Honesty is the best policy. That’s what I try to teach my children and that’s what my parents taught to me. I’m also trying to teach them, like me, to be polite and respectful towards others. I hope to instill in them that it is better to be accommodating to the needs of others than self-absorbed. It is my plan that my children will grow up to be self-respecting but respectful members of society.
But am I doing them a disservice? My biggest weakness as an adult is that I’m not assertive enough. Take my natural shyness – which many people don’t believe I have, but trust me, I do – and combine it with the lessons my parents taught me and I have to work hard to make myself heard when I feel things are unfair.
I’m shocked, to tell the truth, when someone treats me badly. I always expect the best of other people and don’t know how to react when I don’t get it. It takes me time and distance before I can respond to nastiness, lies, or rudeness.
My children are the same. My daughter just avoids people who are mean to her and my son is truly shocked, like me, when someone treats him unfairly.
I’ve always believed that its better they get hurt once or twice than that they hurt others. So I’ve continued to teach them the lessons of humility and kindness.
But am I raising survivors? Sure, the meek may inherit the earth, but they’ll probably be decimated by the strong and powerful first and then handed a torn-out shell of the earth at the end.
Since returning home to Newfoundland, I see it more and more: politeness and honesty are not rewarded. What’s rewarded is knowing how to work the system, and lying to get what you want.
It wasn’t until I returned to this province that I had work literally stolen from me by a higher up coworker. It wasn’t until I returned here that I saw nepotism and disregard for quality over connections really take place.
These has all been driven home to me these past two months as I’ve attempted to work with the Workplace Health and Safety Compensation Commission regarding a work injury I suffered before Christmas. It’s been six weeks and my claim is only getting approved now. It took many phone calls and a call to the complaints line to finally get it that far.
What held it up? Well, first I was honest. Although my injury was a new one, I had suffered a similar injury over ten years ago. I mentioned that to both my employer and WHSCC because I thought it might be relevant. Despite the fact that my doctor and physiotherapist both agreed that it did not impact this injury, I was questioned and my very integrity questioned because I brought this up.
Then, of course, like usual, I expected people to be honest, trustworthy, and to do their jobs properly. This was obviously a mistake. Not only did they not do their jobs, but they tried to shift the blame onto me.
Of course this all sounds like whining to the average reader, but to me it has made me deeply question the ethos under which I am raising my children.
It seems they are expected to be liars and cheats by “the system” and that politeness will get them nowhere in life.
I don’t think these are attitudes endemic to Newfoundland only, but anywhere where a small population struggles for even smaller opportunities.
Because of my struggles now, and in the past, when dealing honestly and being accommodating with coworkers and social systems, I really wonder if what I am teaching my children is how to be a patsy.
Because that’s the way I’ve been made to feel these past weeks - not a valued member of society, but a kicking ball for others to abuse. This goes beyond the “better they get hurt once or twice than hurt others” variety of abuse.
Is it better that I teach my children to lie when necessary; to accuse before being accused; to not trust others or expect competence from anyone? Won’t this in fact help them get further in life, help them survive and even succeed?
And yet, I can’t do it. I can’t bring myself to raise children who are liars and cheats. I know others do it and think it’s for the best, but I can’t. So my daughter will continue to be sent to her room for lying and my son will continue to be admonished for not playing nicely with others. And perhaps they will become someone else’s kicking ball, but hopefully I will have instilled a sense of self-worth and pride in them. Hopefully, they too, like me, will understand that it’s more important to be true to yourself than to get ahead.
And while this means they may not survive in some apocalyptic situation, I hope that they will also grow into the kind of citizens who know how to prevent those very situations from happening. Perhaps they may not be survivors and schemers, but they will be good Samaritans. I just hope they never have to deal with WHSCC!