I firmly believe this is one of those posts that will make all of you other parents feel so much better about the job you’re doing.
You know, I typed that and then I struggled to think about reading something similar to that thought. I read a LOT of “mommyblogs” – I’m so sorry for typing that – but I very rarely read a post where I just blatantly disagree with some of the points posted there. I did read one yesterday, and it kind of had to do with this same topic.
Okay, if I was aiming to write vague and unrelated paragraphs for this post, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.
Anyway. So. This is Jack.
I think y’all have met.
Jack is now eleven and it’s been a hard year. That’s an understatement. Since Jack is my stepson, I really don’t delve into his stuff here – I kind of feel like it’s someone else’s story to tell, you know? But, in short, it’s been a difficult year.
And cue the caveats: Jack is a GREAT kid. As you can see, he is Opie incarnate. He’s got a heart bigger ‘n Texas, as we say, and a wild imagination. He is an amazing big brother, and Tony adores him. Also? Jack is smart as a whip. He’s got his father’s gift for trivia and he loves to read and he would sit in front of the History channel all day if we let him.
All of these things add up to WHY the transition to middle school has been so frustrating.
A large issue we’ve been having is that Jack is in the phase of growing up where lying seems like a viable option. We noticed it when he was in elementary school, if we were honest with ourselves. He would come home and spin wonderous stories about ninja-like feats performed in dodgeball. Of course they were SO outlandish that we knew they weren’t true – dude, you trip while walking, so don’t try and convince me you expertly performed parkour – but we listened and cheered him on. (I don’t know if I count this as a mistake. At the time, we were encouraging him to talk about his school day, and we were happy to hear ANYTHING about his day.)
But since then, the lies have gotten more devious, but just as unbelievable. To the point that his dad and I pretty much discredit anything that leaves his mouth. And I totally get that it’s a phase – Bryan and I both discussed that we did the same thing, in a way – but he is KILLING OUR SOULS WITH THE LYING.
Mostly it’s homework based now. “The teacher didn’t give us any.” So Bryan instituted the homework notebook, which required him to have a teacher sign off, every day, what the homework assignment was. “Oh, they told me they didn’t have time to sign it today.” So Bryan started talking with the teachers directly. “I left it in my locker.” or “I can’t find it.” or “I let a friend borrow it.” Lies, lies, lies. All lies, all the time.
THESE ARE ALL STUPID LIES. I CANNOT DEAL WITH STUPID LIES.
And so we sat Jack down and told him this. We told him that lying is wrong. Fundamentally, black and white, WRONG. Don’t do it.
.. but if you’re going to do it, can you please be SMARTER about it?
(If you’ve been reading along, waiting for the Audience Superiority portion of this post, NOW’S YOUR TIME TO SHINE!)
After discussing it between ourselves, we’ve decided that our job as parents is to prepare our children for the world at large. And .. maybe .. maybe the world at large is not such an honest place, you know? So we’ve decided that our job for middle and high school is to teach our kids how to work the system.
(Wooooboy, I just saw some heads spin on that one.)
I think of it like this. All through middle and high school, I had teachers that made us turn in assignments the hard way. Right? We all had those teachers. And it’s good to have those basics learned. You NEED basics. You need study habits and organizational skills and time management and all that. But beyond that? I distinctly remember my high school senior AP English teacher showing us how to do a research paper .. the smart way. It wasn’t exactly cheating, but it was being more efficient. It meant cutting some corners, but figuring out which corners were safest to cut. It meant learning how to manage your time SMARTLY.
So we’re kind of steering Jack in that direction, be it right or wrong. Look, we can’t STOP him from lying. We CAN encourage him to fix the lie before he gets caught. Lie about homework being assigned? Fine, but STILL DO IT AND TURN IT IN. Otherwise, we get a progress report that has Ds all over it because you DIDN’T FINISH THE LIE OUT. Lie about a teacher making you stand in a corner for two hours for talking just because you were bored at the grocery store? Fine, but MAYBE DON’T MAKE IT A CORPORAL PUNISHMENT OFFENSE. TEACHERS GET FIRED FOR THAT.
Just .. be .. smarter. That’s all we’re asking here.
And while I’m totally open to suggestions from y’all about how to work through this, I’m inclined to remind everyone that .. um .. my personal reach on this problem is severely limited. And we’ve already encountered several obstacles that have made me want to pull my hair out. So there’s that, as vague and open-ended as that is.
He’s just such an awesome kid. We’d like to let him live to see twelve.
(Jack decided he wanted to have dinner undercover on Saturday night. I couldn’t say no, seeing as how we have a framed picture of Batman visiting Santa in our house. I was amazed that he kept this persona all night – he called it The Lorax’s Evening Look.)