I would like your opinion. Mr. Bookworm thinks I’m taking “holier than thou-ness” to a nauseating (and hypocritical) extreme. I think he is on the verge of a parenting error. Here’s the deal:
Mr. Bookworm came across an opportunity to obtain some stuff for the kids without actually going through the shopping process. Indeed, early tonight, he was so strong in his belief that he will be doing this that he told the kids he might be getting a gift for them.
“But if I do, you can’t tell any of your friends about it,” he told. “You have to promise not to.”
“Why not,” I asked?
“Because, well, because it’s illegal.”
My daughter was instantly concerned that the police would be after her. After we assured her they wouldn’t break down our door (especially because this is all hypothetical right now), my husband and I took the discussion out of the kids’ hearing.
I told my husband I strongly disapproved of his going ahead with this project. I’m not worried about the cops breaking down the door. I also conceded that, yes, in the past and in small ways, I too have deviated from the straight and narrow. Heck, I’m willing to bet that each of us has in our possession a CD a friend made for us, filled with songs the friend copied from various albums, and that we’ve made, and given, identical CDs to friends. In other words, I wasn’t fool enough to claim the moral high ground on this one.
My really big problem was that I thought the message my husband sent to the kids, with his warnings about silence, was that it’s okay to steal, as long as you don’t get caught. He responded with long, convoluted arguments about the fact that we weren’t really stealing because, because, because, because, each of which I was able to shoot down. (They were all self-serving sophistry, if you ask me.) He also said I never would have taken this position if it weren’t for my blogging. (Apparently blogging conservatively gives you abnormally heightened sensitivities about honesty and how children perceive parental behavior.)
I really didn’t want to argue about the merits of obtaining the stuff, though, since I thought that was a distraction from the main issue. As far as I was concerned, the whole thing came to a screeching halt, without any further room for discussion, when my husband told the kids that he was thinking about giving them something “illegal” (his word), so they couldn’t tell anyone. The unspoken statement there was that, if they keep mum about it, it’s okay. (The funny thing was, when I asked him why he told the kids the stuff would be illegal, he announced that it was because he was being “honest.”)
In my mind, if we go down this path, we’re paving the way for our kids, when they get older, to believe that they can engage in any type of forbidden activity, as long as they keep it secret. That’s true whether they promise me they’ll go to one friend’s house but, instead, sneak off to another’s; or they take drugs or alcohol; or they have sex; or they cheat; or any of a number of activities parents don’t want for their kids. The fact that, as adults, they may actually do those things, and that many adults commonly commit little crimes and lies (“No, really, that skirt is darling on you!” “Honest, officer, the light was yellow.”), doesn’t mean it’s okay for that message to come from the parents.
So, back to my original question: Am I being an insufferable prig when I say that a parent is setting a terrible example by telling the kids that something they’re getting is illegal, so they better keep it secret?