When I was a small child my dad taught STEP classes. Systematic Training for Effective Parenting. He was a school psychologist. After being a music and history teacher. After being a Marine during the Korean War.
I went along to the classes. They were held in a very old school building, one step up from a one-room schoolhouse. It was an incredible building. Old wood everywhere. Worn floors. Even the steps were wooden. Real slate chalk boards. Back then the rooms weren’t locked so I could explore to my heart’s content. I’m sure you can imagine the adventures my mind created.
I loved it however I almost was banned from accompanying him. You see, even as a small child I had an opinion. I don’t remember what exact point my dad was making but he used our family as an example. I happened to be pausing in the doorway at the time. It was several weeks into the class so the parents there were used to my coming and going.
I generally kept to myself after doing the dog and pony show of saying hello but not that night. No, that night it was too much for me to smile and nod as I’d been doing. Whatever it was he said was so far from the reality I knew that it was impossible for me to remain silent. I walked in and said very clearly that what he said was not true.
Yeah. I opened a huge can of worms with that one. My dad tap danced and back pedaled so frantically that I was stunned back into silence. He twisted and spun so that what I said became part of the example on how to deal with children. I was amazed. I could tell the adults there were so confused and dazzled they’d forgotten what either of us had said leading up to it.
I didn’t mean to discredit him. I was little. I hadn't learned to play the game yet. There was a second when no one was looking at him and his expression changed. I knew then just how badly I’d screwed up. In that instant I learned that my dad was not to be blindly trusted.
We talked on the way home. Well, mostly he talked. I agreed because I wanted to continue going along with him. The privilege of having unlimited access to the building was worth lying for though on my part it was a lie of omission. After that night I said nothing more than hello and goodbye to the parents in the class. Yes, I became the model child in public, a perfect example of what he was attempting to teach.