Which Finger?


When my birth daughters (Samantha and Bethany) were relatively young, perhaps four and six years old, they managed to get into enough trouble to be grounded. I don’t remember precisely what they had done, suffice it to say that they weren’t allowed to watch TV, Movies, or anything like that for a week. It turns out that this was a pretty cool deal.

I would come home from work, we would eat dinner, and then the whole family would retire to the living room where Tracey and I would read books while the ladies played quietly with their dolls on the floor. It was classic, and peaceful. I have an abiding hatred for television and not having a TV on in the house was a great relief to me.

On the third, or fourth, evening we had been relaxing in the living room for an hour or so, and I was just bursting with pleasure over how fantastic my family is, when Samantha interrupted my reading by tapping on my leg. I finished the sentence, and looked up to see her looking at me intensely with her pointer finger held up to her lips in the universal “Shhhh” signal.

Confusion must have crossed my face, because she then pointed to the back of the house without ever ceasing to encourage me to be quiet and listen. Sure enough, I could hear the TV playing in the back of the house. I looked around and Tracey was still laying on the other couch reading her book, only Beth was missing.

So, in my favorite drill sergeant voice, I bellowed for Bethany and watched her come scuttling out of her room and down the hall to stand front and center. I asked her if she was watching TV in her room, to which she replied no. So I told her, “I can hear your TV playing, and you were in your room.”

She responded that she just happened to be in the room, and the TV just happened to be on, but she nor her dollies ever actually watched the TV … it was just on. All the while giving me her best toe shuffling act and imploring big blue eye looks to further demonstrate her innocence. I asked her how the television happened to be turned on, and she admitted nothing but maintained that she didn’t have the slightest idea how that occurred.

Casting around for some way to appropriately handle this parenting opportunity, I immediately sat straight up, planted my feet firmly on the floor, and in my most dramatic voice said, “There is only one little finger, on one little hand, on one little arm, on one little girl in the whole wide world who could have turned on that TV!”

The whole while I spoke, you could see the excitement running across her four year old face; she knew the answer to this riddle! She was so wound up that she could bare contain herself. As I demanded, “Which finger was it!?” She quickly and proudly held up her left pointer finger for my inspection.

Then, ever so slowly, it began to dawn her what had just happened. Her exuberant visage of pride and pleasure at having correctly answered the question transformed into one of horror and indignation as she transferred her gaze from my face to the offending finger that had betrayed her!

Tracey literally rolled off the couch and fell rolling with laughter on the floor; which tipped me past my ability to maintain a straight face continue on with exercise. To this day, whenever I believe Bethany might be attempting to redirect or otherwise mislead me I simply ask her, “Which finger did it?”              


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