If your immediate response to that statement was duh, you’re probably pretty far along the path of parental evolution.
My own introduction to the concept came early, then often, when my toddler was regaling anyone who would listen with over-the-top anecdotes she swore were true. Today, Alex’s “stories” are more in the white-lie vein as I recently discovered when she gave an immediate—but untrue—response in defense of an action I hadn’t quite yet taken. That her “gotcha back” effort came wrapped in one of those little-white-lies was only mildly disconcerting. At least she wasn’t lying to me.
Her brother doesn’t either. And no, this isn’t head-in-the-sand, my-kid-would-never bravado. Have you read the blog’s title? I hardly think my kids are perfect. But a long time ago Michael and I came to an understanding about truth-telling. If I asked him a question he didn’t want to answer, he got a pass as long as I didn’t get a lie. Judging by the number of times he’s literally left the room when I’ve posited a pointed question, he’s adhered to our original bargain. Either that or he just bolts when the line of questioning gets too perilously close to a full blown conversation of which he wants no part.
Early on, I placed my students into similar they-do/they-don’t categories of lying. Unfortunately, once I put them in those neat little compartments, I often left them there. Wrong move. When the one student I truly believed was incapable of lying did, he turned my black and white notions into a blaze of psychedelic color. And the kid who was painstakingly honest used an à la- Michael mode exit strategy whenever I got too close. No lies, but also no contact –sometimes for days.
I hate that.
And I hate lies.
I want to take what the kids in my life are saying at face value, not just because honesty is a great foundation upon which to build a relationship. But also because I know that much of what they tell me is already tainted by the perceptions of their own world view. Even when they believe what they’re saying is gospel-true, it’s likely stretched through a prism of distorting color. And that’s when their intentions are the best.
When deception is their goal? Well it’s not often pretty and, by the way, they’re not often very good at it. But I hang in there for the full share, however unbelievable or unpalatable.
Apparently, I’m not alone.
My boss recently shared a bit of her personal philosophy with regard to her (and our) students. It’s rare (she’s been at this awhile) but even her chickadees occasionally surprise her with the little white lie (or the great big whopper, who am I kidding?). She said that even when she doesn’t believe them, she still believes in them.
And I’m right there with her.
Because even when they’ve given me reason to mistrust, cause to question my place in their lives and outright justification to fully abandon their lilting ships, I still believe. That the sails will right, that the oceans will calm and that they’ll survive yet another storm. I believe in them and their potential to do great things and become great people –even better than the people they are now. And I believe in their ultimate success –not in the academic, I-got-good-grades sort of success, but in the way more important, I’ve-got-a-handle-on-this-life-thing sort of success.
It’s taken me awhile, but I don’t always believe what they say, but I do believe in them. I have to, because of who I am and also because of who I hope they’ll become.