Kids need to know that they should admit when they are wrong, that liars should not be given a free pass and, hard though it is to accept, that even parents can get it wrong sometimes.
I was trying to describe what was happening in Parliament to the kids the other day. “It’s as if my boss and me were the only ones left to do all the jobs at my work,” I started. They already think I do enough as it is. I didn’t have to explain all the stuff about lying etc because they have heard all that for years. They get that lying is wrong, that liars can’t be trusted and that no-one would want such a person running anything at all. What I want them to be aware of is that for liars to thrive others have to support them, excuse them or turn a blind eye. Bystanders matter.
Excuses are a common go-to for children. “It wasn’t my fault. It was so and so that did it,” is a line that is all too familiar to parents. At some level there may be an element of truth or justice in the excuse – their sister may well have deserved to have her top nicked given she has a long history of taking everyone else’s stuff. After a brief chat, the aim is to arrive at some sort of mutual understanding which acknowledges all sides of the situation, but results in a heartfelt apology. “Sorry is not enough. You have to say it like you mean it,” I find myself saying on repeat. That, of course, opens up multiple interpretations of what ‘mean it’ means. Plus some people are better at looking like they mean it than others, for instance, the dramatic types. The important thing is to get them to understand the impact of what they have done and for others to point that out to them rather than give them a free pass.
Sometimes parents can get it wrong, of course, and blame the wrong person. Usually, in my experience, it is not just that they have blamed the wrong person, but that the right person to blame is in fact themselves. Take the other day. I was peeved after a 1.5 hour call to my phone provider who is not the actual provider of the phone line but just produces the bill. I can still not get my head around why this is even a thing. In Spain they have a saying: ‘Maneras de complicarse la vida’ which roughly equates to why do we make everything more complicated than it has to be?
Anyway, I started on the chatbot before being I was passed around several departments, all of which had to ask me for my ‘telephony password’ [I guessed – correctly – halleluia] and do the same tests before realising I was in the wrong department. Apparently, there are different departments for different types of phone line. At one point I was told that I couldn’t possibly have a landline with my package. That is despite the fact that I have had a landline for many years so, QED, it is possible and, in fact, a reality. I was asked if my phone was FTCP or some such. How do I know? I am not a telephone engineer. If I had time to be a telephone engineer on the side, I would know this stuff. Ditto computer fixer. Ditto car technician.
They told me they would cut off the internet while they did checks and kept putting me on hold. Then they started asking me all about the socket box which was downstairs. I was upstairs due to lack of mobile signal so had to run up and downstairs describing the positioning of the socket, the number of screws in the socket box, etc. At the end of the 1.5 hours I was no wiser as to the problem. I asked if it might be the handset. The woman on the end of the phone asked if I had a spare. Who has a spare phone handset in their house? She suggested I borrow one and ring back afterwards. If it wasn’t the handset, she could book an engineer at a 50-pound call-out cost. So I’d have to go through the whole process again and pay for it? NOOOOOOOOOOO.
I came off the phone feeling slightly on edge. I looked again at the handset. I took the batteries out and realised they seemed suspiciously wet and sticky. I cleaned the inside of the phone up and lo! the dialling tone returned. I am a telephone engineer after all! However, having traced the source of the problem there next came the issue of who was to blame. Hmmm. “Who put the phone in a patch of sticky juice or some such?” I asked suspiciously. The cat was looking shifty. The kids denied all responsibility. “We don’t even use the landline,” said daughter two. This is somewhat true. They do occasionally answer it though [after multiple rings and even if they are sitting at only 10 paces from it] and then leave it somewhere.
It was beginning to dawn on me that in fact it was possibly me who had caused said problem. On sniffing the phone, it did smell suspiciously like Diet Coke. By this point everyone else was bored by my tales of phone woe. SOOO boring, they said. I told them this is what adult life is all about. Get used to it. Daughter two flinches every time I tell her that, at 19, she is already an adult. In the end I had to message my brother in Argentina for some sympathy. He is having problems with his car fob which seems to have a mind of its own and is locking him out. I recommended carrying a screwdriver [I have previous with faulty car keys]. Unfortunately, I forgot I was carrying said screwdriver around and went to a meeting in Parliament for which my bag had to be scanned. This resulted in a minor security alert and a bag ban. I digress.
My point is that when you are in the wrong it is probably best to admit it swiftly and move on. I rang my mum to tell her of the phone issue. Her landline is currently down. She has contacted her phone provider…