When my brother was a kid, my dad became involved with my brother's Boy Scout troop. After a few years, it became apparent that my dad enjoyed Scouts more than my brother did. My brother eventually left the troop, and my dad also drifted away. However, when my dad retired, the troop needed some help, so my dad started working with the troop again. He's their official pancake breakfast pancake maker, and also the "coolest old guy" the kids have ever met. He also travels with the troop for their yearly week long trip to Canada.
I'm not sure how it came up, but on Christmas day my dad was talking about the Canada trip and he said, "If you aren't cheating, you aren't trying hard enough." I'm guessing that he was talking about something similar to pulling your opponent's leg hair during a basketball game. (It's a good guess considering he's told me that story at least 100 times since I took up basketball in 7th grade.) My dad doesn't cheat, and would never want anyone to think that he cheats.
The problem is that he made the comment in front of Michael, and then I made a stink about him making the comment in front of Michael. That's a double fail, which lead to Michael thinking that Grandpop cheats. Michael doesn't know what cheating is, but it must be cool because Grandpop Fred does it.
I did damage control on Christmas, but it wasn't good enough. Every so often, Michael gets back on the Grandpop Fred cheats thing. I explain that he doesn't and the subject gets dropped.
It came back up again on Saturday morning and I tried once again to explain that cheating is bad. Michael drew the parallel and said that only bad guys cheat. I agreed with him. He said, "So, Grandpop Fred is a bad guy?"
I picked up the phone and called my dad. He didn't answer, so I left him a detailed message. It went something like this: "Dad, remember that comment you made about cheating on Christmas? Michael now seems to think that you are a cheater and a bad guy. I'd strongly recommend that you give us a call back and explain to Michael that you are not a cheater, and that cheating is bad."
My dad did call back. He didn't remember making the comment, but he was happy to talk with Michael about how bad cheating is. I hope this lays the matter to rest. I'm a little bit tired of explaining cheating.
The moral of the story? 3.75 year old children are very literal and will take just about anything you say at face value. Also, never react to anything you don't want you child to pick up on, if you do, they WILL pick up on it.