A couple of weeks ago, I took Shaun out shopping for a Mother’s Day gift for Amanda. We were visiting my daughter and her family for the weekend, so the two of us ventured out to a jewelry store in Springfield, Missouri together.
I quickly learned that Shaun and I have similar tastes in Jewelry. He was instantly drawn to the diamonds. Pointing to a pair of earrings, he declared “she’ll love these, they are perfect!” The store clerk showed them to Shaun up close and then discreetly said, “and these would be $3,200.”
At nine, Shaun is still developing a sense for the value of money. We will often have him calculate the number of hours it would take to pay for something working minimum wage. I admittedly missed a teachable moment with those earrings, and simply explained that I hadn’t planned on spending quite that much for Mother’s Day.
Eventually, Shaun spotted a beautiful pair of earrings that were more in our price range, so we got those. The store clerk gift wrapped Shaun’s treasure, and we were on our way.
As we walked back to the car, I reminded Shaun that we shouldn’t tell Amanda what he had picked out. Last year, the two of us had a similar experience, and Shaun’s excitement led to his blurting our what we had picked out days before the holiday. So, I took extra time to explain that we wanted his mommy to be surprised when she opened her gift the next day.
Shaun smiled, and looked at me as he said “Ok, it’s our secret!”
“No!” My reply was admitted a bit overzealous. “We don’t keep secrets from Mommy.” He was a little stunned by my emphatic reply, so I took time to explain the difference between a surprise and a secret.
Like teaching the value of money, explaining the difference between a secret and a surprise to a nine-year old takes time. There will be more opportunities to help him learn the subtle differences between the two. I kept it simple, explaining that a secret is something hidden from another person because we don’t want that person to know the truth. A surprise, on the other hand, is simply holding on to information until the appropriate time so that we can make someone happy when it’s time.
He understood, and Mommy’s earrings remained a surprise until the next day. He was so proud when he presented Amanda with her gift. It was something he had picked out all on his own. It was also a surprise he had managed to keep for almost 24 hours!
Our little shopping adventure was a great reminder to me as well. My life has no room for secrets today. Not too long ago, my whole life was a secret. Hiding my drug use was the top secret in my life. A secret that led to a web of lies that grew larger and larger over time.
When I was around the people from whom I was keeping my little secret, I was constantly on guard. Remembering which lies I had told to whom seemed to be a full-time job. It was the worst with my family. I couldn’t be found out, so the web grew larger and larger.
Eventually, my web of lies grew too large for me to manage. I had so many secrets, covered by so many lies, that before long the difference between truth and fiction became blurred in my own mind.
My solution to this problem was to withdraw. By isolating myself, I could keep my secrets. Pushing others away became the norm. As I did, once healthy relationships began to crumble.
As I watched those relationships suffer, I secretly justified my secrets and web of lies. I literally pictured myself as Jack Nicholson in the movie “A Few Good Men” as he boldly proclaimed “You can’t handle the truth!”
I had gone full circle in my web of lies. My brain twisted them from being deceitful and harmful, into my noble effort to protect the people who loved me.
Truth had once been so highly valued by me. Honesty had once been my best policy. As with so many things, my drug use not only made it necessary to abandon virtues once held dearly, but they also made it easy.
If I was feeling guilty about keeping secrets or telling lies, I simply buried those feelings with more drugs. In my mind, I was noble and clever for keeping my secret life hidden. The drugs told me so…
My little secrets turned into such big lies. They left so much damage in their wake. That is a big part of why I want Shaun to learn at an early age that we don’t keep secrets, especially not from Mommy.
Honesty is one of the spiritual principles in Narcotics Anonymous that is described as being indispensable. Recovery is a process of pealing away those lies I’ve told myself and others. A process of rediscovering the truth, and accepting that truth. By practicing honesty with others, I can learn to be honest with myself.
Today, I do my best not to have any secrets. If someone asks me a question, I work hard to either give an honest answer, or explain that the answer is none of their business.
Shaun smiles whenever he sees Amanda wearing those earrings. My guess is he always will. There will be more holidays and special occasions. More gifts with which to surprise his mommy. Hopefully though, keeping secrets will never be something he feels compelled to do. He’s a very honest little boy, and I am honored to have the opportunity to help teach him to someday be an honest man.
Have a remarkable day!