Written by Abby, #5
“Do you promise?”
When my parents asked, “do you promise?”, we had to stop and think. Because a promise meant that we were willing to stand by our words and actions, no matter what.
It was our word, our honor.
Even now, at 18 years old, whenever I promise something to my friends or a teacher or a colleague, Mom and Dad’s words of how we could never ever break a promise still ring through my ears.
Rewind about 8-10 years when I was at the peak, if you will, of my dishonesty habits. The reason I lied as a child, obviously, was because I was scared of the punishment I would receive for the original offense. It took me so many years to realize that the consequences would be much less severe and my life would be easier if I told the truth. Of course, there would still be consequences for my actions, but if I broke a promise, there were so many more consequences beyond the loss of privileges or material possessions. I broke the trust of my parents and did so much damage to my relationships with both my siblings and parents.
I’m not wearing makeup.
When I was about 10 or 11, I found Kelly’s makeup lying around the room we both shared. Kelly is six years older than me, so she was about 16 and in her junior year at Cheverus. She was everything I
wanted to be. I watched her at Cheverus and at home, and she was brilliant, kind and beautiful. She had a good circle of friends, always scored among the highest in her classes, had a boyfriend and seemed like she was always having a great high school experience. I wanted to be just like her. So I tried her makeup, I put on her leather jacket and pretended I was her. I knew I wasn’t supposed to put on her makeup or touch her things without asking her, but I assumed Mom and Kelly would never notice. (18-year-old Abby, looks down, shaking her head.)
Due to my abilities, or lack thereof, to put on makeup at the age of 10, Mom immediately noticed that I was wearing shakily applied eyeliner and eyeshadow. When she asked if I was wearing makeup, I knew I wasn’t supposed and part of me felt stupid for trying to pretend to be Kelly. So, as was my present habit, I lied.
“I’m not wearing makeup.”
Mom just looked at me. “Really, Abby?”
It was a pretty stupid lie since the evidence was LITERALLY written all across my face. I knew I wasn’t Kelly, and I was never going to be if I kept up these habits.
It took me a while to realize, but finally, I had an epiphany.
I understood that Kelly had the life she had because Mom and Dad trusted her. They knew that when she was going out with friends, that she was with exactly who she said she was with. That her grades were what she said they were. She had earned their trust.
Although it still took a couple of years for me to really turn my behavior around, this was a crucial moment when I realized what I wanted my relationship with my parents to be like. I just had no idea where to begin and I naively hoped that it would all resolve itself and I would magically be like Kelly in six years. (Again, 18-year-old Abby looks down…)
It didn’t resolve itself. It took so much hard work and a very long journey full of tears, prayers, and reflections for me to earn my parents’ trust.
But I finally got there, and it was worth the work.
Now that I am 18 and about to head off to college, I look back on my high school years and realize that so much of what I accomplished was because Mom and Dad raised me to keep my promises. If they had not been on me from day one, I would not be who I am today.
The integrity that the word “promise” instilled in me bled into all aspects of my life from my academic integrity to my social network. That integrity helped me build relationships with my teachers and friends, and helped me build a reputation that I can be proud of today. I’ve realized that this is by far the best lesson that Mom and Dad ever taught me. It took a long time for it to sink in, but because I had to work for it, it has always stuck with me.
So thank you, Mom and Dad. For never giving up and taking the easier road by letting me follow the path of dishonesty, for never assuming that I would just “grow out of it”, and therefore, ensuring that I would know how to conduct myself as an adult with integrity.
And, Mom, when I was 12 and you said, “All boys are yucky, Abby”…I should’ve asked, “Do you promise?”.