One of the biggest challenges I’ve run into with raising Son has been getting him to appreciate the value of honesty; that integrity matters and really, life is so much simpler and easier if one just tells the truth.
So one day my brother and I were commiserating about the challenges of raising our respective stubborn little people.
“I don’t get it,” I complained. “It doesn’t matter how I approach it, or what I do, he just doesn’t seem to care. And the sad thing is? He‘s an only child. He‘s the ONLY ONE WHO COULD HAVE DONE IT! I am running out of ideas, here.”
“Oh really? Don’t you remember what Dad used to do to try to get the truth out of YOU?”
It was about then that I realized it was vitally important to change the subject. You see, Dad had some rather, oh let’s call them “creative” methods of getting the truth from us, and I never came out of those particular power struggles looking good. And to make me squirm even more, I know quite well that I was every bit as stubborn as my own child is. A trait which no doubt contributed to the desperation that drove Dad to such creativity. Sure as an adult I understand the necessity of personal integrity, but as a child…it was all about the power control. But my brother wasn’t about to let the subject drop.
“Remember the ‘Flame of Truth’?” Boy, do I ever. According to Dad, if he simply held a flame beneath our palms and asked us a question, we wouldn’t be burned as long as we told the truth. It didn’t teach me much about honesty, but I do admit that I’m very afraid of fire. I have no idea where he came up with this stuff. And I probably should point out that Dad never reached the point where he actually started any fires. Or maybe he did but Mom wouldn’t let him. One of those things. At any rate, trying to teach me honesty by lying to me didn’t seem to have the desired effect.
“Oh!” my brother went on, warming to the topic, “and weren’t you the one who lied while swearing on a bible?”
“Hey, I was SEVEN.”
“Whatever. You LIED under OATH! About eating TWINKIES!! You sold your immortal soul for a TWINKIE!”
“You know, technically I was holding my hand so it hovered just barely above the bible. I wasn’t actually touching it.”
“Wow. That’s just…sad.”
“It was NECESSARY. After the whole rat poison incident, perjury was the least of my concerns.”
My brother paused, thinking. “Okay, remind me about the rat poison, because I don’t remember that one.”
“Sure you do. Someone had liberated Dad’s stash of cashews and when he went to get them and found the empty can he informed us that he’d covered the nuts in rat poison, remember?”
“He threatened us with rat poison?”
“YES! He said that if one of us had eaten the cashews we needed to inform him immediately because otherwise we would die a slow and agonizing death. How do you not remember this?”
He was still drawing a blank.
“Ok, Dad gathered us around and said that the guilty party had about 5 minutes to come forward if we were going to get to the hospital in time to get the antidote.”
“So who came forward?”
I shrugged. “Well that’s just it. No one did. Finally he just gave up and sent us all to bed.”
“Yeah, pretty much the longest night of my life. Just lying in bed…waiting to die.”
“I knew it!”
“Yes, from that point on I figured I was pretty much invincible.”
“That explains a lot.”
“It does, doesn’t it?”
We passed a moment in silent reflection. Finally I asked, “So, do you think it’s genetic?”
“What? The lying or the Gestapo inquisition tactics?”
“Hopefully just the lying. I haven’t been reduced to threatening my child with the Indian Rope Burn test. Yet.”
“Dad did that?”
“Dude, where WERE you? It’s like you were raised in a completely different house!”
“Maybe they just did it to you because you were the only one who lied?“
“No, I was just the only one who got caught.”
“Nope, I’m pretty sure you were the only one who lied.”
Maybe. But honestly? I think he’s lying.