I recently discovered Seth, AKA The Didactic Pirate, via our Comments section. Along with being a fellow SoCal dad, dude’s a University Professor, so if you enjoy smart, funny writing, by all means head over to his blog. (After you read this post, of course.) Here he talks about the profound influence that Tony Hayward has had over his daughter.
Didactic Pirate pic June 2010 I think my eight-year-old daughter has been watching congressional hearings on CNN behind my back. It’s just this sense I have.
I came into the living room yesterday afternoon to discover a couch full of crumbs. Pop Tart crumbs. Very telling. We have regulations here in the house, prohibiting the unsupervised consumption of Pop Tarts. Yes, they are acknowledged by all parties to be hearty and delicious. They are, however, the crumbliest, messiest food in the mass-produced, toastable pastry milieu. It’s impossible to take a bite of one and not spray bits everywhere.
For this reason, my wife decided that our daughter can only eat Pop Tarts at the table. Over a placemat. With a newspapers spread out on the floor beneath her chair. (Seriously – I don’t know what the hell my kid does with them. I don’t even see how any of the frosted goodness ends up in her mouth. For years, I thought she just enjoyed the feeling of squooshing Pop Tarts between her fingers, and letting the crumbs rain down onto the floor.)
When I saw the crumb-covered couch, I called my daughter downstairs, for I am the Enforcer.
I stood her in front of the couch and we surveyed the scene. I let her take it in for a moment. She looked at the mess, her big eyes taking it all in, cherubic face blank. Impossible to tell what she’s thinking.
Me: Can you tell me how this happened?
Her: I would like to understand the context more fully.
Me: The context is, you know you’re supposed to eat Pop Tarts on the couch.
Her: I had no prior knowledge of that.
Me: What are you talking about? Your mother and I have said this to you like a thousand times. Look at the couch. Is that a strawberry filling stain on the cushion?
Her: There are clearly issues here that our investigation has identified as well.
Me: Kid, why did you eat Pop Tarts in here when you know you’re not allowed?
Her: I wasn’t involved in any of that decision-making.
Me: What?!? Not good enough.
Her: I wasn’t part of that decision-making process.
Me: What’re you talking about? There’s no one else here!
Her: I had no prior knowledge. I wasn’t party to that decision. I’m not a cement engineer. It’s too early to reach conclusions. I’m not an oceanographic scientist.
All kids lie. You can instill the value of truthiness in them as early as you want, you can read them Pinocchio in vitro, you can tell them that lying about something they’ve done is always worse than just coming clean. They will nod. They will look at you with their puppy dog eyes, and you’ll think they get it. You’ll be so grateful that, unlike all those other parents you know with rotten, deceitful children who are clearly bound for prison, you and yours have a solid bond based on honesty and mutual respect.
Until they make a mess of something, and sense that their ass is on the line. Then suddenly, they’re Big Oil CEOs.
I don’t expect my kid to tell me the truth all the time. As Homemaker Dad described in a great post here last week, kids learn to lie very early. I’m just lucky that, for now, my kid doesn’t realize how obvious and flimsy the Tony Hayward Approach to Obfuscation is. She’s a bright kid, but she’s not exactly crafty. Yet. Thank God. As long as she’s continues taking her cues from corporate CEOs, I’ll be able to stay one step ahead of her. She’ll get better at it. They all –we all– do. All I can do is hope that as she gets older, she’ll learn that owning up to what she does is ultimately better than stonewalling. Sometimes I worry that when the serious shit comes down in high school (sex, drugs, shoplifting, cow tipping), she’ll have learned better tricks, and I’ll never quite know if I should believe what she tells me. I worry about that future a lot. All I can do today is try to lay the right groundwork by not getting mad at the little stuff, the Pop Tart crumbs.
So for now:
Me: Well, you tell me, kiddo. What should we do about this?
Her: We must find a way to move forward together, and change the culture.
Me: (Sigh.) Fine. Get a sponge.