Thou Shalt Not Lie
Dr. Laura Schlessinger--host of the radio call-in show for parents--stated in USA Weekend recently that "parents cannot teach values without living them." She told a story about a teenage girl who admitted to drinking beer and then paid the consequences. This episode was similar to my experience with a Minneapolis junior high school.
One spring day some years ago, my ninth-grade son, Pat, came home from school and announced that most of the ninth-graders were staying home from school the next day. The school had not planned a skip day for the students, who were in their last year at the junior high school, so the students decided to create an "unofficial" skip day. Pat explained that going to school would not be productive, as many of the students would be absent; therefore, nothing much could be done in class. As I had "skipped" school a few times myself, and because Pat was a good student, I allowed him to stay home the next day.
The glitch came the day after that when Pat asked me to write a note for him to return to school. He was a little unhappy with me for writing the note as follows: "Please excuse Pat for choosing to stay home from school yesterday." Pat said, "I can't take this note in. Other parents are saying their child was sick or something similar." I said I was sorry, but I was unwilling to lie for him. I truly believed that Pat would be rewarded for being one of the only students who had the courage to tell the truth. Wrong! He received detention and the students whose parents chose to lie went free.
I have replayed this scene in my mind many times over the years. I have questioned whether this commitment to telling the truth is worth it all. Many of us have witnessed others get ahead by being less than honest. This makes it very difficult for us as we teach our children about honesty. We ask ourselves, "Am I really preparing my children for the real world?" No matter how trivial lying for a good student's absence may be, I always come back to the realization that I, as a parent, could not have lied to save my son from a natural consequence. Setting a good example is too critical. Integrity is doing what we say we do.
I have wondered about the polls supporting President Clinton's lying under oath. Are these the parents and children, now adults, who lied about skipping school? Have these individuals graduated from small lies to being unable to identify truth?
The good news is that two youngsters were interviewed on national television after the State of the Union address. I think everyone agrees that President Clinton was at his best during the address. And both of the youngsters felt that Clinton was a good person, but that he had lied and should be willing to accept the punishment. There is hope for the younger generation. Parents are still teaching children to be honest and children are listening.
Marie Winkels is a mother of five, grandmother of eleven. She resorts to lying only when it pertains to a daughter-in-law's cooking.
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