Caught Being Honest: A Mom And Her Pint-Sized Kid
A version of this column appeared in The Virginian-Pilot on Nov. 30, 2014.
I wanted to hug her. Pat her on the back. Blurt out words of praise.
But I controlled myself. Heck, I didn't even know the 20-something woman.
She was with her little girl. Spending a chilly mother-daughter afternoon together. They were locked in that private world mothers and kids seem to create when hours stretch out lazily and there's nothing but fun ahead.
I remember those days.
I'm going to tell you about this woman's small, random act of honesty. Insignificant? Maybe. Until you really think about it.
Truth is, she could serve as an inspiration. At the very least, an antidote to all the bad human behavior we've recently witnessed in this country.
It was a Friday afternoon, and I'd ducked into a movie theater to buy tickets to that night's showing of "The Hunger Games.”
There were just two others in the lobby: a toddler and a woman who appeared to be the little girl's mother. The kid reminded me of my own daughter once upon a time, during those early years when a compliant child can be dressed in impossibly precious outfits because she's too young to roll her eyes or stomp her feet.
This tot was wearing a colorful knit hat, a matching jumper, tights and boots. She was something of a blur, twirling dizzily around her mother's legs, delirious at the prospect of a matinee on a cold day.
"We want to see that robot movie," the smiling mom told the box office clerk.
"Um, what's the age limit for children, 2 or 3?"
"It's 2," the cashier replied.
"She's 3," the mother sighed. "Two tickets please."
I looked closely at the tiny dervish spinning in happy circles. It's been so long since I had a child that young that I couldn't hope to guess her age.
The tyke could have been 2 or 3 or even 4.
Fact is, that mom easily could have passed her off as a 2-year-old, and no one would have questioned her. Happens all the time, am I right?
But she didn't lie about her daughter's age. I think I know why.
This young mom already knew what so many others find out too late: Children learn how to become adults by imitating adults. They learn manners by watching us. They learn grammar by listening to us. They learn kindness - or cruelty - by our example, too.
Unfortunately, lots of kids learn to lie by watching their parents.
Knock a year off a kid's age at a movie theater, and you've taught your child that dishonesty is excusable if it saves you a few bucks. Same goes for white lies about school absences and party invitations.
Fib in front of your kids, and reap the consequences later.
You've been warned.
Because she was honest, this woman paid $6 to take a 3-year-old to a movie. That's a lot of loot. Clearly, her integrity was worth more than the price of that ticket.
Last I saw the mother-daughter duo, they were holding hands, headed to their screening room, in their own happy bubble. The little girl was skipping.