I have always been a pretty honest person. Sometimes, to a fault (as in telling my future husband when we first met that I was planning on dating both him and another dude for a while, just to decide who I liked better, or announcing to the world via Twitter that I often wet my pants). I have the complete opposite of a poker face—one look and I guarantee you will know what I am thinking, even if I am attempting to hide it.
So, it was pretty uncharacteristic of me when I decided to lie to my husband recently. It wasn’t a big lie and, in fact, by definition it really wasn’t a lie at all—just an omission of sorts. A few weeks ago, in my mad rush to work, I got caught speeding. Not really a huge deal, I know, except that this was the third time I have received a speeding ticket in a year. I didn’t really want to see that disapproving look that I knew I was in for, or hear about how I really shouldn’t be driving so fast, so I just didn’t tell him. It felt really uncomfortable for me to keep something from him, but I figured it was for the best.
That is, until a moment of parenting clarity changed my mind.
A few days after my brush with the law, my son was suspended from school. You may know all about our struggles with his behaviour, so I won’t rehash it here. Let’s just say that I long for the days when I could laugh because he just learned the f-word, instead of hearing that he now uses said expletive repeatedly while hurling wooden doorstops at his teacher (*sigh*). I was home with him during day one of his suspension and was explaining to him, again, why he was suspended, when I realized what a fraud I was. Here I stood, lecturing my seven-year-old on the consequences for his actions, and I wasn’t owning up to my own mistakes.
So, I told him to put on his shoes and his coat, piled him into the car (armed with snacks for what would undoubtedly be a long outing), and drove to the courthouse. On the way, I explained what I did. “Mommy broke the law,” I told him. He asked me if I was going to jail (No). He asked me if he would get to see any other criminals in court (Maybe). He asked if the bars on the jail cell were wide enough to reach your arm through (Mmmm, don’t think so).
In the end, I am not sure how much he learned by going to the courthouse with me. We practiced his numbers as we sat and waited for "now serving #T481" to flash up on the screen above the kiosks. He practiced reading when I asked him to help me fill out my notice of intention to appear in court. He discovered that the courthouse has its own cafe, and excitedly declared that we should eat lunch there (ick!).
This time, it was me who learned from the situation. As adults, I think sometimes we forget how important it is to adhere to the same values that we strive so desperately to impart on to our children. While I was in the midst of parenting hell, struggling to explain to a seven-year-old why it was so important to follow rules and experience consequences for his actions, I wasn’t following my own advice.
It was freeing to admit to my son that I made a mistake, and to show him that there were consequences for my actions. I felt even better once I told my husband about my ticket and our field trip to the courthouse. And in the end, I think my son benefited from the experience too. He might not have learned a lot from our actual trip to court, but he did learn that mommy makes mistakes, too.
Now if only I can get him to stop announcing to everyone, “Mommy got in trouble today . . . and there were LOTS of police there!” Between that and him telling people about how I hurt my thumb, I am in for a lot of strange looks at the next parent-teacher meeting.