Other than everyday safety rules, I did not impose but two rules on my girls growing up.
One for my sanity, the other for theirs.
In second grade, my teacher awarded little shiny stick-on gold stars for a job well done. The challenges for the gold stars were varied. We could earn a star for being kind to other children, respectful to the teacher and during the pledge of allegiance, completing our work sheets, being a good helper, and the list goes on. My teacher was very generous with the stars.
Every now and then, if we earned a certain number of stars for the week, our reward would be a whole box of gold stars.
As I loved visiting with my friends to discuss the ills of the world, (not!) it was an even greater challenge for me to earn a box of these coveted shiny gold stars.
Finally, after a week of pretending I’d lost the ability to speak, I was awarded the white box in which the stars were wrapped. My first experience with nirvana.
Upon arriving home giddy with success, I showed my mom my prize.
“Return it immediately; no one gets a whole box; why did you take it?” she said with a bit of a shrill. “Go right now!” Swimming uphill in the wake of my tears, I went back to school and told my teacher, who wrote a note of explanation to my mom. While she read the proof of the pudding (so to speak), I squirreled away the box in a drawer under my panties.
From that moment on, I was in constant terror that no one would ever believe me again.
Rush forward to when I turned 11 or 12. Our grade was scheduled for a field trip to the Museum of Natural History. Two more parent drivers were needed.
Here it comes: the second greatest lie I ever told.
I jumped up, hand raised with great pride. My dad has a car; he told me he would be happy to do it. I knew it wasn’t true as the words hit the air.
Although my dad worked from sun up to sundown, I was so proud he owned a car. I thought, maybe, just maybe. I prayed.
My mom, upon hearing the lie that I told, was very upset. “Dad has no time to leave the store. He works so hard. Why would you say that to your teacher? Let me talk to him after his dinner; you wait.”
I cannot share with you what happened in the next few hours of that fateful day. I only know my body would not stop shaking. When my dad arrived home, my mom shared with him this lie. He was very angry, to say the least.
Then, in his begrudging voice, I realized my dad said he will do it. On the one hand, I was elated. I would not have to crawl back to my teacher with a backpack filled with embarrassment. On the other hand, I realized how painful the consequences of a lie could be on your emotional and spiritual wellbeing.
Back to my four girls.
The first rule was for my sanity: Do Not Whine.
I could not bear it. This sound had more of an impact on my nervous system than the scratching on a chalkboard. My husband would always ask: Do you want cheese with that whine? They rarely resorted to this horrible sound.
The second rule was for the girls: Do Not Lie.
I never wanted them to experience the feeling the scars of a lie could leave on their psychic and emotional well-being.
I am not naïve enough to think no one ever tells a lie. There are lies, and then there are LIES. Shalom bayit – peace in the home – can call for a lie. Lying about my age (yes, I do, and what do you plan on doing about it?) or my height – as if it were not obvious – seems benign, not hurtful.
Elul, the sixth month of the Jewish year, which precedes Rosh Hashanah, is designated as a time for preparation. Preparation to experience the High Holy Days as they were intended. A time for reflection, for forgiveness of ourselves and those we may have harmed, physically, spiritually, psychically.
Please accept my apology, if I have in any way offended you by speech or action.