DIARIO DI MAMMA
In the last week, Ryan Lochte, a U.S. Olympian and gold medal winner in swimming, embarrassed his teammates, the country, and himself. He lied to the world about being robbed at gunpoint while in Rio at the Olympic games. The story changed multiple times, but what we have gathered is that he and a few of his teammates were on their way back from partying in the wee hours of the morning, went to a gas station, urinated outside, and vandalized a bathroom. They were drunk. The security guard allegedly pulled a gun on them and asked for money to repair the bathroom. This is very different from the original story which had their cab getting stopped by people dressed like police and putting a gun to Lochte’s head and taking all his money. Lochte, the oldest of the bunch at 32 years old, perpetuated the lie and spread it around the Olympic village, social media, and ultimately the world.
While I’m sure it was traumatizing to be in a foreign country and have a security guard (or anyone) pulling a gun on you, and in the United States the gas station workers would have called the police to deal with the situation, there is no excuse for telling lies of this nature. It is despicable, and he will pay most of all for his dishonesty as opposed to his frat boy behavior, which is appalling as well. He acted out the ugly American stereotype and made us all look bad. Lochte was disrespectful to his hosts, arrogant enough to think he could get away with such a lie, and acted like a privileged, bratty, immature, entitled American, the likes of which I hoped only existed in movies and caricatures. Instead, he represents our country on the world stage and makes good money telling us what to buy (maybe not for much longer, though).
Being a world traveler myself, I was seething when word hit that this story was made up, and Lochte had actually destroyed property on foreign soil. Worst of all, perhaps, was that he left his younger teammates who were with him that night to flounder in Brazil while he ran back home. I quickly began to wonder what his mother has been thinking. I’d be disappointed in myself if my son did such a thing as an adult, especially when he’s been blessed with talent, endorsements, and opportunities of which others can only dream.
Then it happened. My own son lied to me for the first time. To be fair, he is only 4 and he has only been talking for about a year. I noticed that an old camera of mine (the kind with film) was lying amiss on my office desk, along with a few other small items. I said, “What happened here? Who touched the camera?” He said, “Alex (his cousin).” He wasn’t looking me in the eye. I knew something was up, and the three kids had all been in my office earlier in the day. I said, “Are you sure?” Finally, he turned to me and said, “I was just showing them how it fit on this thing (the tripod).” I said, “Okay, but you lied and let me think your cousin did this. You aren’t supposed to lie to mommy or blame other people when you do something wrong. Not ever.” He began to cry uncontrollably. He grabbed me and asked that I not call the police. He knows we call the police for bad guys, so when he messes up he usually begs like this. I hugged him and explained that toying with the tripod was no big deal, but lying about it was. I asked that he not do it again.
Later in the evening, with the news on, I pointed out Lochte and said that he lied and it caused big trouble for his team and country. I told him he was embarrassed and might lose his job. And I told him that’s why honesty is the best policy. I also mentioned that Lochte had to say, “Sorry for the lie and ruining someone’s property.” The message could be louder and clearer for older kids, and parents could use this as an opportunity to discuss excessive drinking with teens and young adults. It’s a great way to start a much more personal and important conversation.
Much of the time nowadays our leaders and heroes turn out to be quite flawed. Once upon a time, everyone could be sugarcoated, but the Internet has put us all on display warts and all. So, instead of looking for role models on which to rely (you’re not going to find them), parents should simply turn these scandals into lessons. Yes, some will argue we need to make our own mistakes. But isn’t it better when we can avoid the error in judgment all together by learning from others’ mistakes?