Cast Spotlight on Pamela Valentine

by Tracey on March 24, 2015

When Pamela Valentine walked into the auditions for the 2015 LTYM Chicago show, we were totally unprepared for just HOW much we would love listening to her tell her story. She continues to surprise us with her open heart, kindness, and ability to spin a simple story into something as engaging and introspective as the one she tells below (which is NOT what she’s reading on May 3, by the way!). Read more about Pamela on our “About/Bios” page!

” All Kids Lie”

by Pamela Valentine

All kids lie.  I knew that, going into this whole parenting thing.  I’d watched thirteen nieces and nephews point fingers, blame siblings and tell tall tales for over ten years before I had my own. It’s a child’s way of learning to navigate the complicated and duplicitous lives that we lead as adults.  But the first time it happened to me, and I mean, really happened, it still caught me off guard.  I’m not talking about an “Of course I brushed my teeth” or an “I didn’t color on the wall” level of lie.  I’m talking about one of the whoppers.

It happened in Kindergarten. Our school has a Rainbow Chart system.  Every day, a child starts on green.  Ready to learn.  The residue of past spoiled days washed clean each morning at nine.   If the child misbehaves, talks out of turn, shouts out an answer, runs, or does any other number of subjectively inappropriate actions, he’s moved down the rainbow, from green to yellow.  Then yellow to orange.  And from orange to the dreaded red…which also includes a phone call home.  My child was on yellow a lot. And sometimes orange.  The goal, of course, is to move UP the rainbow.  From green to purple and from purple to the coveted, elusive, impossible-to-obtain-unless-you-are-the-second-Messiah, PINK.  For those of you who are OCD, I know that these are neither the colors nor order of the rainbow…I didn’t design the system, I simply exist within it.

I knew pink was impossible. Hell, I knew purple was a stretch. I didn’t expect much. I wanted green. Every day, ready to learn. Hands folded and to themselves, mouth closed, eyes shiny and bright with a thirst for knowledge. And I know I dug my own grave on this one, because I’ll admit, I bartered. I figured if I promise the world (or at least ice cream) for getting on purple or pink, I was guaranteed green. And on the very rare occasions that he did make purple, what was a scoop of ice cream to me?

So when, one day well into the year, my child made pink, I celebrated. We had pizza for dinner and ice cream for dessert. I know that you know where this is going, but believe me, at the time, I didn’t. My honest and truthful little saint, my “no I don’t have any homework”, “yes I washed all of my body parts” perfect angel could not…no, WOULD not lie about their behavior at school. And besides, they colored the chart in class…so naturally, I assumed, the teacher would know.

When, for a second day in a row, my child made pink, I was through the roof. Then third day and fourth. I was supermom. Supermom with a capital S. I told my child that if he made a WHOLE WEEK on pink, we would go to Chuck E. Cheese. And not alone! We’d invite all of his cousins and friends. The whole neighborhood! And I, of course, would be envied, hailed for being the Greatest Mother On Earth!

I sat on pins and needles all day on Friday. This was our chance to make history. No child had ever made a week on pink, I was certain, and I was the GMOE to artfully and attentively raise said child. When I showed up at school to get him, I didn’t even have to ask. The smile that split his face from ear to ear was all the answer I needed. We made pink. We made pink! I danced, right there in the hall of the school, my child laughing and twirling with me. WE MADE PINK!

Down the hall I could see his teacher. Let’s go celebrate with her! Let’s stand proudly (gloating inwardly) at the most perfect child that I had created. As I turned to take his hand, my heart sank. Big, fat, guilty tears were rolling down his cheeks.

“I lied, Mommy.”

It wouldn’t register. He lied about today, that’s all. Fine, fine, four days is still amazing. Maybe not as epic as five, but still historic.

“No, Mommy, I was never on pink at all. I lied the whole time.”

Each word fell like a ton of bricks. Each word popped a bubble that sent me hurtling back to earth. He had lied the whole time. The whole time.

All kids lie. I knew this. I’d lied as a child too. I’d been waiting for it to happen and yet, when it did, it still took me by surprise. As I marched him down the hall to his teacher to confess to this enormous lie, I knew I was confessing to my own shame, too. By day two, I should have realized something wasn’t quite right. By day three, I should have contacted the teacher to ask. And four and five…those were just pure and unadulterated carelessness. I liked how it felt to have a well-behaved child. I liked how it felt that other mothers, dragging screaming children or telling their children for the umpteenth time to sit down and be quiet, just once, might envy me. But I didn’t have a well-behaved child. I had my child, and he’s overactive and loud, wild and antsy. And it doesn’t make me love him any less for exactly how he is.

As I stood there while my child confessed to his teacher, I realized I’d lied to myself. I was terrified of messing up as a mother. I wanted some kind of validation that I was doing something right. I wanted to be on green. And for a single glorious week, I let myself believe that my child’s success equaled my success as a parent.

Right now, I was hovering just above red on the parent Rainbow Chart. I told my son to go wait down the hall, when he was done. I stuttered through some apology, offering promises and assurances that I would never let this happen again.

“It’s okay. It just goes to show you how very intelligent he is, that he figured out how to get away with it.”

Intelligent, you say? I guess it takes a pretty great mother to raise such an intelligent child!

pamela spotlight

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