A few years back, Conor had started telling lies, but he wasn’t very convincing, and always ending up admitting he had lied. But now he seems to have gotten some lessons somewhere and he thinks these lies through a bit before telling them. I still know when he’s lied. Most of the time I call him on them; occasionally, I let them go. I remember being his age and wanting a hamster. I took my allowance and bought one at the Woolworth’s in town and brought it home and told my mom they were giving them away—FREE! Of course she didn’t believe me and the hamster went back to the store. I’m sure I told her little lies growing up, but not ones that were costly. The lie my son told me today cost us about $100. That’s the cost of each acting lesson at the Actors Center in Philadelphia.
Last year, in fourth grade, Conor missed twenty-three days of school. The school nurse threatened to take us to court because of his excessive absences. The only thing that saved us was that Conor was a straight-A student and the principal couldn’t argue the fact that his school was not demanding enough that a child could miss twenty-three days of school and still get straight-A’s. Most of the days, Conor would say he’d thrown up, or that his stomach was really upset or that he had a bad headache. I believed him at first, but started getting suspicious near the end because he suddenly got better by lunchtime. I sat him down and asked him why he lied to get out of going to school. It turned out that he hated his teacher and was bored in class. I told him that wasn’t an excuse. Then he went straight for the kill. He told me that since I had gotten home from the hospital at the end of September, he was afraid I’d die if I was alone during the day. How could I argue with that? I promised him I was fine and wouldn’t die while he was in school. Good thing I didn’t. I’d have a lot to explain later on in heaven.
Why do we lie? I lie. I tell the bill collector that I’d send in a payment at the beginning of the month and then can’t, so I don’t answer the phone when their name comes up on caller ID. (What did we do before caller ID? We had to answer the phone and take our chances. But then answering machines came along and we learned to “screen.” Now, it’s easy to ignore a phone call from someone we don’t want to talk to, simply by looking at the caller ID). I know my friends have lied to me. I just accept it because I know they have a good reason, or even a bad reason, but some reason. I try to be honest with my son. We’ve talked about drinking and drugs. I’ve admitted that I’d tried both of them and am thankful that I didn’t hurt myself or someone else. I tell him what his life would become if he started using drugs, or alcohol, and he agrees with me. For now. But what happens when he’s 16 or 17 and his friends offer him a joint? Will our honest talks with him do any good? I can only pray that they will.
There’s a new movie out called The Invention of Lying. Everyone tells the truth until one guy learns to lie. And his lies work, because nobody else would think about lying. I’m thinking about taking my son to see the movie. There must be a message in the movie, that lying doesn’t work out very well. And maybe, just maybe, he’ll learn he can’t get a lie past me. But I’ll have to be hypervigilant. I think as he gets older, the lies will get deeper. And then we’ll all be in it too deep to dig ourselves out.