That morning I had an early meeting and left in a rush. So, on the way back home, I stopped by M&S Foodhall – I had to get some milk, the children were coming over – and got myself a freshly baked pain au chocolat. I got two, just in case. At home, I ate one in the kitchen, with a nice espresso. I didn’t need the second one, so I left it in its paper bag, up on the shelf.
The children arrived in the afternoon. They had their homework to do, I had mine. A couple of hours later, I went to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. There, on the table, I saw a blue plate, with some flaky crumbs on it.
There you go again. “Mau!”
Maurits, my younger son, is a bit of a sweet tooth. Nothing major – none of us care much about sugar. But while Lorenzo, my elder, is just like me, Mau likes the occasional candy – Mentos are his favourite. At around teatime, they are used to take a break and fix themselves a slice of bread with Nutella. But this time Mau had also evidently discovered and gobbled up the second pain au chocolat.
“Mau, can you come here for a sec?” He was doing his maths. “Who did this?” I asked him with a stern smile.
“Not me! I swear!”
He had done it before. Of course, I didn’t mind him eating the pastry. And I didn’t even mind that he hadn’t asked me first, sweet boy. But I wanted to check on his disposition to own up to his actions.
“Mau, please tell me the truth. It’s fine you ate it. But just tell me. Did you?”
“No dad, I didn’t!” His initial smirk had gone. He looked down and started sobbing, quietly at first, but with a menacing crescendo. It was his tactics – he had even told me once, in a wonderful moment of intimate connivance.
“I know you, Mau. Don’t do this. It’s ok, you understand? I just want you to tell me the truth.”
Other times he would had given up, especially when, like now, it was just the two of us – Lorenzo was in the living room. But not this time. His sob turned into a louder cry:
“I didn’t! I swear I didn’t!”
Big tears started streaming on his cheeky cheeks – that’s how we call him sometimes, Lori and I. Lorenzo came over to check what was going on. As soon as I told him, he started defending his brother:
“Dad, if he says he didn’t do it he didn’t, ok?”
Good, I thought. That didn’t happen very often. Usually, in similar circumstances, they would snitch and bicker. But this time, evidently moved by his brother’s distress, Lorenzo was with him.
“You stay out of it. Go back to work”, I said.
I took Mau to the bedroom and closed the door. I hugged him and wiped his tears with kisses. It was a great opportunity to teach him a fundamental lesson about honesty, truth and trust. I told him how important it was for me, and how important for my children to understand it. He had heard it before.
“Dad, I did not do it.” He was still upset, but had stopped crying. Great, I thought, he’s about to surrender. One more go and we’re done – I couldn’t wait. So I gave him another big hug and whispered a few more words about sincerity and love.
“Ok dad, I admit it. I did it” he whispered back, with a sombre sigh.
“Great, Mau! I’m so proud of you, well done!” I felt a big smile exploding on my face. “You see how good it is when you tell the truth? You should never, never lie to me again, ok?”
He nodded, and we hugged one more time. Then I lifted him, threw him on the bed and we started fighting, bouncing, tickling and laughing, as we always do. Lorenzo joined in.
A couple of hours later, it was time for dinner. I went back to the kitchen and started preparing. I cleared the table – the blue plate and everything else – and asked the children what they wanted to eat. “Mau’s turn to decide!”
But then, as I looked up to get the plates, my blood froze. There, on the shelf where I had left it in the morning, was the paper bag and, inside it, the second pain au chocolat.
He came over, with a not-again look on his face. I grabbed him and kissed him all over. “I’m sorry sorry sorry sorry!” I explained to him what had happened. I had used the blue plate in the morning and left it there. He had nothing to do with it.
“I told you, dad.”
“Yes, but why did you then admit you did it?” I replied, choking on my words as soon as I realised that the last thing I could do was to blame him again.
“I know dad, but you were going on and on. I had to do it.”