Tuesday, April 15, 2008

An Early Lesson in Justice

After my daughter's ballroom dancing competition in January (did I forget to mention that? She was so cute), we had a bit of an issue. My girl dances with the youngest of three boys. We got a phone call from the boy's mother stating he didn't want to dance anymore, perhaps she would be interested in dancing with this other boy who's looking for a new partner? My sweet daughter was devestated. She was convinced she didn't want to dance again. We accidently found out the mother lied. Her oldest son wanted a new partner. She decided to take his current partner and pair her with the middle son and now the middle son's partner was going to be with the youngest son. Of course, I understand her competitive nature and the girl that is now paired with the youngest boy is a close family friend, but the lying is digusting. A grown woman who couldn't face up to the consequences of her own actions.

My daughter was confused, needlessly upset twice and wondering why an adult would lie. My daughter was trying to understand it by making excuses for the mother. I had to explain that, unlike children, once you know that an adult is willing to lie, they are liars. They lie and lie again. I explained that the mother didn't want to admit that she really wanted someone else for her son's dance partner. I told her it was wrong and that the mother behaved very poorly and that my daughter was right to be angry.

It turns out that her new partner (who we learned about from the lying mother in an attempt to redeem herself while lying to us) is great. The whole new group is more friendly and she gets on well with all of them. It turns out that the dance instructor wants the original three brothers and our new group to perform a show together. The new partner's mom was really nice. She asked whether I felt we could interact with the other family, knowing that things ended badly. I told her that it was the other mother who should be ashamed and that I certainly wanted to participate in what I think will be a great opportunity for the kids. When I told my daughter about the arrangement (we need to practice with the old group), she was quite concerned about seeing that family again. I told her that I understood her reluctance but that we had to remember that we did nothing wrong and it was the other mother who should be ashamed. We wouldn't let her bad behavior keep us from doing something fun.

We had our first practice. I was wondering even how I would handle seeing her. I am not usually one to hold a grudge. I have had people behave badly to me before, but I tend to brush it off and not let it change how I act. I've always felt it was way too much energy on my part and too inconvenient to me to really take those types of things seriously. However, I believe that this is the first time I met someone whose bad behavior wasn't just a mistake--that it was deliberate and escapist. It was also the first time someone's bad behavior hurt a, my, child. I expected that the lying mother would want to pretend like nothing had happened and that is exactly what happened. I couldn't pretend along with her. I ignored her.

Afterward, my girl was incredulous that the mother "said 'Hi' like nothing happened." I explained to her that the mother wants to pretend that nothing happened so that she could not feel guilty. I told my daughter that she didn't have to pretend at all and if she was upset, she didn't have to talk to that mom ever again. My daughter was concerned that it would be rude (we're big on manners). I stated my view that manners are great for people you haven't met yet and people who are nice to you. However, once an adult proves themselves to be a liar or bad in any other way, that it was perfectly OK to not talk to them, even if they talk right to you. I told my daughter that she did not need to help this woman try to pretend that what happened wasn't wrong.

I am glad that we're going to continue with this show even though it initially stressed my daughter out. I want her to know that life continues after bad experiences and that she is confident enough to know that what the other person did was wrong and that she doesn't have to be burdened because they want to pretend nothing happened. I am also glad that my daughter now knows that not all adults are trustworthy (it's an idea that we've discussed before, but this was a particularly concrete example that she'll never forget). My daughter now understands that we can give strangers the benefit of the doubt, but once an adult shows their true colors, we need to understand that, for good or bad, that is the type of person that they are and they should be treated accordingly. They chose their own path in life and if they've chosen badly, it's not our job to help them pretend like they didn't.


Cal said...

Way to go!

Kim said...

Thanks. It's always difficult to deal with such people. I have always been too naive.