For Christmas this past year we bought the kids a Nintendo Switch game system. Before we let them so much as turn it on we laid out the rules, the number one of which is not taking it outside the house.
Last week Julia was at school where’s she volunteering as a coach for Girls On The Run. They were winding down and LuLu had already gone to join her brother and work on homework.
Suddenly she was back.
“Mom!” she said, eyes wide, “Jack has the switch!”
The next morning Jack & I took a ride. As we drove I asked him about the Switch being at school. Predictably, he responded with excuses.
“I only did it because. . .”
“I just thought that. . .”
“But I needed to. . .”
I pulled over and put the truck in park. He knew he was getting nowhere.
I asked him how he’d felt the morning before as he’d left for school.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean how did you feel about it. There came a point when you slipped the Switch into your bag. When Mom dropped you off at school you told her you loved her and wished her a good day. You closed the door and walked inside, all the while knowing what was in your backpack. Did you feel good about that or did you feel kind of. . .ehhh”
He looked down, embarrassed. “Kind of ehhh. . .”
Now we’re getting at what I wanted him to understand. See, this has been a problem for a while. It started with the phone he got for his birthday last summer. Because of being deceptive with it - like pretending he’s using the bathroom so he can surf YouTube - it was taken away. And this isn’t the first time we’ve had a problem with the Switch. In fact, as it turns out, he’s been taking it to school since January.
“I’m sorry,” Jack said, “I’ve lied to you, I’ve lied to mom, I’ve lied to my teachers. I’m really sorry.”
“That’s good, you should be. But there’s a much larger issue here.”
I went on to explain how lying and deception are related and accomplish the same things. I reminded him how being deceptive about his iPhone had resulted in it being taken away. I told him this this behavior, sneaking the Switch out, was no different.
“The biggest lie you’re telling is the one you’re telling yourself, that it’s OK to do things even when they don’t feel right. If you’d taken some time to think about that you’d have realized the result was predictable: you’ve lost my trust.”
He didn’t like hearing that. Nobody does.
Last week I wrote about how how I’d been lying to myself, too. For well over a year I’ve used a shoulder injury as an excuse to avoid working out. That result of that was also predictable - I’m overweight and out of shape.
A number of people reached out.
“Just buy new clothes,” they said.
“You look great,” they said.
I could roll with that, I suppose. Belk has a sale on sport coats this week. And it sure would be a lot easier than all the eating right and walking around I did last week.
But wouldn’t I just be lying to myself?
That’s the kicker. If I can’t be honest with myself I can’t possibly hope to instill a sense of self-honesty in my children.