Em knows how to get herself ready in the morning. She wakes up to her alarm, gets dressed, has breakfast, brushes her teeth and hair and then usually reads or draws until it’s time to go. Just about every morning she’s already done getting ready for school by the time I come out of my room.
This morning when I came out of my room to make my coffee and finish getting myself ready for work, Em was emptying the dishwasher (aww!). I noticed that Em’s hair looked a bit disheveled. I told her she’d need to brush her hair again before we left for school. A strange look on her face prompted me to ask, “Did you already brush your hair?” Of course, the answer was no. Ok, so we’re a bit behind today. That’s fine.
A few minutes later I asked her if she’d packed her lunch yet. Her answer came quickly. “Yes. No.” I asked which one was the right answer. “No.”
Sooo…why did you say yes first? No answer. Hmmm.
She came into the bathroom with me to brush her hair as I washed my face. Then as I started working on my hair, she pulled out her toothbrush. I asked why she was just now brushing her teeth. She told me that she’d only just finished breakfast just before I came out. I asked what took her so long to eat breakfast…no answer. I asked if she had been reading at the table. “No. Yes.” Uh oh…
Side note: Em has always been a slow eater. She can start eating before I do, having usually half as much as I have on my plate and I’ll still finish 10-15 minutes before she does. She doesn’t talk, play or sing or do anything that causes her to delay eating. She’s just a slow eater. And we’ve banned books and newspapers at the table on weekdays because that slows her down even more. I love that she loves to read, but how can a bowl of cereal take 30 minutes to eat?!?
Back to today: So she’d been reading at the table. I asked her what the rule was about reading at the table. “No reading at the table.” But what I was more concerned about was the fact that two questions I’d asked her had immediate lies followed by immediate truths. I asked her what made her first responses lies. She had no answer. She’s 6; I didn’t expect a real answer, I just wanted her to think about it.
We talked about how hard it is to trust some one’s answers when they lie to us. And I told her a story of a woman I’d heard give a talk on parenting (Sandy Spurgeon McDaniel). The woman had said that our consciences (and I explained what a conscience is) are like a piece of paper. Every time we go against our conscience, do something we know is wrong whether or not we think someone will find out and/or get hurt, it’s like tearing a little piece off the paper. Imagine every time we lied, cheated or stole; imagine how many times we’d have to rip off a piece of the paper. Imagine how small and torn that piece of paper would be. We can ap0logize or make amends to whomever we’ve wronged, like taping the ripped piece back on, but we’d always see that tear, no matter how much we try to fit the pieces back exactly like they were before. And the smaller our paper gets, the weaker our conscience becomes.
I got out a piece of paper, wrote “Em’s Conscience” on it and gave it to her, having her pretend that was her real conscience. (She’s 6; she understands that’s not her real conscience). I told her to rip off one piece for every lie that she’d told me today; she ripped off two pieces. Her face became blank at first, and then sad. I asked her think about that piece of paper every time she had a choice to make on whether to do the right thing or do the wrong thing.
I asked her if she knew why we weren’t supposed to things that could hurt other people and she responded that it was God’s rule. I agreed and asked her to think about what she would do if God or Jesus were right next to her when she chose to do something that was wrong. She told me she wouldn’t do it. So I asked her, “Is God or Jesus right here right now?” She thought about it for a couple of seconds and then said, “They’re always in our hearts, so yes.” I nodded and I could see on her face she was realizing that she needed to make good decisions all the time because God and Jesus could see her all the time.
My hope and goal in all of this is that Em realizes that her decisions on whether to do the wrong or right thing is for the benefit of others and for her own benefit: to walk the path God wants us to walk and to keep the integrity of our conscience always in mind.
To keep our “conscience paper” as big as we can.