I have a wonderful cousin who is 10 years old. I look forward to meeting him because of the kind of questions he asks. Anyone who meets him shares the same sentiments. We met recently at an event. After exchanging some pleasantries, he asked, “Why is lying a sin but adults do not like it when I tell the truth?”
“That is not true”, I was quick to say, not knowing what was coming next. Let’s call him Kofi to prevent him from getting into more trouble in school. So I asked what made him think that adults did not like the truth.
Kofi told me that he could give me three instances to back his answer. I sat well to listen to his tale.
“Firstly”, he said, “ this was the most painful punishment he had received in his life. No one can read and write Ga in my house and so anytime I am given a homework in Ga, I go to school extra early so my friend Nii Samoa can help me. Nii Samoa is a Ga and his parents can both read and write Ga. We had been given a Ga homework the previous day so I went to school extra early as usual to have it done.
I met my school’s receptionist at the entrance and greeted her, after I did she asked if I had homework and if I had done it. So I told her that I had homework but because no one can read and write Ga at home, Nii Samoa was going to help me do it.
She got very angry and asked me to kneel down while carrying a bucket of water. She even hit me and called me a disrespectful child. It took the intervention of the school’s director for me to be released. I reported to my parents and they came to the school the next day and the director said he was going to investigate the matter. This happened some months ago but I am still hurt. I feel the receptionist would have preferred it if I lied and I wouldn’t have been in trouble. That is the first scenario”.
He went on to narrate the second instant. He said that that was also in school. His class teacher had a meeting with them to talk about things they did not like. Kofi said he told her that when she wrote on the board he struggled to see because her writings were a bit tiny so he said he will like for her to write a bit bolder. He said, “She also got angry with me and another boy who said he did not like his new sitting place because his sitting partner was always giggling when the teacher made a mistake while pronouncing some words and it distracted him from paying attention”. While he spoke, I thought of the answer to give him after he is done.
He continued, “For our punishment, we were not allowed to go on break and we were prevented from ever raising our hands to speak in class. I cannot even ask a question when I don’t understand something in class”. This was going to be more difficult to defend.
Kofi went on, “Now the third, mummy keeps asking me if her clients are looking nice after she makes them up or does their hair. Before she also stopped, I would say the truth about how the person really looked. Now, I am not even allowed to go to the salon with mummy so I don’t get to play with Sandra.
Then, there is this lady who comes to visit daddy. When mummy came, she asked what I had been up to and I told her that I read, cleaned up my mess and washed the glasses that daddy and his friend drank with. Daddy scolded me later for talking too much. But I only made one sentence. I asked how many words I was expected to say but he just shouted at me.
So these days I am usually quiet. I am only frank and truthful with you because you do not make me lie. My friends complain that the adults in their lives do the same thing to them. What should I do? I could lie to please people on earth and miss heaven. I am worried”.
I did not know what to tell Kofi because he was right about most of the things he had said. And because I did not want to be one of the adults who forced him to be untrue to himself, I told him his question was a genuine one and probably the adults in question had a reason for behaving the way they did. And because I could not conclude by listening to just his version, I would speak with his parents and others and ask them why they behave the way they do on the matter. Kofi understood. He gave me a hug and said he was glad I did not tell him, “adults are always right or you cannot tell an adult that he/she is lying when it is obvious they are”. I was dumb folded at this point.
Have you been in my shoes before? How did you deal with it? Or have you forced a child to think it is okay to be untrue or do you have an advice for my nephew and I?