Last year my children’s school had a ‘bowl-a-thon’ to raise money to buy a new ambulance for Israel. (Shout-out to my husband for coordinating that very successful program. Woohoo!) My two eldest children are in pre-school and instead of going to the bowling alley to bowl like the older kids in the school, they bowled in the school gym that was set up for pre-preschoolers – bumpers on the lanes, soft bouncy balls, and soft-hearted eighth grade students volunteering their time to help re-set the pins for each child (and knocking down pins with their hands to help the children score more points – and get parents to donate more money!) The latter I know first hand because I volunteered to help out with my daughter’s class. She was in nursery at the time and my son was in pre-kindergarten.
The day came when we received both of our children’s scores in the mail – indicating to us how much we now owed toward the ambulance. My daughter scored 60 points, while my son scored 37.
I chose not to mention to each of them what they scored, at least not in front of one another. I knew first hand that my daughter’s score was tampered with because her class received ‘help’. It was clear to me from my son’s score that his class did not get the same special treatment and that he bowled all on his own. I was about to acknowledge that when all of a sudden my son (who is the older one) asked me who scored more.
I was cornered. I made a pact with myself at age 14 never to lie.
I used to lie a ton when I was a kid and I finally got caught when I was in eighth grade. It was a horrible mess. My mom knew that I lied and that I was forging her signature, but lied for me in the principals office in front of my homeroom teachers. I felt horrible that she had to lie for me. It was so clear to me how much she loved me and believed in me and she knew that I would be doomed if she didn’t cover for me. I decided right then and there NEVER to lie again. Not to anyone. I quit cold turkey. And this situation was no different to me. I was not going to lie. So, I told him the truth.
“Your sister scored more.” Boy that did it. My son lost it.
“I won’t do that,” I said to him softly, “I will not lie to you.”
“Just tell me!!!” he exclalimed.
In that moment I had a choice. I could have very easily chosen to ‘just’ tell him what he wanted to hear, even though he knew that it was an outright lie. It would have been easy. But I just could not do it.
Instead I chose to stay steady, calm, and consistent. He was crying almost uncontrollably and all I could think of doing was snatching him up in my arms and holding him close. I held him gently and firmly and said:
“I will not lie to you. I will never lie to you. I have so much respect for you. I cannot lie to you.”
The most amazing thing happened right after I said that to him. My son, who was shouting and jumping uncontrollably just a few minutes ago, was now putty in my arms, totally calming down. I held him for a few more minutes and that was it. He pulled away gently, put a smile on his face, went to play and never mentioned it again.
Hmm, I had no idea what to expect when I chose to listen to my gut and stick with my values. I had no idea that it would work. Maybe it was silly. Maybe I took it too far. I could imagine some people thinking that. But in the moment I knew that it was the only right choice for me. My very body would not allow me to lie to my son.
My hope for my children is that they each always realize how much I truly do love and respect them, and especially know that I will never lie to them.
But I gotta tell ya, lying would have definetely saved me a good half hour!