Now that my oldest son has graduated from high school and will enter college in the fall, I get a kick out of reading the journals I kept when he was younger. Like the one when he cheated on a math test in sixth grade.
Mr. H, his math teacher, called and told me that he looked up from his papers and Dalan and another student were talking so he had no choice but to give them half credit. I told Mr. H he was awfully generous because I’d have given them a big fat ZERO. Mr. H said he knew I’d say that.
I had good relationships with my son’s teachers over the years and it wasn’t because he got caught in unsavory behavior! He was actually a very good kid, and student, but it wasn’t a surprise to Mr. H when I said to give my son NO credit. The staff at our school district knew I was a parent on the side of the teachers, and righteousness, and wouldn’t do the Oh no not my baby, BS, if the facts pointed directly to my baby.
When Dalan got home from school that afternoon, my husband and I sat him down and asked what happened in math class. You could see that Dalan all but wanted to vomit rather than tell us he cheated on that test. He stumbled over his words and didn’t keep eye contact as he told us that he had asked S for the time and Mr. H saw them and thought they were cheating.
Who the hell asks for the TIME during a MATH test? Hopefully not my son or that would make him a stupid-cheating-liar. And I KNEW he was lying. I could tell just by looking at him! I wanted to pinch his head off. Before I did that though, I had to get him to tell me the truth as only a mother can.
“Dalan, why in the world would you ask the TIME during a MATH test?” I asked hoping he’d see how utterly stupid his lie was.
“I wanted to see how much time I had left on the test,” he mumbled.
“It was a MATH test. It had NUMBERS. Like TIME does. Why would you do that?”
“Do you realize how BAD that makes you look? If Mr. H is at his desk, then looks up and sees you and S talking, he has no idea it’s about the TIME. He has no choice but to assume you’re cheating.”
Tears were welling in my son’s eyes. Ah, I hit something. I felt badly, but I couldn’t let that sway me now. This was tough love after all. “So, again, why in the world would you ask S for the time?”
“I didn’t! We cheated. Okay!” He blurted out.
I looked at my husband, who up until that point had been very quiet. “It’s okay, Buddy. I’m glad you told us.”
“The question now is, why did you cheat? You’re so good at math, you don’t need to cheat.” I wanted to make him feel good about himself even though he had done something wrong.
“I really wasn’t cheating. I was letting S look at my answers.” Dalan tried to explain, and justify, his actions.
“Well, that’s still cheating, Dalan.” I explained, needing him to understand that not permitting someone to do their own work wasn’t really helping them.
“I didn’t do anything YOU didn’t do in school!” Dalan looked at me as he verbally threw THAT at me.
“Oh no ya don’t. I NEVER cheated in school, Bucko,” I said as I shook my head from side to side.
“Dad.” He looked at his father.
That one word hung in the air. My husband looked from our son to me and didn’t say anything.
So I asked, “Dad?”
“Well, in ninth grade…” My husband began.
“Oh.my.gawd,” I groaned.
“I had to do a report and I didn’t do it. I always sat in the back, ya know, because of my last name. There were shelves under the windows at Shaler, remember?” He looked at me for confirmation and I nodded my head that I did in fact remember. “Well, I looked over and on the shelves were graded reports. So I grabbed one and cut the top off and re-stapled it and put my name on it then turned it in.”
“You did WHAT!” I shrieked which made Dalan giggle. I shot BOTH of them a dagger look. Dalan for thinking it was funny and my husband for being TOO truthful at such a crucial time! Damn him!
“Well, the teacher graded them and you remember how the teachers would walk around the room handing out our graded papers.” I nodded that I did in fact remember that. “He was saying student so and so good job. Student so and so you need extra work. He got to me and said Zydel you’re gonna need an attorney.”
“Oh.my.gawd he did not,” I gasped.
“Yep,” David was nodding his head as calm and cool as you can be.
I wanted to faint.
“See Mom. Dad cheated,” Dalan squealed, almost delighted, as he pointed to his
“Dad STOLE!” I corrected.
“Yeah, there’s a difference,” David said.
“Don’t even go there,” I warned my husband. How the hell was I supposed to punish my son for cheating in school when his own father had down WORSE! I could’ve pinched my husband’s head off! I’d do that later. For now we had to be a united front while we punished our son.
Well, we talked to Dalan, reiterating that lying, stealing and cheating were WRONG. He had to be punished so we sent him to his room while his father and I discussed the appropriate punishment for him.
Over the next six years I never received another phone call about Dalan cheating. Either he never did or he just didn’t get caught. Considering he graduated with honors and passed his ASVAB test with flying colors, I’m inclined to believe the former.
As I’ve said before, parenting isn’t for the weak; it’s hard work. You’ve got to be on your toes and your eyes and ears have to be in over-time. I’ve thwarted a few plans just by being overly-organized. I’m sure I’ve missed a few too, which I’ll probably hear about when they’re grown and have children of their own.
I can only hope I’ll think their stories are funny then!