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From the mouths of babes, sometimes the truth is surprising
My kids make up a lot of stories, but the time a bunny moved into our yard and almost got eaten by a hawk is no lie. - photo by Amy Choate-Nielsen
Every parent knows kids lie sometimes.

It starts innocently enough, when theyre really young and they dont understand what theyre saying, but they want to say it anyway, like, Look Mommy, theres Bigfoot! or A squirrel came and ate my cereal. Deep inside, as a parent, you know thats just not true, because A, bigfoot isnt really real, and B, there are no squirrels inside at the breakfast table.

But even though you know its a lie, somewhere inside you still want to believe it could be true. Because kids have a sixth sense for these kinds of things, and maybe they can perceive things hardened old adults cant anymore. Maybe there wasnt really a squirrel there, but I sometimes wish there had been, just for the delight it would have brought my toddler at the table.

As my kids have gotten older, their lies usually come as a way of getting out of trouble. One kid drew on the table and blamed another. Another kid made a mess and blamed the first.

No, I didnt steal my sisters special birthday chocolate out of the fridge and eat it, one of my sons said when we discovered a half-eaten candy bar still in its torn-open wrapper. Later, he fessed up, saying, At least I didnt eat all of it!

Eventually, we parents become jaded. At least, I have, anyway. When they exclaim, Look, theres a dinosaur on the side of the road! I sometimes humor my kids, and say, Oh thats nice, or something, but Ive gotten to the point where I hardly even look.

Maybe thats not true. Maybe I look all of the time, but I rarely see what I am looking for, and so I forget.

Anyway. Liar is a harsh word, so Ill just say this: my youngest child, the one with the brightest imagination and most colorful of worlds, is a fibber. He tells me stories all of the time about how he died one time and then came back the next day because I was sad. Hell one-up you, too. Like if you told him you just got a new bicycle, hell tell you he just got a new bicycle, too, and actually it wasnt just one, it was five.

Coming from a 4-year-old, its pretty funny. Not so much if he was 9.

With all of this in mind, last year my husband and I were working in our backyard, near a gazebo, when our children told us there was a bunny living under there. They made a big deal about it, describing its fuzzy white tail and how cute it was with such excitement and squeaky voices we actually did go over to the gazebo, get down on all fours, and peered into the darkness with flashlights to glimpse the little thing but all we saw was darkness. There was no bunny.

Nevertheless, the kids put out some carrots and a bowl full of water for the bunny, in the hopes that it would come back out. It never did.

The snow came, and went, and when the kids found the empty bowl of water, they were sure the bunny had finished it off, like Santas milk and cookies. I didnt think much of it until one day this summer, when my fibber son looked out the window and exclaimed, Theres the bunny! and I ran to see, and there it was: a cute little grayish, cotton-tailed little bunny, right there in my grass. Had it been living in the gazebo this long and I never knew? Were my kids right all along?

The bunny comes out to play every morning these days. The scene usually looks like this: a little squirrel comes down the trunk of the pine tree, moving with short, furtive steps as he watches the bunny. He starts chittering in the bunnys direction, and the bunny turns, rears onto its cute little haunches and then charges toward the squirrel like a devil, scaring the little rodent back up the tree. Any time theres a noise from inside our house, the bunny turns and runs back to its hideout.

One night this week at dinner my son looked out the window and calmly said, Look, theres a bird from the zoo. I immediately pictured a parrot of some kind, until I walked over to the window and looked up in the trees to see some kind of hawk, perched on a low branch, close enough that we could see the pupils in its eyes. The bird was clutching something small in its talons, and tearing something off of the small thing with its sharp beak. A little piece of fluff floated off of the thing, and down to the grass below, and I looked away from the hawk eating its dinner.

I mouthed to my husband across the table, noiselessly so the kids couldnt hear, What if thats the bunny? His eyes grew wide. It was a fascinating, dangerous, exciting thing to live in the truth of our childrens fantastical world.

And the next morning, guess who we saw nibbling our grass in the backyard? Little cottontail, alive as can be.