‘I didn’t even do nothin’’ is probably my least favorite lie that kids tell
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
Some of you all’s children are menaces and you don’t even know it. Or maybe you do and you just pretend they aren’t. Or maybe they’re all angels. I suppose anything is on the table when it comes to children. They are, of course, literal works in progress that we, as parents, hope to mold into good, nice and productive members of society. So slight missteps are par for the course for true growth. Grace, I believe, is what we should have for all children to a certain age.
But that can be really tough sometimes. Let me tell you a story that is both specific and generic, as I’m sure it happens in various venues across the world on a daily basis.
A few weeks ago, I took two of my kids to a birthday party for the child of a family friend. This particular location had a huge water park inside of it and kids love water. As we were preparing to head back to the party room to sing several versions of “Happy Birthday”— traditional, the Stevie Wonder version and the “Gracie’s Corner” version — I had to get my boys into some dry clothes in the locker room of the facility. While in there, three boys, probably ranging in age from 9 to 12, were cursing up a storm … while OTHER people were trying to get their toddlers and little kids into dry clothes. The kids were not only cursing but playfully threatening what they’d do to one another, e.g. “I’ll beat your b***h a**, n***a.” If you’re reading here, you probably know this banter.
As my kids are young, I said to the boys, “Language, y’all. I have little kids in here and they don’t need to hear that.” The kids looked at me stunned; I’m not sure how often they get told to chill out (maybe a lot, maybe never) but once I ducked around a locker back to my kids, one of them said “Man, I’ll whip that old n***a’s a***.”
So I swooped right back around the corner and said, “You sure about that?” Then I got hit with the most asinine and annoying retort that all kids seem to have built into their repertoire… “Man, we ain’t even do nothing!”
Le sigh. I love my kids. Sometimes I can’t stand kids.
I looked at this severely mistaken youth and said, “You absolutely did do something. But here’s the thing: I’m not telling you what to do. I’m asking you if you can stop using that language in here; there are a lot of little kids, and I don’t think most of us want them to hear that. You can do what you want; I’m asking you to think about the rest of us.” And I walked off back to my kids. The kids stopped cursing and left. Victory.
But I was still so annoyed at the insinuation that they hadn’t done anything when I literally told them what they’d done and why it was a problem. Those boys aren’t alone; my kids do this. My kids will literally be doing the VERY thing I TOLD them not to do (I can tell them what to do 24/7) and will look me dead in my face and say, “We didn’t even do nothing!”
It’s the “even” I think. The use of “even” is as if they’re being wrongly accused. See, saying they didn’t do something would be just an outright lie; kids lie. It’s their specialty. They’re genetically predisposed to try to get out of any and all shenanigans by assuming that saying they didn’t do something will get over on those of us who know they did. But the “even” emphasizes that they’re being wrongly accused — as if the thing I saw is a figment of MY imagination. It’s quite annoying. And annoying on a daily basis. And all kids do it. Frequently. I don’t know how the same nonsense travels from generation to generation; I’m still unsure why the phrase “Whoever smelt it dealt it” is popular among the 6-year-olds and who passed that down, but it’s still thriving.
Anywho, I was reminded of this very thing just this morning (as of this writing) as I told my kids to stop wrestling in their nice clean clothes BEFORE school, and my youngest looked me right in my eyes and said, “I didn’t even do nothing!”
You did, child. You did. And I really just want you to stop it all.
Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest), but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said: “Unknown” (Blackest).
Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on TheGrio’s app; download it here.