By Jason Offutt
One of the fast rules of parenthood is small children will not let you keep secrets from your wife.
Not big secrets. It’s not like I’m hiding Hooters receipts (I’m not), or I’ve inherited a lot of money she doesn’t know about (I didn’t), or I know the name of the shooter on the grassy knoll (I’ve said too much already).
There are secrets, little secrets that are best left unsaid. Like the identity of the person who put that empty ice tray back in the freezer, who ate the last cheese stick, and details about her birthday.
Birthdays are rough on spouses, just because after a while there become so many of them you start to run out of ideas. Sure, I planned something big for her 30th birthday, and when her favorite band from junior high school got back together, I bought tickets (it was New Kids on the Block. And, no, I didn’t go).
But blockbuster birthday ideas are not only hard to come by; they’re as easy to pull off as a military campaign. And military campaigns don’t work without secrets.
Enter the Boy and the Girl.
“What are you doing?” the Boy asked as I pulled a big bowl out of the cabinet.
“I’m making soup out of a circus clown. The monster I have chained in the basement is hungry.”
“No you’re not.”
Well, it sounded good.
“I’m cooking something special.”
“What?” the Girl asked, doubling the pressure.
“You can’t tell,” I said.
Smiles broke the children’s faces. A secret, but from whom?
“What is it?” the Boy asked.
Then I did something I once promised myself I’d never do when it came to Mommy’s birthday, I was going to tell them the truth.
“I’m baking your mom a birthday cake.”
“It’s her birthday?” the Girl shouted, even though the topic’s come up often in the past few days. Kindergarteners have the attention span of hummingbirds.
“But I have to ask something very important from both of you.” I leaned in close to their eager little faces. “You can’t tell Mom.”
I keep hoping they’re finally at the age they can keep a secret from their mother. Yeah, I keep hoping.
“We won’t,” the Boy promised, and darn it, I believed him.
Later that afternoon the Girl walked through the front door from an excursion with Mom. “He told her,” she said.
Uh, oh. Those Hooters receipts again.
“What did the Boy tell Mom?” Was I sweating?
“That we made her a cake, but he told her she’d never find it.”
That’s true. I hid the cake behind the pots and pans. Considering the fact that my wife considers pouring a bowl of cold cereal cooking, she’d never find it there. But he couldn’t keep a secret.
“So, you told Mom our secret,” I said to him later, expecting a look of panic in his eyes that never came.
“It’s OK,” he said. “I hypnotized her so she doesn’t remember anything.”
Oh, if only it were that easy.
Jason Offutt’s column has been in continuous publication since 1998 appearing in newspapers and magazines across the United States. Follow Jason on Twitter @TheJasonOffutt.