I want to give your words the weight you believe they deserve, I really do . . . but that’s entirely up to you.
I wonder if people out there in the world realize how watered down their communication becomes if the words they choose are used indiscriminately. Notice I didn’t say when people lie. There is a fuzzy, grey, squiggly line between carelessness and a lie. This post is birthed out of a frustration with that line. I’ve encountered several instances these past few weeks in which the truth has been distorted and taken out of context to be used in a self-serving manner.
I value truth. I’d be hard pressed to find someone who admitted that he or she values lies. I’m not legalistic, I’m completely aware that there are times when the truth is inappropriate. If you are hiding in my basement because you are wanted for having the wrong sized nose, wrong color skin, wrong religious beliefs, or wrong ethnic background and the folks knocking down my door ask if I know your whereabouts, I will, with the confidence of all that is holy, stand tall and lie. Still, I value truth.
What would it look like in real life to instill this value in my children so they wouldn’t malign words?
My young children have an uncanny ability to look me in the eye and nod sweetly as I pour my heart out concerning the things I value – such as truth. The child will smile and look so angelic and smart. Later that evening, when I ask the same child to take out the nugget of wisdom that I entrusted to him and tell daddy about what he learned, he will stare at me with a blank expression and say, “do you mean that we made brownies for dessert?”
I realized early on that simply talking wasn’t going to be enough: I was going to have to live it.
About twenty years ago, I sat in a rocking chair, gently rocking back and forth in a dimly lit room listening to my one year-old breathe regularly and sleep peacefully. I wrapped my finger around a wayward piece of cellophane grass and rearranged the plastic eggs for the fifth time. I sat there for a long time watching my beautiful little boy. With that basket full of jelly beans, Peeps, and Cadbury eggs on my lap, I realized what it would mean for me to live my values. I made a decision that would spill over onto Santa’s lap and take a bit of the sparkle out of the Tooth Fairy too.
I know, radical, huh? I’ve actually lost a friendship partly due to this decision. (Which needs to be the subject of another post, otherwise this one will get entirely too long!) I was taking a step away from the familiar: both Ken and I were taught to believe in the Easter Bunny et al., and at that point in my parenting, I didn’t know any others who had made this decision. I didn’t read about the pros and cons regarding this decision, after all, I didn’t have handy-dandy access to Google twenty years ago, so I just went with my instinct. If I erred, at least I erred on the side of honesty and consistency.
If you know me, then you know that I don’t look down on those who parent differently than I do. I sure don’t appreciate feeling your judgment and condemnation for choosing the path less traveled by (thank you Robert Frost). I’m not telling you about kicking the Easter Bunny to the curb to somehow say my decision is best. I’m sure there is value in the magic and excitement of believing in the Easter Bunny and Santa. I show it as an example of my absolute commitment to my children to be honest, consistent, and transparent.
The children have grown up knowing the stories and legends about these figures, and what the culture around them teaches regarding them; they weren’t ever taught that the stories and legends were the truth. I wanted my children to trust and believe everything I told them. And I wanted them to be trustworthy individuals.
Having just celebrated Easter, I do wonder why we need to add anything to Easter? We get something better than an over-sized, egg laying bunny, we get Jesus, and He’s pretty nifty. And He’s real!
My oldest son and daughter debated team policy together for four years. Their third year, the illegal immigration year, they made a discovery that bubbling under the surface of many (MANY!) organizations dealing with immigration was a gentleman (using the term lightly) who espoused extremely racist and white supremacist views. This man created or funded many organizations in order to overtly, in some cases, and covertly, in many cases, advance his views. Much of the evidence that my debaters, actually most debaters, used could be traced back to this man and his agenda.
Keep in mind that serious debaters spend hours and hours (well over a thousand hours in most cases) preparing for debate rounds. To get from tournament to tournament and room to room, debaters use suitcases or trunks to transport the arsenal of briefs they’ve compiled to use in a round. Reams of paper, sticky notes, favorite pens, and hundreds and hundreds of hours of research go into those trunks.
Without hesitation and on their own, the kids decided there was only one thing to do. Go back and re-do hours (and hours, and hours, and hours) of work. The truth. Consistency with their beliefs. Transparency.