As parents, we all try to teach our kids the difference between right and wrong. As people, we all do things which are both. Some by mistake, some on purpose, sometimes we go out of our way, oftentimes we just take advantage of a present situation. Either way, our lives are filled with both good deeds and wrongdoings.
But where do we draw our own personal line?
Even acts which we would all agree are giant nono’s can be seen differently if we change our perspective slightly. I think we all agree that stealing is one of the big ones. Don’t take things which don’t belong to you, is drilled into us from a young age. R isn’t quite there yet, helping himself to other kids toys, items from strangers pushchairs, food from other kids hands.. It’s a work in progress. But I can see how he is confused. Here us adults are, thieving at every turn.
Who? Me? (I hear you gasp.)
Movies? Music? Grapes in the supermarket? We all take something which doesnt rightfully belong to us. On my gap year, one of our favourite apartment bonding games was “who can hide the most toilet rolls under various items of clothing from the nearby college back to our bathroom.” Whether we’re slipping office supplies into our bags at the end of a day of work, or hacking into each others bank accounts, arent we all guilty of some kind of stealing? Combine this with the dictum we give our children to share our toys and treats with others, and there is no wonder they are left baffled as to what is theirs and what isn’t.
Let’s try another. Lying. Apparently in normal conversation, we tell two lies every ten minutes. Incredible. Whether we are above or below average for this statistic, it still leaves us with a lot of bearing false witness to account for. We ask our kids to always tell us the truth, but at the same time to be cautious of other people’s feelings. Yet even a child is aware that there are some truths people dont want to hear, however nicely they are dressed up.
Do I look fat? Does this suit me? Do you think he’ll call me? Did I do something wrong? Often we are faced with questions that just don’t need to be answered truthfully, and situations in which the stone cold truth will do more harm than good. If we add to this, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, explanations of dead pets, or fabricated excuses as to why they cant have treats or toys, you have to ask: Are we eroding our children’s ability to trust us, even while we ask them to become trustworthy people themselves?
Perhaps we are just giving our kids black and white rules to live by until they are old enough to understand the grey areas. Dont steal…things which really count as stealing. Dont hurt animals…unless they’re insects and really annoying you. Dont lie…unless it would be awkward to tell the truth, or it makes your life a lot easier. Dont be nasty… unless they really deserve it and/or you have something clever to say.
Like I said, where is your personal line?