I was driving to the country in the week leading up to Christmas and pulled into a service station for fuel.
What are we teaching our children?
As I went to pay, I joined the queue behind a fellow in his early 40s and his son, who I'm guessing was about 10. The woman behind the counter kicked off a conversation by asking the man if he was on holidays already, to which he replied that he was taking a sickie.
More from Subversive Sam: Why do people kill their children?
The cashier then asked what he was doing with the day, to which he responded: ''I think I will just lie around and take it easy.'' When asked if was returning to work the following day, the man said: ''I might take another sickie, I am tired of work right now.''
With that, the man and his son, who had been listening intently, left with their purchases and likely drove home to take it easy.
This left me pondering about the lessons this father was teaching his son.
I imagine the boy may have taken -- or, worse still, had reinforced on him -- a number of lessons through this encounter.
He probably learned that taking a sickie was acceptable behaviour, rather than stealing from an employer. And that chucking a sickie was something to brag about, rather than be ashamed of. He also likely learned that a day off was for taking it easy, rather than doing something productive. He may well have formed the impression that employers were a pain -- as was working.
Are these the best lessons to communicate to a young boy?
I also suspect that these lessons may cause some conflict in the child’s mind.
On one hand, the child is probably taught to respect adults, yet his father does not respect his employer. The boy is taught that honesty is a virtue, while his father is dishonest. At home he is taught that stealing is wrong, yet his father steals without compunction -- and boasts about it. And while the child is taught to work and study hard to get good grades, his father just takes it easy when he's sick of working.
I guess the man never asked himself what lessons he was teaching his son that morning. Yet we should all be asking what our behaviour teaches the children in our lives.
Unless this was an atypical event in the child’s life, I wouldn't be expecting too much of this child in the longer term. Sadly, it was evident from the way he looked at his father that he adored him -- only serving to amplify the dangers of the father's behaviour.
One can only hope that this child’s mother has a very different perspective on life.
Let me note here that I'm not suggesting that I've never taken a sickie. However, that stopped once I hit 20 and was old enough to recognise it as stealing. I certainly never took one when I had a young child, nor bragged about being too lazy to go to work.
It is true that this fellow may not have the greatest job on the planet. It may be the worst. But there are many unemployed people who would take it in a flash. And if he doesn't like the job, why not quit? There's no excuse for stealing from employers, or anyone else. And let's be clear, chucking a sickie when you are well is as much stealing as breaking into the company safe.
Worse than all of this is are the unfortunate lessons this man taught his impressionable son.
Surely in addition to the right to have children, we have a responsibility to teach them the right things.
If this boy takes $20 out of his father’s wallet to go out with his mates, what will the father say when he finds out? What moral authority will the father have to scold the child for stealing $20, when he has stolen $200 from his employer?