by Kristy Campbell
“Mom…I’m ok but I was just in a car accident.” Words to stop any parent’s heart. Mine froze as my daughter burst into panicked tears. She choked out that she was driving and someone in the middle turn lane decided to pull out into traffic to try and make the light and plowed into the side of her car…and then took off.
“Honey, call 911. I’m on my way.”
As soon I hung up, I remembered that the baby was sleeping and my husband was out with the car with the car seat. I called his cell phone and re-routed him to the accident. As I waited at home, I could feel myself wanting to faint, wanting to throw up, and getting angry. What kind of a dumb ass hits a teenage girl and then takes off?
When my daughter walked in the door, I started to cry. It’s always that moment when the weight of what terrible, horrible tragedy could have happened but didn’t that floods me and I fall apart. I hugged her and inhaled the scent of her hair conditioner, not wanting to think about what life would be like without her. And then the story came out. My take-away was that it was another teenage driver who hit her. She saw him mouth a couple of swear words and then watched him take off, leaving her in standing in the rain. Oh, great, so the dumb ass is a teen.
I looked at my 9-year old tweenage twins. “Get your coats on. I want to show you something.” I marched them out to the car and began my lecture in responsibility.
“Do you see your sister’s car?” They could tell by my tone that I was serious.
“Well some irresponsible, afraid-of-the-consequences, cowardly teenager hit her. He drove into her car and then drove away. It’s called a hit-and-run and do you know what?”
“If he is caught, his license will be taken away and he’ll go to jail.”
I could see them looking at me through their raincoat hoods. It was pouring rain so I decided to continue the conversation inside. I sensed they knew what discussion was coming.
All of my kids know my short list of unequivocal rules for life and they know what rule is at the top of my list: ALWAYS TELL THE TRUTH. I have drilled this rule into their heads since the moment I first put them to breast. They are clear that no matter what uncomfortable situation they get themselves into, no matter what mistake they make, no matter what misunderstanding may happen…always tell the truth about it. Especially to me. They know I will probably get mad but not half as mad as if I find out later that they’ve lied to me.
“Why do you think the boy took off?” I asked them as they dried off.
“Because he was afraid he’d get into trouble,” they confidently answered.
“Yep. And now, even if he gets away with it, was that the right thing to do?”
“No, because God saw,” answered my daughter. I shook my head in agreement. She has really taken the God knows and sees everything to heart.
“Well, yes honey, God saw, but it should be his own conscience that tells him what he did was wrong. I want you both to know that you need to always be honest in your life and tell the truth. Even if no one sees you, always do the right thing. OK?”
I know it is a hard concept to instill in kids that telling the truth and getting into trouble is better than lying and hoping to get away with it, especially when the odds are usually stacked that Mom and Dad will never find out. But I’ve taught my kids what the payoff is for all their honesty: I will trust them.
My teenage daughter firmly abides by my honesty rule and has told me things that have gotten her into lots of trouble with me, but what she clearly understands is that even through all of her mistakes, her honesty still allows me to trust her. I know, trust your teenager? I completely do mine. My daughter is a senior in high school and knows that with one lie, my trust in her will be broken and at this point, after all of her hard work in being honest with me, she values my trust too much to jeopardize it.
I wish I could have a little sit-down chat with the teen that hit her. Just let him know that he may get away with this one mistake but continuing to gamble on not getting into trouble isn’t a strong life choice. Actually, I wish my daughter could have that sit-down chat with him. I guarantee you…he’d never drive off again.