Maverick is 8 years old. He was only two when I first began writing publicly about motherhood — obviously, a lot has changed since then. The older my children get, the less inclined I am to tell their stories. I will not, however, stop telling mine.
Honesty is a big deal in our house — after all, trust is the foundation upon which everything is built. When Maverick looked up at me with his big toddler eyes and asked me if Santa Clause was real, I told him the truth. When he asked me how babies are made, I told him the truth. When asked questions about gay marriage, women’s rights, racism, sexuality, our bodies, and religion, I always tell the (age-appropriate) truth, even — and perhaps especially — when it’s uncomfortable.
It’s much easier to lie. Lying allows us to temporarily skip past discomfort; telling the truth means that I have to get at eye level with another human being and say something that might be hard to say or even harder to hear. Robbie and I have, over the course of 13 years together, finally learned how to be honest with each other.
No, I don’t want to eat there. No, I don’t feel like having sex right now. Yes, I like that shirt better. No, I don’t like it when you forget to shave.
Honesty makes me feel secure. I like having things out in the open, where I know what I’m dealing with. I find, though, that not everyone feels that way. An awful lot of us prefer to jam everything under the rug and just pretend it never happened.
Recently, Maverick lost a handwriting workbook that was worth a large portion of his grade. He told me he lost it at school, and when I asked about it again a few days later, he assured me that he’d found it and turned it in. A few weeks later, his teacher texted me to ask if I could help him find his workbook — he told her he’d lost it at home.
My knee-jerk response was PUNISHMENT. He lied to me and to his teacher, so clearly he deserved a consequence, right? As I mulled over what his punishment should be, it occurred to me that the punishment was the natural consequence of dropping a letter grade in a subject at school, in addition to losing his parent’s and teacher’s trust.
“I can’t help you if you don’t tell me the truth,” I said.
He looked surprised.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that if you would have told me right away that you lost your workbook, we could have looked for it together. We’re on the same team. But if you lie to me, you don’t give me the opportunity to help you.”
I think that’s true for all of us. In order to repair our lives, relationships, and world, we have to start telling the truth. It’s not going to be easy. There will be sweaty palms, hurt feelings, sleepless nights, and maybe some people will stop talking to us altogether. But also, we’ll find out who our people are.