I'm sure many of you can relate to the fact that my children are deeply fascinated with the details of my social engagements and friendships. Admittedly, it was fascinating as a child to eavesdrop on the adult conversations that happened around our house. In similar manner, I can't think of a time I've been on Facebook where one of my preteen children hasn't quickly made their way to the computer to read my news feed asfastastheycan before I shewed them away. Facebook is fun. There's games, there's pictures, there's video links, funny stories, and inside jokes that involve people the family knows.
When my eldest preteen child began asking me to get a Facebook account earlier this year, I wasn't surprised. She had been telling me that many of her friends were on Facebook for awhile. Facebook has become so much of the fabric of how we communicate these days. Her request was somewhat benign, like asking for an email account. Security and monitoring features in place...check. What else is left to do? Enter birth date....wait, what?
The Facebook minimum age requirement is 13 years old. Interesting. Dilemma. Excellent social tool, yes. Old enough to start an account, no. Now, the dilemma unfolds. Do I as a parent lie for her, or indicate to her to go ahead and lie herself?
I posted this dilemma on Facebook as I was sorting this all through. The responses I got where varied, as one would suppose. I began to see the layers of logic. The first logic layer begins something like this: Is lying o.k.? Your options: Always, Never, and .................somewhere in between. No one that I heard from would agree to always lie. What logically was left: Option 1: Never and Option 2: Sometimes is fine.
Sometimes. Sometimes is a difficult option in logic. In parenting, one of the things we repeatedly counsel young parents to do is be consistent. If you tell a child they will get a reward or a consequence for doing something, then do it. Pick your hills to die on, then make sure you win and win decisively. Nothing creates more turmoil in a child's heart and in homes then inconsistency in follow-through. Consistency is HARD for us parents. Because we get tired, we get burned-out with work, people hurt us, we get tired...and more tired. There are times when my husband and I have went to our kids and apologized to them for seasons when we were lax, and struggled to be consistent with our parenting. We knew it wasn't fair to them, to keep changing the rules.....spontaneously......whenever we felt.....tired.
Sitting down at the computer, faced with a belief system in front of Facebook. Never, Sometimes. The thoughts run..."Will it really matter? Can't I just do it, and ask forgiveness later? They aren't young children any more. Surely they understand that this type of lie doesn't matter; it's the big ones they better not try."
Sometimes....when are children old enough to determine the "some" times?
When they are 12, and they glance at the person's test paper next to them ("That's what I thought the answer was anyway.")
When they are 14, and they sneak some cash out of a parent's purse ("She would have given it to me if I would have asked.")
When they are 16, and they tell you they went where they said they would go. ("She doesn't need to know about Jordan's house. That was just an extra stop.")
When they are 18, and the boss asks for their time card ("Last Friday was on the house. For all the grief he's given me lately, he can pay me to leave early.")
If I would take a poll of parents, even these things would be hotly debated as to which ones go in the category of a Sometimes.
As a family, it's important to us to have a standard to raise our children. We use the Bible as that standard. One of these passages is I Samuel 15. In this passage, the Lord tells Saul clearly to do something. Saul mostly does it, but blames the people when he's confronted by the prophet Samuel for not doing it completely. In several statements, Saul even claims to have obeyed the Lord. Having heard enough excuses, Samuel conveys the consequence, leading out with this (from The Message): Then Samuel said, Do you think all God wants are sacrifices— empty rituals just for show? He wants you to listen to him! Plain listening is the thing, not staging a lavish religious production.
Samuel then tells Saul that the Lord is going to remove him from being King of Israel.
Saul mostly obeyed, but Saul got a swift and significant consequence. Perhaps, Saul thought it was a Sometimes.
This is one of the Bible passages that we use when we teach our children not to lie. The Lord is clear with what He requires: obedience. Plain, and simple. From me to Him; and from my kids, to me, to Him. We've worked hard to teach the kids that lying isn't just lying, but being deceptive, shifting blame to others, exaggerating, etc. are also forms of lying. In the Lord's eyes, there aren't any Sometimes. We shalt not do it.
So, when faced with a small decision that opens up a big opportunity for my child, I choose to wait until she's 13. Because one small step like fabricating a birth date would undermine my own work, my own integrity with my kids to live a life of honesty and to lead them to do likewise. It seems like such a little inconsequential decision, but I would venture to say that it's those things that mark their young minds.
Does what I say match what I do? That always matters. Guaranteed.