As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Of Truth and Trust

We are having an issue with one of our children and lying.  I know it's normal for kids to grow through, and that some kids will struggle more with it than others.  When I was growing up what I remember most about the way my mother related to me was how she always treated me with dignity, and relied on the strength of our relationship to discipline me.  I didn't make a habit of lying to her but when I did, the words, "I forgive you but it's going to take a while for me to be able to trust you again," carried much more of a sting than any grounding ever could.  I knew that when I had children of my own I wanted the same kind of relationship with them - one of mutual respect, one where if they damaged my trust, the loss of that would be enough to effect a change.

Fast forward to today, where I am the parent of children who do not relate to things the same way that I did.  This is no surprise to me, of course - I know that everyone is not created the same.  The child who is struggling with lying these days also happens to have the exact personality that doesn't respond to guilt, that shows genuine remorse for wrongdoing but turns the page so fast that the long-lasting effects of that trusted line that worked so well on me carry little to no benefit with him.  No problem, I figure.  My kids are still young, and I'm still learning what works.  I'll just keep talking to him about how important it is to be a person of truth, and that people will never be able to trust you if you lie all the time, and pray that eventually it sinks it.

This theory however bit the dust in my mind this morning, as we found our children confronted with a somewhat dangerous situation in the yard with their friends.  One little boy got hurt and had to be taken home, and while my husband was walking the little guy back to his house I questioned my boys about what happened.  My boy gave me a story about how this little guy was doing something he shouldn't have, and he told him not to but the little guy didn't stop.  I told him he should have come to get us, and told him how when a situation is dangerous you can't just sit by and watch.  I walked away thinking about how that little guy can be trouble sometimes, and wishing my kids would have come to get me sooner than they did.

Then my other boy came in.  When I asked him what happened, I got a very different version of the story.  It seems all the boys, including both of my own, were taking part in this wrongdoing (something incidentally that they had already been spoken to about by my husband).  I called my boy back in and asked him the question again, instructing him to "choose your words carefully before you answer me."  He admitted to his wrongdoing and I sent him to his room, angry that I had trusted him earlier.

I know my kids are not very old, and this happens on a regular basis (looking me in the eye and promising one version of a story, when in reality there is another).  They know when they are lying and I hope and pray that they will, with proper discipline, pass through this phase to become truthful, honest boys.  I think what got me this morning however was that someone got hurt, and I didn't question my boy's story.  Worse, I wrongly laid blame on another little boy based on that story.  I thought about the concept of trust being something that needs to be earned, and it dawned on me that this wasn't true in this case - that by all accounts I should not have trusted my boy's first story (given his recent history of not being forthcoming about details that can be incriminating to him).  And yet, I did.  And you know what?  I think I always will.

So - that's what I told him.  I told him that he is my son, and I want to believe him.  I told him that I believed what he told me in the first place, and that's what hurt me so much.  I told him I will probably believe him the next time he tells me something, and I want him to know that.  It is a little scary to me that I laid myself out like that ("Woohoo!  Mom's going to believe anything I tell her!")  But I hope that in time, that early knowledge of a trust that doesn't have to be earned, that is just inherent in our relationship because of who he is to me, will form him into the kind of person who won't want to lie to me.  I don't know - he's still young.  But I think it's far better than placing the unrealistic expectation on him of acting the same way I would react ("how can he squander my trust that way?  Doesn't he want to please me?") 

What I do know is this - that God always has 100% trust in me.  No matter how many times I screw up, no matter how often I squander this gift, it is always freely given back to me.  How can I not be willing to be the same kind of parent to my own children?  Time will tell if telling him this has any effect, and I will try not to get any preconceived notions or expectations about it (this is new territory for me!)  But in the meantime, I think it is much better for me to approach our own relationship in the same way that the Lord relates to me - not as someone handing out trust and taking it away based on merit, but as someone who give all of Himself to me always, believing in me 100% even when I don't believe in myself.  It's easy to trust someone when they've given you every good reason to do so.  Trusting someone when they've hurt you?  That's love.   Please help me Lord as my children get older to discipline with the same gentle wisdom you show me - firm and reasonable, but also completely self giving.   May I react with love and not anger, and be for my children a safe refuge in times of error, gently guiding them onto the right path not because I deserve to be treated better, but because they deserve to be loved no matter what.

And if that doesn't work, I'll get their little sister to take care of them.  She'll keep them in line!

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