“Just Kidding”


When I was four, I found out something wonderful. Something beautiful. It was…


With words, you could tell a whole new story. Put together a sentence that could change someone’s day. Alter the universe. Or at least my universe.

And what if?… Oh my gosh. What a thrill. Well, what if I could invent a new truth? Form words about a scenario that had not occurred. Would never occur. But with words, I could make it happen. Imagine it happened.

And then I discovered two words that would change my little world forever.



Put them together and my new truth wasn’t a new truth. It wasn’t a lie. It wasn’t an elaborate tale. It was a glorious little thing called a “joke.” And everyone seemed to love a joke.

I reveled in this new manipulative (of course, I didn’t know that word back then) technique.

I could change words. Change the day. And make everybody laugh in the process.

I saw nothing that could go wrong with my new found power.

“Just kidding,” was golden. It was genius.

“Did you finish your green beans?”

“Yes, Mommy. They were delicious.”

Mommy looks at the plate. “You didn’t eat them! You didn’t even touch them!”

I put on my best smile. “I was just kidding Mommy.”

Mommy’s heart turns to butter that coats the green beans and turns them to mush. And I skip away from the table as an adorable vegetable-free little darling.

I turned the adorable up a notch (another power that was fading with age and the arrival of a pudgy toothless baby sister).

“Did you know that our dog is from the moon?

And he only eats rubber bands?

And at night he turns into my dresser and watches me sleep?”

Then I would grin. Wait an appropriate amount of time.

And burst forth with my delicious skill, “Just kidding!”

And everyone would laugh and laugh.

This went on for awhile. These innocent nonsenses. Fun little tales.

But the tales began to become bolder.

At first, it was just little things. Pretending the dog got out. Or there was a train in the road. The laughter I had used to receive began to dwindle.

My few short days as a comedian were coming to an end.

I was not ready to retire yet.

I needed the laughter. I needed the words.

I kept the “Just kidding” game going for as long as I could.

That is until it took a sinister turn.

I decided my little tales needed a bit more drama in them. Keep it exciting. Turn the power up a notch.

“Mommy! Mommy! There’s a stranger in our yard!”

Mom looks around in a panic. Grabs us. Rushes to hide. To protect.

After frantically searching, she comes back and there is me. Her manic four year old grinning ear to ear over how well my little joke worked.

“Just kidding!”

Mommy did not laugh that time. Oh no. In fact she looked downright mad.

She sat me down.

“You can’t say ‘just kidding’ like that anymore. It is lying.”

I was not giving up my power that easily.

“But it’s just a joke.”

“No. It’s lying.”

“But it’s not lying, because I say ‘just kidding,’ at the end.” She obviously didn’t get it. It was like I was saying, “Knock Knock,” and instead of responding ,”Who’s there?” in a sing song Mommy voice, she was instead hiding in the dark from a stranger at the door.

“Just because you say, ‘Just kidding’ at the end, does not make it a joke. It is still a lie. If you keep lying, you are going to get in trouble.”

The words sunk in. The power in them. I had been lying. That was bad, right?

I was a perfect angel after that talk.

I completely understood that I had been lying. That I had abused my power.

I was not stubborn then and I am not stubborn now.

I never lied again. Or got in trouble. I stopped telling people stories about my dog. Even when the dresser slobbered on me when I pulled my pajamas out of the drawer.

And I ate all of my green beans.


Just kidding.