I’ll admit it. I can be an angry parent.
I have been known to lose my cool when silly things happen with my boys. Fooling around that leads to dented walls or not looking after bike helmets and water bottles at day camp will certainly lead to impatience and hollering. Simple, common sense errors that children are prone to just send me off sometimes.
But this weekend I experienced a different anger. A heartbreaking anger. One that had me seething in silence. It was all at once devastating, disappointing, and shattering.
My son lied. My son stole from me and lied. He’s 8.
He had gone in my jar of loose change in my home office and taken about $15 in coins (in Canada we have $1 and $2 coins so it was about 9 coins he had taken).
We were on a camping weekend, a special trip where just he and I had hit the woods to spend some one-on-one time. We were watching a movie in our tent and I heard a jingle in his suitcase. He showed me the coins and said he had found them in the dirt in the campground earlier that afternoon.
The lie was swift and instant. There was no pause. It was almost like it was premeditated.
For a moment I believed him. He had been scavenging about our campsite all afternoon and easily could have found the treasure. I questioned him and he offered more details about where and how he found them. It was effortless.
Except the coins weren’t the least bit dirty and my son, being 8, would have yelled and screamed and called me over to the spot in the forest the minute he found one coin let alone 8 or 9 of them. And he hadn’t done that.
So I asked if he had really found them in the dirt and he said “really.” “Really?” I asked again. “Really,” he repeated. It went on 4 or 5 times and then my son offered up a pinky swear.
This is biblical in its meaning to me. A pinky swear is your word as bond and my son pinky swore he found them in the dirt. I asked just one more time and this time he offered a tell as he shyly looked away.
Then he admitted what he had done. He had taken them from the coin jar in my office, he had no reason why.
I didn’t yell. I didn’t raise my voice a single decibel as I questioned him. In fact, it was the opposite. I was almost whispering. My son had betrayed me deliberately and instantly. It was a gut punch.
I don’t know how kids learn to lie or when, but mistrust is now a part of my relationship with my son. Throughout our camping weekend his lie gnawed on my heart and hovered like a cloud over my emotions.
On our final night, over some roasted marshmallow s’mores, I tried my best to explain my devastation to my son, how his deception had hurt. I tried to explain to him that he can always be honest with me. That lying about something is often worse than the actual infraction. We cried, hugged and shared ‘I love yous.’
And now, retelling this story here, I’m wondering if it’s all my fault. Is it because I raise my voice at the little things that my son will find it necessary to hide and lie about the bigger things? Do I make too much of a big deal about the small stuff?
Welcome to parenting. No matter how great and wonderful your kids are, the moment it goes off the rails a world of doubt creeps in and you question everything. My son stole from me, and lied about it. It broke my heart, and it’s all my fault.