This morning Troy and I went to Evan’s school to watch him receive an award. I assumed it was something academic, as that’s Evan’s thing. He’s the kid that asks to do “extra” homework because it’s fun. Instead, I was happy to find that he was given the “Character Trait Award” that read:
For Evan Dexter: In recognition of demonstrating HONESTY.
I can not tell you how my heart swelled with pride. In my twenty-six years of parenting, this has been the trait I’ve stressed most to my children. And really, based on my life’s work, could there be a better award for my kid?
Just this morning as I was packing his lunch, he stopped me from putting a sweet granola bar in his backpack. “Mommy, you said no sweets for the week because I said a bad word yesterday, remember?”
And a few days ago, he and Ben had their first scrape with “the law”. Yes, that’s right. Our little five and six year old hoodlums got into a world of trouble.
On Sunday, Erin, Beth, Troy and I had spent the afternoon playing baseball with our boys. Afterward, Evan went to Ben’s to play. When I later called to check in, Erin sounded upset. “We have a situation…” she said. Erin and Beth’s neighbor had come to warn them that vandals were running loose in the neighborhood, and had smashed out the window of their Lexus. No worries, he assured her, we’ve called the police and they’re on their way.
Erin thanked him and shut the door, when Beth said, “Uh…did you check with the boys? They’re in the back yard.”
It turns out, Evan and Ben were continuing to practice baseball by seeing how far they could throw big rocks. Over the fence.
Troy and I rushed over, and the four of us sat the boys down to have a talk. We made sure they understood the seriousness of throwing rocks, and that even though it was an accident, they would have to take responsibility and tell the police. Evan processed the situation, as he often does, by drawing it out on paper.
We walked the boys next door, and they apologized to the neighbors (for a second time. Beth had taken them over immediately when she first found out.) We made sure they saw the damage the rocks had caused. Then we waited for the police.
As the two officers strolled up in their intimidating uniforms, billy clubs and guns in hosters, the lead officer said, “Okay, who can explain what’s going on here?” and before any of us could get a word out, Evan stepped up and said, “Mr. Policeman, we did it!” Ben nodded his head, “Yeah, we did it.”
“Well, Thank you for being honest boys.” The officer shook their hands.
Evan continued, “Me and Ben were throwing rocks over the fence but it was a accident and here’s my drawing.”
The officer took the drawing, looked closely at it, then back at Ben and Evan. He was silent for a moment. Here comes the big lecture…I thought. This is good.
“I’m going to have to arrest you two…” he broke into a smile, “for being ADORABLE!” He chuckled, “You two are the cutest kids I’ve ever seen!”
Beth and I stood behind the boys, frowning and shaking our heads. This was not the intimidating life lesson we’d hoped for.
“But throwing rocks is BAD, right Officer?” I added.
“Yes, don’t throw rocks anymore, boys, okay?”
They nodded, jumping up and down with glee. The officer looked back to Beth and I smiling. “Seriously, those guys are so cute…”
Ben asked Evan, “What’s gonna happen now?”
“Don’t worry Ben, we’re not in trouble! He thinks we’re cute!”
Beth was immediately on it. “Hey- you still have to take responsibility for this.”
After the police left, we sat the boys down again and told them they’d have to do some extra chores to help pay for the TWO brand new Lexuses that were damaged. (We’re still waiting to hear back for insurance on that…dreading the answer.)
Evan was excited about it. “Can we make a chores chart? Can I pick up trash? And sweep?”
I’ve had my ups and downs, my failures as a person and a mom, but one thing I’m proud of is teaching my kids to be honest. The most trouble Taylor ever got into as a kid was for telling a lie. It was over a silly thing (brushing his teeth) but I treated it with huge seriousness. I told him - when you tell a lie, you break trust with people. Your friends and family won’t believe in your words anymore. I won’t get mad at you for making a mistake, but I will always get mad at you for lying. In our house, lying was the most serious offense of all. Taylor threw himself face down on his bed and sobbed his eyes out for twenty minutes. Cristen, who was then about twelve, went and sat beside him, rubbing his back.
“Why are you crying, boopy-nose?”
“I TOLD A LIE!” He sobbed into his pillow.
Today, my daughter Cristen tells it like it is. She stands in her truth, lives her life on her own terms and, believe me, she doesn’t hold anything back.
Taylor is living a life of integrity and responsibility, and passing it down to his own son.
And Evan has just passed his first big “life test”.
I know it was just a silly little school award today, but I took it as a huge sign from the Universe that we’re on track.
As I know all too well, being honest does not win you friends, rarely are you rewarded for it, and never are you “awarded”. The true reward is the self-trust and self-respect you gain. Living with integrity brings an inner peace – and that is what I want my kids to have.
The award today? Just icing on that cake.