My elder one walks into the kitchen, immediately after coming back from school. With a big sigh and a dramatic pause she proudly discloses “I lost my water bottle cap today in the bus. I was drinking water, the bus moved, the cap fell and I couldn’t find it!” Fortunately, I am cooking at the stove, with my back to her, so she can’t see my instant reaction of rage. I stop for a moment to take in a deep breath and turn around to look at her. We look at each other in the eye, and then both of us, at almost the same time, exclaim “Another One!?!”. With that we both burst out laughing and I give her a big hug.
She just lost the cap but that makes the whole water bottle pretty much useless. It is probably the fourth water bottle that she has rendered useless in the three months she’s been going to school. Of course, my instant reaction is of fury thinking of the money and the effort on my part and the irresponsibility on her part. But none of it matters at this time. All that matters is that she came home and told me the truth. For that, she deserves a big hug!
Things were not always so happy between us. She used to get bitterly scolded for losing anything from her school bag or for missing homework or getting less grades or for fighting with a friend. Essentially, she used to get scolded for everything that children are supposed to do. The end result was that she started lying to me, trying to put the blame on someone else for the mistake that she had committed. Her lies were easy to catch and they made matters worse. In addition to have done the mistake, she now got scolded for having lied about it too. It was a vicious cycle. The more she lied, the more she got scolded. The more she was scolded, the more she revolted and made more mistakes, which lead to even more lies. I was in despair and didn’t know how to handle this. She had even started lying about things that she didn’t need to, things that didn’t even matter.
One day, we sat down to have a girl to girl discussion. I told her, I was aware she was lying about a lot of things and I was not happy about it. I also told her that in my opinion, the reason she was lying, was because she thought that she would get scolded if she told the truth. She nodded instantly and had tears forming in her eyes. I wanted to start my whole lecture about honesty and responsibility all over again, but something told me, it would not help. Instead I made a promise to her. I promised her that I would not scold her ever, no matter how big the mistake, if only she would come and tell me the truth about it. She looked at me like as if saying “There goes one more of your false promises. I know I will be scolded each time.”
There was no way of making her believe my promise, apart from practicing it right from then on. Each time she lied, I would not scold her, remind her about my promise and encourage her to tell the truth. It took months of patience and hard work to make her realize that Mom, indeed, meant her promise. During this time, it was more important for me to build my bond with her, for her to consider me a friend. It was only when she considered me a friend, that she would tell me the truth. It was only when I knew the truth that I would know what was happening in her life. And it was only then that I could ever hope to guide her about values that I wanted her to believe in.
Nowadays, we usually laugh about the mistakes she made. Most of these conversation starts with “Mama, mistake happened!” That sentence in itself tells me that she realizes it was wrong and should not have happened. When she herself is feeling bad about it, then why the hell, do I need to scold her. All I need to do is give a patient hearing, and maybe try and help her come up with a few tricks so that the mistake doesn’t happen again.
Mistakes are a part of each persons life. More so, when we are children. My school friends still remember that I had a strange disorder of throwing out bottle parts (tubes, caps, handles, etc.) from the school bus. I got scolded for it at home, but did it change me?
I hope to remember my promise to her as she grows up and mistakes increase in frequency and intensity. I admit, in order to keep my promise, I still need to remind myself that she will only tell me the truth, if and only if she feels comfortable sharing her life with me. If she lies to me again, it is not she who has failed, but I who have broken my bond with her in some way.