning that would be suitable for Mali's smarts, but she's the kind of student I'd love to have in my classroom some day.

  11. tadpoledrain4:40 PM

    Some of my earliest memories are of cheating at Candy Land every. single. time. we played. (I never got caught, and my parents claim they never noticed.) I am now a very, very honest person. I wouldn't worry too much.

  12. Lissi7:14 PM

    Ahhhhh! It's that 3rd child, I tell ya! My soon to be 4 yr. old has us all figured out. I'm so screwed, SO SCREWED when he gets older. I doubt my ability to be the best parent to him on a daily basis! I guess we just learn as we go and hope for the best....or something like that! Until then, at least the humor can balance out the fear! Hang in there....


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