Wednesday, April 8, 2015


     I read in a non-fiction, heavily researched book (that wasn't about parenting) that asking one's son certain difficult questions forces him to lie, therefore parents ought not to ask sons such questions because doing so only trains them to become adept liars.
     This struck me as so much dumb psycho-babble advice because if one's child has trouble with such a critical character-defining trait, one ought to instead drill him until he gets it right—before he leaves home and it's too late. 
     My mom, I'm convinced, did this very thing to me when I was in the habit (probably at around age seven or eight) of lying. 
     I find a dime on our hallway floor. Mom, materialized out of nowhere, asks, “Is that yours?”
     “Yes,” I say.
     A look of dismay shrouds her usually cheerful, pretty face and transforms it into a tragic dough ball of worry. And she says “I don't know what I'm going to do with you—growing up to become a liar.” 
     “I was just joking,” I say to reassure her.
     She shakes her head, says, “No, you were serious, I'm worried about you,” and walks away bent double, hand to mouth, as if I were the cause of all her worldly suffering. 
     Asian mothers have a knack for making their children feel guilty and small. Even over the smallest of things. Such as a dime planted on the floor to entrap a lying son. I never felt guiltier in my life. Lousy. Filthy. And unworthy. I couldn't have felt much worse had I raped, maimed, or murdered Lei Hamada—sweet, helpless two-year-old down the street from us. So I knew then for certain that I never wanted to feel that way ever again. Or to disappoint Mom again. And to avoid those feelings and Mom's reproach, I decided never, ever to lie again. 
     For the most part, I've kept that commitment. God has helped me in this, for whenever I tell a doozy, I almost invariably get busted and feel guilty. Or I don't get caught and I feel even worse because of it. Either way, guilt forces me to repent and redetermine to never, ever lie again for the rest of my life! I've got tons of character flaws, but dishonesty ranks low on the list—thanks, Mom and praise God.
     Like me, no kid has to lie. There's no gun to the head or waterboarding involved. It's sinful nature or Satan that tempts a kid to lie. It's the desire to get away with something wrong. Or to steal credit for something good. What innocent kid says, “I stole it”, or what helpful kid says, “I didn't do the dishes”? (In Shindler's List, a boy lies to a Nazi soldier in order to avert senseless killings—a rare good lie that seldom happens in real life.)
     Braden, a trustworthy, honest boy overall has of late become loose with the truth. A week ago on a Monday evening, I find a permission form on my home desk calendar for his end-of-the-year JROTC banquet that Deanne says is due tomorrow. I hate this 'cause I've told him countless times to give me at least two weeks advance notice for such things. I ask him, When did you get this? He says, He gave it to us on Friday. When's it due? I ask. Tomorrow, he says. Why didn't you give it to me on Friday, then? I ask. I forgot, he says. This irritates me even further since his delay tightens the already tight deadline. I decide to make him suffer the consequences of his delay (and figure since the deadline is unreasonable, why rush?) and blow it all off for a day. 
     While I peruse the form at work, its date—nearly a month prior to when Braden got it—pops out at me, as does the due date that's a day earlier than Braden mentioned.  
     I call the school's JROTC class and get put through to an upper classman teacher's assistant to whom I restate what Braden told me, and ask about the mismatched dates and if Braden was lying or was the form really distributed so late with a new due date?
     The guy, who sounds African American with a southern accent says in hurried, slurred speech (Is Braden imitating him when he speaks, I wonder?), “The form was distributed awhile ago and was due yesterday. One of the boys said he lost his form and asked for another...”
     I immediately like the guy for his formal manner, loyalty to cadets, and candor. He thrice apologizes—wholly unnecessary—that he can't answer my question—Is Braden on the list of awardees?—because they haven't yet gotten around to making the list. 
     Braden is already in the doghouse with Deanne and me for talking back, acting disrespectful, disobeying, and violating other rules, and I realize that further time outs, lectures, dinners alone outside in the carport, walks up and down the street, and doing all the chores are losing their effectiveness, so I decide to pull a Mom on him and make him feel guilty. 
     I say nothing, sign the form, ante up the $25, and leave them on his desk. After all, he deserves a treat for taking JROTC as an extra credit elective and following through with it every school morning, I reason. Maybe he'll feel guilty for getting away with the lie. 
     But he doesn't display much, if any, remorse, only apparent smugness for having duped me. So right before bedtime that day I snap at him, “I know you lied to me—get to bed!”
     Only, it's not over yet, 'cause only a few days later, he disobeys a direct command and lies about it.
     Because we live on an older, narrow street without sidewalks, I've told him for years to walk on the left side of the road toward oncoming traffic. When I see him walk on the wrong side to the bus stop one morning, I remind him via angry scoldings that evening.  
     Two days later, I see him do it again! I reprimand him and he mutters under his breath. What did you say? I ask. I was just crossing the street! he growls with a dismissive hand gesture that suggests, “What are you getting so worked up about? I didn't do anything wrong!” 
     I saw you walking up the street! I say.
     He curses me with his eyes.  Caught dead in a lie and confronted with the truth, he hasn little choice.
     Sometimes I get so exasperated by his continued bad attitude, defiance, and disrespectful attitudes, I feel like striking him.
     And sometimes I feel like sending him away.
     Mostly, I try to get him out of my sight when he's fuming about everything so I won't ruin his, mine, and everyone else's day. 
     But we still have to feed, clothe, teach, school, and house him, and provide him with a monthly bus pass. I suppose his lying, disobedience, rebellion, and arrogant disrespect wouldn't hurt so much if we didn't love him so. After all, if we didn't, would we even bother or care? 
     God help us and him! We need you so, God! (I often feel so utterly helpless when no matter what we do or try, it seems we're not getting anywhere with him. I suppose all parents of teens feel that way sometimes. Or frequently. Or always. God help and bless all parents of teens!)

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