My daughter lied to me yesterday. Not only did she lie, she lied about money so that she could buy something she wanted. I, of, course, like any good super hero of a mother who has x-ray vision into their children’s soul, caught her out. I confronted her, confiscated what she had bought with her dirty money and grounded her for a month.
To my surprise, she accepted this punishment very easily. I wondered if it was because this episode happened right before her piano recital; right before she had to go perform in front of everybody. But no. It wasn’t that.
She accepted the punishment because she knew she deserved it. In fact, it was like I was helping her out. She felt so much shame and guilt about what she had done- I could see it in her face as I talked to her about how she lied to me. Shame. And confusion about why she did it. She knew she was doing something wrong. And she did it anyway. It was like this ugly monster poked its head into her heart and she was just as perplexed and frightened by its appearance as the rest of us.
And I realised that I was witnessing my daughter’s first real lesson in what it means to be a human being. That the gap between knowing what is right and doing it is unfortunately hard to bridge. And that when we fail to bridge that gap, most of us feel shame. Is this what is meant by the loss of innocence? When you are suddenly confronted by the disparate worlds of what is right and what is desired and this confrontation leads to all those little choices that we are built from, the little choices to either go the hard way or the easy way until one day we look at our faces in the mirror and we can see the tracks of those decisions in the lines around our eyes, in the particular way we set our mouth?
I told her that we all make mistakes. The trick is trying to live with them. She then asked me “Mom, who invented mistakes?”
Pause. It was not that I was suffering from a paucity of answers at this point, it was that none seemed appropriate. I was tempted to say, “Well dear, if you look at it a certain way, everything is a mistake.” Or “Mistakes are a matter of opinion.” Or “Humanity invented them because we invented right and wrong.”
But none of these answers seemed quite right. So I mumbled something incoherent, hugged her and told her she was still grounded.