The Results May Vary

Observations from my Mixed Up World

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Deception 101

One of the nice things about kids is that they tend to be terrible liars.  When I was a kid, I couldn’t even intend to tell a lie to my mother without breaking out in nervous laughter.  It really gives the whole thing away, when you walk in the room, take one look over at mom and then burst out laughing.  I’d just turn around and walk back out.  So I’m not sure what I was thinking when I started to teach Milo how to tell a lie that was both good and effective.  How did I ever end up here?

Milo’s modeling agent wants us to take him to New York in the summer to take part in a huge modeling/talent convention.  Since we aren’t sure if this is a good idea for us, we told Milo to keep quiet about it to his friends.  One of our big fears is that our little egotist will alienate all of his friends if he isn’t careful.  But is seems that Milo didn’t realize we were talking only about the New York possibility.  He’s doing a bridal runway show this weekend and had to get measured for a tuxedo Monday night.  The next day he really wanted to talk about his fitting but was scared that he wasn’t supposed to say anything.  So he invented a cousin’s summer wedding as a pretext to the fitting.  Now I find out that he’s been telling friends about how he can’t wait to score with the pretty flower girls and how he’ll be charming them all with his keen dance moves after the wedding.  Note to self – time to cut him off from watching The Big Bang Theory.

So after he confesses all of this to me, I had to take the time to explain that we are only being closed mouthed about New York.  The rest of the modeling gigs, he can share.  Humbly.  Very humbly.  But that doesn’t solve one small problem.  For Milo to do the bridal show this weekend, he needs to miss play practice.  This will require some deception because he is not supposed to miss any practices.  I figure since he is playing a Yeti and has only 3 lines in the whole play, he can miss one practice but I’m not about to say that.  I’m also pretty sure that he can ad lib with some grunting and cavorting around but again, I can’t say so.  So I laid out what we will tell the play’s producers.  “Ok, Milo.  We will tell the producers that we have to go out of town this Sunday and we were unable to avoid it.”

“Wow, Dad.  That’s a great idea, because we really are going out of town.  That’s like the truth.”

“That’s right.  When you need to lie, you need to lie with the truth.  That way you can say that you told the truth.  You just didn’t tell the whole story.  You always have to keep the story simple and as truthful as you can.  That’s what makes it believable.”

The realization that I am training my son to lie like Machiavelli suddenly dawned on me.  “And don’t think you can pull that shit with me, ” I told him, “You have to always tell me the truth.  Or else.”

“Don’t worry, Dad.  I won’t”  Suddenly, I feel like June Cleaver accepting a compliment on my lovely dress from Eddie Haskel.  What have I done?

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Failing due to Success

We were watching Survivor – One World last night and at Tribal Council something that was said jumped out at me.  Kat, as seen below, screwed up the immunity challenge and was trying to convince the others not to send her home.

 She said that she felt absolutely terrible because she had never failed at anything.  Jeff asked her incredulously if she was saying that she had never failed at anything in her life before.  She said that she had never attempted to do anything that she wasn’t certain she would succeed in.  Wow.  How sad.  She either has incredible hubris or she has never seen the value of testing herself before.  I am reminded of the proverb, those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad.  I think Kat is going to leave in a tight fitting white coat.

But it makes me wonder about how many kids are being set up to fail because as parents we want them to succeed.  The media is full of endless diatribes against parents who schedule every moment of their kids lives, who make endless excuses for them and who attack anyone and anything perceived as an obstacle to the child’s success.  I can see no example as clear as the stereotypical hockey mom/dad, whose self worth and future happiness has become inextricably entwined with their child’s success on the ice.  Verbal and physical assault on referees, coaches and other kids are completely appropriate to that parent because if their child fails then the parent must face the fact that the sword has fallen on the Gordian knot of their own goals.  Pity little Johnny who at 12 was the star of the team and at 14 has past his peak and can only play house league.  Little Johnny has just sacrificed 10 years of his life to something and doesn’t know how to start fresh because no one spoke truth to him.  No one made sure that he knew most kids don’t grow up and join NHL teams.

I keep telling Milo that I am not saying or doing things to be mean but just dealing with the truth of the matter.

A simple example occurred this morning.  Milo was heading down to breakfast and asked me how he looked.  I told him that his clothes looked good but his hair looked like it had been styled by a blind scarecrow looking for some help in the fields.  He was hurt and insulted until he looked in the mirror.  Suddenly, he decided the hairbrush might not hurt him as much as his hairdo was going to hurt his reputation.

A more interesting example is that Milo is trying to convince his mother and me that we should allow him to quit the book club that he joined at school.  In fact, last night a more tearful and incoherent child could not be found as he burst from the bedroom that we were certain he had been asleep in.  Multiple attempts were made to figure out the cause of the hysteria and in the end, it appears that he is afraid he can’t read the five books in three months that he committed to read.  He couldn’t face that he would fail.  Tragically for Milo, his mother and I have hardened hearts reminiscent of  cold-war era KGB interrogators.  We brutally forced him to admit that his penchant for watching 3-4 hours of TV each night did not help him achieve the goal of reading a book.  Despite further tears and accusations that I’d best not write down, we held fast to our point that we were not rubbing his face in his failure but simply telling him the truth.  He will also need to face the truth that TV time just got shortened.  See how we support our child by removing obstacles to failure.  My arm is sore from patting myself on the back.

Disclaimer:  The photo above was taken from the Survivor – One World website.  I am certain that it is legally encumbered by a mountain of protection from misuse, distribution etc.  By no means am I attempting to claim any right etc. to the photo and fully acknowledge that ownership of the photo was, is and ever shall be with the producers of the show.  My inclusion of the photo was to add colour to my blog, to accredit the show with  making me think about a wider issue and it was certainly not an effort to create excitement by having a bikini clad woman titillating my readers.