"Who can we really trust anymore?" Those were the words of my 15-year-old son after seeing the latest sports story to capture headlines across the country.
What a tough week to try and teach your kids about trust and honesty! First there was the revelations from cyclist Lance Armstrong after years of accusations and speculation. Now we're hearing about the unbelievable developments coming out of Notre Dame regarding their star player Manti Te’o and the death of his so-called 'girlfriend.'
As a dad, I’ve always tried to drill into my sons the importance and unwavering need to tell the truth. We are all human and not nearly perfect, so I’m well aware of the reality of telling lies. But seeing such high-profile people caught up in well-orchestrated and public lies makes me wonder if the value of being truthful has been lost or is somehow watered down for our kids to see.
They turn on the TV to see sports heroes exposed as liars, cheaters and perhaps (in Te’o’s case) the victim of a terrible hoax (still to be determined). It makes me shudder at the examples they are presented with daily.
It also reinforces the role and responsibility I have as a parent. It’s up to me, my wife, and our family -- just like you and yours -- to teach our children the values they need to help make a productive society. They can't depend or rely on 'role models' outside of the home who seem like examples of greatness, because they turn into punch lines and examples of who not to be.
My son is a huge Notre Dame fan. He's followed them for years and was as excited as any 'Irish' fan to see their run to the BCS championship game. His admiration for Te'o was in check, but may have grown more with the possibility that our favorite pro team could select the linebacker in April's NFL draft. Now everything is in question. The disappointment he felt when his favorite team lost is compounded by the fact that their star player may be considered a fraud. I hope at this point, for Manti Te'o, his fans and those of Notre Dame, that the truth comes out and he is cleared of any wrongdoing so more kids like my son aren't disappointed yet again.
But regardless of what happens and how this plays out, take the events of this week and use them as a tool to teach our kids -- the next generation of athletes, stars and heroes -- how to truly be that!
I know I will.