With Super Bowl Sunday looming in the wake of a potential cheating scandal, I began to analyze the model of integrity I was setting for my kids. For the most part, I consider myself a truthful and fair person. The basis for this is a complete inability to maintain any sort of complicated web of deceit. I am simply not smart enough. Still, I cling desperately to the idea that morality plays some part.
My falsehoods usually fall into the little white lie category:
“No, I wasn’t sleeping – I’ve been awake for HOURS.”
“I am so happy you stopped by! How do you like my pajamas?”
“Your child was no trouble at all … any idea what removes Sharpie?”
I am probably as guilty as the next person in not always speaking gospel truth. But real cheating? It got me thinking back to my son Danny’s first grade science project. At the time, he was attending one of those Chicago gifted schools where kids do fractions in kindergarten.
Despite Danny having squeaked into the program by the seat of his pants, I still allowed him to handle his own workload. I thought it was important for the teachers to understand what exactly he comprehended, and not what I was drilling into his head.
Yet everything changed when I received the outline for that science project. Directives included using computerized graphs, typing out a report, and STENCILING the project board.
Dude. Have you ever seen a first grade boy try to STENCIL? The sh*t ain’t pretty.
I took complete charge of the project with Danny complaining every step of the way, begging to help. I brushed off his requests and invested in a 3D graph program. My madness knew no bounds. Fortunately, “our” project was not selected for regional competition as several other moms kicked my butt.
When all was said and done, I felt dirty over the whole experience.
Cheating is extremely prevalent in our world, but the worst is when children are cheated out of a chance to shine, a fair shake or the simple belief that someone has faith in them. I was lucky enough to have been raised by parents who provided all of that. I still laugh at the memory of my father angrily marching down the gym stands during one of my baby brother’s high school basketball games. He was furious.
My brother had fouled out. We knew it. The coach knew it. And my brother knew it. Yet somehow, the ref had missed it, so my brother remained in the game.
Until my dad made him sit on the bench.
Because doing what was honest and fair was far more important than winning a game.
If my parents’ model of valor was outdated then, it is practically prehistoric now. In an age where personal responsibility and decency are openly mocked, I am saddened.
But I strive to one day be the type of parent who marches not just down a crowded bleacher, but across an entire continent if it means showing my kids that human decency matters.
Because without that, we are all lost.