Liar Liar

My son has been identified as a liar in school. And a thief. And both were true.

They were playing with, or doing a math lesson with, coins one day. The teacher said that he came up to her to show her his money – money that he had washed and made nice and pretty, something that I told him he could do when he found a dirty penny outside one day. The teacher asked him where he’d gotten the money.

That’s when the lies started.

When I came to pick him up, the teacher looked at me as she always does and says, “Big A, right?” as if she doesn’t see me every single morning dropping off my child. When the story got to me, the teacher wanted my son to tell me what had happened. I wasn’t convinced that he really got the significance of what he’d done. He said he told the teacher that he’d “found” the money, which in his head might have been sorta right. He “found” the money that they’d been using for the math lesson. The issue wasn’t that he “found” money, it was the fact that he then put it in his pocket.

I tried to explain to him that there is no such thing as “found” money, unless it’s a penny on the street. All money belongs to someone. Unless somebody gives you money and tells you it’s yours to keep, taking money from anyplace is stealing. I think he heard my words, but I don’t know if it really seeped in. To him, money is just another thing, like a rock on the road or a stick. He knows that money can buy things, but the special significance just hasn’t hit him.

I really wish his not telling the truth had been about something other than money. I remember the teacher saying to him, “I wasn’t mad that you took the money, but that you lied about it.” I feel like she should have understood that he wasn’t necessarily trying to steal the money; in fact, he came and showed her what he had. But I’m sure his felt need to lie stemmed from the fact that he could see she was angry about him having the money.

I hope I don’t sound like one of those parents that make tons of excuses when their kid does something wrong. I, of course, didn’t discuss this like I’m telling to y’all right now. But it bothers me that the little black boy has now been seen as a liar and a thief. Especially to a teacher that can never seem to link me to my child.

2 thoughts on “Liar Liar

  1. My husband and I discussed this last night, and both agreed that this situation was poorly handled by the teacher. The fact that Big A approached her should have shown her that he didn’t realize he had done something wrong. And instead of asking him a question to which she already knew the answer (“where did you get that?”), she should have just come out and said, “I think you got this money from the exercise we did; is that so?” If she had asked non-confrontationally, he probably would have just said yes. And she could have explained why this was not O.K. I agree that we don’t want to be making excuses for our children, but people who work with young children should understand that their sense of right and wrong is constantly developing–especially because right and wrong is not objective and static, but subjective and malleable, changing from situation to situation–and that childrens’ desire to please us will often, and understandably, motivate them to lie. I also wonder whether her anger was in any way shaped by the color of the young boy she was dealing with.

    As for acting like she doesn’t know who you are, does she do that with everyone? Is that language–“X’s parent, right???”–a verbal tick, or are you really the only one to whom she does that? ‘Cause if it’s the latter, you might have to say something. You are many things, LaToya, but non-descript or easy to miss is not one of them.

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  2. She doesn’t do it with everyone, which is one of the reasons it annoys me. She stands at the door and looks at the parents and then says the child’s name so they can leave the room. She NEVER questions other parents – only me. It could be, and I really suspect this, that my friend has her son in the class too, and we both have locs. But my friend looks NOTHING like me – I’m light-skinned, she’s dark skinned, I almost always have Amina with me, her son is an only child, her hair is much longer than mine, etc.

    You are right about forcing children to lie by the questions we ask them; NurtureShock talks about this in one of the chapters. Asking a question that you know the answer to just sets up a child. He was probably confused by her question, which I’m sure he thought she knew. I worry about the skin color too, and whether her impressions of him were shaped by that. We can never know, though, right? The predicament of being black…

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