The best policy

truthI received a call from the landlord the other day. A call from the landlord is rarely a good thing. If you pay your rent on time (which I do), keep good repertoire with your neighbors (we borrow sugar from each other regularly, as well as pawn each other’s kids off on each other), and follow the rules of the complex to a tee (kitty? what kitty?), you can pretty much keep the landlord away. So a phone call from the landlord was not on my list of favorite phone calls to receive. We exchanged the normal pleasantries before she got to the meat of the phone call.

“Was the Taz at your apartment over the weekend?” It was the Ex’s turn to take the Taz and DQ from Friday through Sunday, and I was away on vacation, so I breathed a sigh of relief.

“No, he was at his dad’s house all weekend.” But then I thought a little harder. I had given the Ex permission to let DQ stay at the house during the Taz’s baseball practice on Friday and his game on Saturday. And after the weekend, DQ had let me know that they had hung out at the house a little longer after the game on Saturday. Sigh. He WAS at the apartment over the weekend.

The landlord let me know that the Taz’s name had been brought up regarding some trouble over at the basketball courts over the weekend. Apparently some of the kids, my son included, had decided that it would be fun to go bowling on Saturday – except the bowling ball was a basketball and the pins were empty bottles found in the trash. The result was broken glass all over the courts and parking lot. And then after that, a stuffed animal the size of a small adult was taken from the trash and ripped apart. The stuffing was all over the parking lot, mixed in with bits of glass. Needless to say, the landlord was not happy.

Ready to hang my son up by his toes, I offered to talk with him, and then to bring him into the office to talk with her about the incident. I picked my son up from school, asked him about his day, and then immediately asked him about any trouble that may have happened over the weekend.

“Before you start,” I warned him, “I want the absolute truth from you. I have no patience for any fibs right now.” He got very serious and knew exactly what trouble I was referring to. Very clearly, he gave me the details about the events that took place, explaining his part in full detail. And he agreed without hesitation to talk with the landlord.

In the landlord’s office, the Taz sat straight up in his chair. There was no nervousness about him or any shifting of his gaze. He was very straightforward as he explained to the landlord what had happened.

“Here’s what my part in this was,” he said after detailing the course of the day in question. He explained that while he did not break any of the bottles or rip apart the stuffed animal, he was a part of building towers from the bottle and taking the stuffed animal out of the trash. And when the mess occurred, he swept the remnants off of the basketball court into the parking lot.

“I realize that what I did was wrong, and I’m really sorry,” he said.

In moments of truth, you never want your child to be a part of the troublemakers. Regardless of what you know they are capable of when it comes to mischief, you always want your child to be on the right side of the rules – putting himself in the place of the good example rather than that of the mob. But even knowing that my kid had messed up, and after receiving a polite handslap from the landlord, the need to string him up and barrage him with lectures faded. In all my frustrations of dealing with fibs he has told to cover up trouble he has gotten into, I had never seen this side of him. In just a moment, he had turned from an excuse making 9 year old to a mature kid who was manning up when it was required of him.

“I have never been more proud of you,” I told him in the car. I let him know that even though his actions had obviously not been thought out and that he should have known better, I wasn’t going to punish him. The way he faced the truth was a much bigger deal than any mischief he had gotten into. “Of course,” I continued, “I don’t want you hanging out by the dumpsters anymore. Any trash that is in there remains in there. But I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your honesty and the way you admitted fault for your actions.”

Sometimes honesty really is the best policy.  Of course, so is being perfect (riiiiight).  But I’ll take honesty over perfection any day.

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