When you raise children, you have no idea what is coming your way. Suddenly you see life with a new set of eyes, and if you are a good parent, you don’t want to repeat the mistakes made in your past. So I read every single parenting book possible, but I found there are just some situations that no expert can prepare you for.
My oldest daughter would say to me out of the blue,
“Mom, I think I’m going to tell a lie.”
I would say, “Then don’t.”
“Okay,” she would reply and then would look relieved just to have told me. This became a quick fix to stop underhandedness.
My youngest daughter tended to conceal or go around the truth. It wasn’t a flat-out lie, but there was a bit of sleight of hand.
It wasn’t done to harm others but to be to her advantage. What I didn’t know wouldn’t hurt me, and she flew under the radar, so she thought. This began at a very young age, so I tried to get a grip on it right away to avoid it getting worse.
I was at a register paying, and I glanced down to see her looking at something in a bin about her height. She was about to put it in her jacket pocket. She was only two at the time, so I crouched down and whispered that she couldn’t do that. No one around me knew, and I could tell she wasn’t fully aware that her actions weren’t right. I put it back discreetly.
Once I got her into the car and I was driving, I calmly started to explain that what she had been doing was stealing, and God didn’t want us to do that. She was silent as I spoke, taking in what I was saying.
“Some big people go to jail for taking things, so don’t do it anymore. They don’t care that it’s wrong, and then they go to prison.”
I drove a little further and heard a little gasp. I looked in my rearview mirror.
With tears streaming down her face, she screamed,
“I don’t wanna go to jail!!”
“Hey! Listen..you won’t….”
She was screaming so loud she couldn’t hear me.
“I don’t wanna go to jail! I don’t wanna go to jail!”
“You won’t…hey… listen….”
Her older sister had a hard time not laughing.
In between wails, I kept trying to reassure her she wasn’t headed for the big house.
“Do the right thing. Don’t take things that don’t belong to you, and you won’t go to jail, ok?”
“Okay,” she said, finally able to hear my voice.
You would think she would have changed her ways after that, but she was still learning and pushed the envelope where she could.
Every morning, I had each of them take a chewable vitamin. One loved them, and the other was not very amicable to anything healthy. She wanted bottomless bowls of goldfish crackers with apple juice free flowing. Her older sister would pop down whatever I asked, but she would put up a fight after running it through her invisible mental filter and deeming it “yucky”.
I let her pick the color she wanted out of the bottle, and she would run off to her room to take it. One day, I heard: Tell her to show you her teeth.
She ran past me, and I said,
“Open your mouth. I want to see something.”
Her choice of the day was purple, and if she had just eaten it, her teeth would show the evidence. She immediately complied, so she had no idea the trap that was being set.
They were white as snow.
“What did you do with your vitamin?” I asked.
“I ate it.”
“No. You didn’t.”
She closed her mouth, realizing I was on to her.
I walked into her room and found the dog frantically trying to dig behind her dresser.
“What is happening?”
I pulled the heavy piece of furniture away from the wall. A year’s worth of vitamins spilled out from where she had been stashing them.
I used both her first and middle names to summon her while I fought off the dog from gulping them down and overdosing.
She appeared in the doorway, between her sparkling teeth and the dog leading me, she knew her number was up.
“You haven’t taken any of these? Ever?”
She shook her head no.
I wanted to laugh, but I didn’t want her to think it was okay.
She confessed that she had slipped the tiny supplement into a small opening daily. It was like the actions of a person in a locked ward bypassing their medication. I didn’t even know what to do with that. She had come up with something I had never read in any of my parental training manuals. Ever.
“You have to tell me the truth and don’t hide things.”
I think I gave up on the vitamins after that.
She promised to be good as gold, but there were a few more minor things that she tried to get away with.
Years later, she told me while trying not to laugh, she crawled under my bed and watched a show that I told her I wanted to preview first to see if it was age-appropriate. I had no idea she was happily watching along with me while I was trying to protect her innocence. At the end of it, she crawled out, unknown to me, without a twinge of guilt.
Somewhere along the way, she became honest as the day is long, developed a healthy conscience, and became her authentic self.
It has been my experience that a person can only hide in the shadows for so long until a moment comes when they are brought into the spotlight of truth. There are various shades of dishonesty, from the mild, like hers, to the more extreme, where its become a lifestyle of functioning in an alternative reality.
For some, it comes in the form of people pleasing. We don’t want to let others down, and conflict isn’t our favorite subject. So, we push our true feelings aside, make excuses and carry on with a smile. It appears to be a noble undertaking because we go out of our way to make everybody happy and don’t want to disappoint, all the while we are withering away on the inside. We keep skirting past those uncomfortable moments of setting boundaries and saying no because we need to keep the peace.
No one becomes a doormat without allowing it.
The other day, I opened up a cupboard and pulled out a bag of organic potatoes. They had been enjoying their time in the dark, sprouting major eyes and decomposing second by second. Because they were pushed to the back, no one realized they were there.
I moved them to the counter from where they had been on the floor. A brown, oily puddle began to form and seeped its way under the microwave. The worst part was the smell that started to infiltrate the kitchen.
I grabbed the nearest roll of paper towels and the bottle of kitchen cleaner in an attempt to stop the problem.
My daughter, who heard my muffled screams because I was holding my breath, materialized with her can of pumpkin spray, which I still have some trauma from last year’s spray down episode. She tried to combat one overwhelming scent with another with her shirt pulled up to her eyebrows.
No matter how fast I was trying to clean it up, the rancid smell was winning. The only solution was to triple bag the rotting produce and put it outside. Hours later, there were still hints of it in the air. Mixed with pumpkin air freshener.
Like those hidden potatoes, when you stuff down your true feelings, they will eventually leak out in some way. Either the body will manifest symptoms, or your emotional well-being will suffer. God doesn’t want you to live like that.
In Matthew 5:37, it says: Say only yes if you mean yes, and no if you mean no. (NCV)
And in Romans 13:8 it states: Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another..(NASB)
Don’t hold yourself hostage by surrendering your power to keep others feeling content.
Fear is the culprit, promising in a twisted way to keep you safe from upset, but every time you shut off what you want to say, your spirit fades a little more, and it gets easier to do so. Then when you do speak up, it’s such a foreign and rare occurrence that you aren’t taken seriously, so you go back into your corner and convince yourself that this is how it’s supposed to be. It seems normal, but it isn’t.
This way of conducting oneself is usually years in the making, probably going back to childhood, so to get out of it will be somewhat of a struggle, but every time the decision is made to correct it, you gain more of yourself back. You learn how to live in a balanced way where you aren’t a pushover or an aggressive bully.
This is where your prayer life has to be taken seriously as you seek answers that will help undo old habits. As usual, if you involve God, then it can be done, and it says so in 2 Corinthians 3:17:
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (NLT)
In addition to doing an inward search, I have found that just like all the parenting advice I used to read, there are plenty of resources to look to for healing this part of your life so you can be genuine, live unafraid, and finally break the unnecessary chain.