Parents aren’t the only adults kids can learn from. They can learn from billionaires, too. Like Donald Sterling. This is the conversation I had with my 10YO daughter this morning:
“Blair, I found red knox blox jello cubes on the hallway ceiling last night. Do you know how they got there?”
Blair’s response: Eyes widen. Mouth turns down. Shoulders shrug up. Head shakes no. Like I’ve just asked a room of suddenly mute pre-schoolers who made the offending noise.
“You have no idea why red jello cubes would be on the ceiling?”
“Really? Because I remember seeing you with jello last night.”
“The other kids had jello too. It just got there.”
“Finger jello just ‘got’ on the ceiling by itself?”
“Well, I might have thrown it up there.”
“Might have thrown it?”
“I think I threw it in the air, but not at the ceiling.”
“You think you threw it? You either tossed the jello up or you didn’t.”
“I threw it. I didn’t know it would go to the ceiling, or stick.”
“Does not knowing it would stick change the fact that you had food out of the kitchen, that you were playing with jello, and you didn’t tell anyone once it was stuck?”
“I didn’t mean to throw it. It just happened.”
My daughter doesn’t know who Donald Sterling is. Sterling, the for-now current billionaire owner of The Los Angeles Clippers basketball team. Sterling denies being a racist or saying racists things despite the fact that he talks about certain races of people having certain innate negative qualities based on their ethnicity. He thinks its only racist to say racist things if you believe you are racist. That’s an interesting premise. I’m grateful to Sterling for providing such a timely teachable moment for me and my family. Several lessons can be learned from the chatty billionaire. To wit:
When you are wrong, admit you are wrong a/k/a Tell the truth. “That’s not the way I talk.” “Those words just came out of my mouth.” I never played with the jello you saw me with. The jello just flew out of my hand in an upwards motion towards the ceiling. Spontaneous flying jello cubes.
When asking the question means you are already caught, confess immediately. “I don’t know why the girl had me say those things.” Right. Sterling didn’t say the words that came out of his mouth. “The girl” with the questionable motives took racist comments out of my throat. The shrewd business magnate was duped by his girlfriend, fifty years his junior, described by Sterling as “a street person”. No girl, no recording, no racism. It was the ceiling’s fault for being there to be stuck on. No ceiling, no stuck jello, no lying.
Don’t panic when faced with the reality of your bad behavior and start flinging blame. “And some of the African-Americans, maybe I’ll get in trouble again. They don’t want to help anybody. What has Magic Johnson really done for Children’s Hospital which kids are lying in the hallways. They are sick. They need a bed. What has he done for any hospital? What has he done for any group?” Whatever I said doesn’t matter because Magic Johnson has “those AIDS” and lets sick kids sleep on the floor. Because that makes what I said invisible or less reprehensible. Other people eat finger jello, ergo jello cubes were launched from my hands to the ceiling where they stuck through no fault of my own.
Don’t create an implausible cover story. Jealousy made me tell “my girl” not to fraternize with black people. No matter that in the same conversation I told her she could sleep with whoever she wanted as long as she didn’t broadcast it on Instagram. See? He’s not racist or sexist. He’s just an insecure billionaire swinger. I didn’t know that when you toss something in the air that it is likely to go “up”. I don’t recall an adult telling me that specifically.
Thanks, Donald Sterling! Damn jello.