COMMENTARY 889.3: The Blue Stone and the White Lie

by Michael Josephson on July 22, 2014

in Honesty, Parenting, Family

This story is about a truth-versus-caring ethical dilemma I once had. I think I did the right thing but I keep wondering if there was a better way.

I was putting my two-year-old to bed when Abrielle, who was four, came screaming down the hall in a panic. Samara, the five-and-a-half-year-old, was right behind her equally terrified. “I swallowed a stone. I don’t want to die,” Abrielle cried in terror. Samara said, “I don’t want Abie to die. I love her so much.” I determined that nothing was obstructing her throat and she was breathing normally. “It’s okay sweetheart, you’re not going to die,” I said trying to soothe her. She thought I didn’t understand. “But I swallowed a stone!” Obviously, someone planted the death image to discourage putting things in her mouth. I soon concluded she swallowed a small polished stone — “a blue one” she kept emphasizing as if it were rat poison. She was so scared. I told her the stone would come out in the morning when she went “poo poo.” She ran to the toilet, “I want it out now!” She was pushing so hard it looked like a blood vessel would burst.

The truth wasn’t working. So I lied. I gave her a spoonful of maple syrup saying it would melt the stone just like an ice cube melts in her hand. “Will it be gone?” she said. “Absolutely,” I replied. She announced triumphantly: “Daddy melted the stone. I’m not going to die.” Moments later, the world order was restored. She was in good spirits lecturing the two-year-old not to put things in her mouth. I hoped she didn’t tell other kids about the maple syrup remedy. But my biggest concern was: when she finds out the truth, will she still trust me?

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

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