When my daughters were younger and wanted to spend time with me, I used to take each one on an out-of-town trip for alone time.
An especially memorable one was with my youngest daughter Mataya when she was seven. We went to Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. and had a wonderful time touring and talking about American history, the Liberty Bell, the Declaration of Independence, Abraham Lincoln, and even the first moon walk.
It was a great daddy moment when Mataya told me it was the best trip of her life. I told her it was my best trip, too.
She looked skeptical, and with great earnestness she asked, “Daddy, do you say that to all my sisters?”
You should know, Mataya is extraordinarily principled. When she was four, she learned that some of the food she was eating was once a live animal. She decided on the spot to become a vegetarian, and to this day she’s never wavered from that decision.
Her question hit me like an uppercut to my conscience. I tried to finesse my answer by saying how I really loved every trip with my girls, but that one really was special.
She didn’t buy it and nailed me with a family code. Whenever one of us wants a positively no-nonsense, truthful answer, we say, “Really, really?” It imposes an absolute obligation on the other person to be totally honest.
It was an uncomfortable moment of truth. I’d been “really-really-ed,” so I confessed: “Yes, I’ve said that before.”
After a moment, she said, “So you lied to me.”
I tried to weasel out of it by telling her how much I did love our time together, but she stopped me cold with a line that made me proud of her and ashamed of myself: “Next time, just tell me it was one of the best trips of your life. I don’t like it when you lie to me.”
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.