Truth and Consequences

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A few months ago, my mom and I took Wyatt to Legoland for his birthday. It was a day he had no school, and his siblings did, so it was the perfect opportunity to have time alone with him and celebrate.

As we approached the cars kids drive themselves, Wyatt became very excited. I saw a sign stating riders must be 6 years old to drive. Wyatt would be 6 two days later. Close enough. We got in line.

As the line winded around Wyatt watched the kids. There were real painted lanes, stop signs and traffic signals. It was every kid’s fantasy. The cars were not on a track.

Just as we neared the front of the line a woman came by asking a few parents with younger children how old their kids were.

She approached me. “How old is he?”

“Six,” I answered. And then, unable to lie, I quickly added, “Just about.”

“How old is he right now?”

I explained that he was 5, but that we were here for his 6th birthday which was in two days. Well more specifically in 36 hours because he was born at 2 in the morning.

She told us she was sorry, that he could not ride. He had to be 6.

I was incredulous. I pleaded with her, repeating that we were within hours of him turning 6. I asked to see her supervisor. It was becoming quite a scene.

Wyatt just stood there watching it unfold, not saying a word. The supervisor got an earful from me, and commended me for telling the truth, but he wouldn’t budge.

He gave us a go-to-the-front-of-the-line pass for any other ride in the park for our troubles and we reluctantly stepped out of line and away from the happy drivers in miniature cars.

My mom and I explained to Wyatt that no ride was worth telling a lie. He picked up on the fact this was pretty serious and never complained.

It wasn’t the first time telling the truth proved inconvenient.

When our oldest was at our neighborhood school in 1st grade, we were going to take him out of school for a week and go to Washington, DC. I had heard rumors of kids losing their spot in the school if they went on vacation. Travel was an unexcused absence while illness was excused. I called the principal and, sure enough, was told to lie and call him in sick all week.

She told me, “I went on a cruise with my daughter and had to say she had strep throat.”

As in don’t worry about it, we all do it.

This was supposed to make me feel better?

I was beside myself. I scoured the district’s education code and found the section on truancy. Turns out in addition to illness and religious reasons being excused absences, independent study was also an excused absence. I called the principal back, faxed her a copy of the education code and told her I would like to exercise my right to do an independent study.

I wrote out lesson plans which included journal writing and a collage of colorful fall leaves. My request went to the superintendent’s office and, unbelievably, was denied. The principal called to tell me they were only accepting independent study at the high school level and that, lo and behold, I would in fact have to lie about the reason for my son’s absence.

I couldn’t do it. For the same reason I can’t lie at the movies about my kids ages. Teaching my kids about honesty and integrity is worth more than a few dollars or being in good graces with the attendance office.

Having integrity sometimes it means stepping out of line. And other times it means making a beautiful leaf collage even if no one will notice.

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