When you first get used to being a parent, you think to yourself, "this isn't too hard. It's mostly upper-body lifting." Then they start to think about the world and interact in it, and you realize that you have to be someone's moral compass. And the foundation that you lay now, will reverberate for their entire lives.
My daughter had a conundrum, a real head-scratcher of the moral kind. Do you stand behind your friend, even though they have done something bad? Or do you tattle because it's the right thing to do?
I think the societal standard is that you do what is right for the whole. But the personal creed is that you don't snitch on your friends.
At dinner one night, she told my wife and me the story. Her friend at school took a toy home with her, and she saw the whole thing. At first, my daughter was encouraged, dared, to take the toy. But she didn't. She walked away from the situation.
My wife and I secretly sent each other high-fives when we learned she did the right thing.
"I think I should tell the teachers," she said, sadly. "But I'm just not sure what to do."
I'm not sure which offers more hurdles, being a parent or being 4 years old.
From the second you become a parent, you are challenged. You feel like you will never sleep again. But then they start to sleep like regular people and so do you. Soon, you master diapers and kissing boo boos. Then you think to yourself, "this isn't too hard. It's mostly upper-body lifting."
Then they start to think about the world and interact in it. As a parent, you realize that you had no idea how hard it was going to get. You have to be someone's moral compass. And the foundation that you lay now, will reverberate for their entire lives.
But for a little kid, just about every situation is a new, confusing challenge. So, I guess it's a tossup.
One of the beautiful things about my daughter is that she always tells the truth, even if no one wants to hear it. Unless she is trying to be goofy and make someone laugh, of course.
We talked through her options. Was telling the best idea? At least, I told her, she should talk to her friend first and tell her how she feels about the situation. "If she's really your friend, she will listen," I said.
I reassured her that she is a good person, and whatever she decides, we are behind her. She thought for a moment and decided she better sleep on it.
The next day, her burden weighed on me, and I worried about her. I almost called when she got home from school to see how it went. But I waited.
"So, how did it go at school?" I asked as soon as I sat down at the dinner table.
"It was good," she said.
"What did you decide to do?"
"About what?" She asked.
"About your moral conundrum?" I replied.
"Oh, yeah," she recalled. "I forgot about that."
OK, so maybe it's not that hard being 4.
David Manley is a husband, father and newspaper editor at The Canton Repository. Share your stories with him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter: @DaveManley.