Friday, 10 July 2015

Being Family: Life After A Little White Lie by Zainab Magaji

Driving with my 10-year-old daughter in the car last Sunday afternoon, I was flagged
down by an officer of the Federal Road Safety Corps. She asked for my driving license and I gave it to her. She turned it over this way and that and finally asked:
Officer: 'Madam, how many passports did you
use in your application?'
Me: *just staring at her blankly, then, 'I
don't understand the question.'
Officer: 'I mean how many photos did you use?'
Me: 'Is it possible to use different pictures in the application?'
Officer: 'Did you use different pictures in your application?'
Me: 'I can’t know which is fake and which is
real, all I know is that this one was issued to me by your people.'

Officer: 'I am asking because there are many fake licenses now and it is our people that give them out.'
Officer: 'Where did you do it?'
Me: 'In the FRSC office.'
Officer: 'In Mabushi?'
Me: 'No, at the Federal Secretariat.'
Officer: 'Ok...'she looked at my daughter sitting in the passenger seat, as if just seeing her for the first time and asked, ‘Madam, is your daughter up to 13years?'
Me (with a straight face and without missing a
beat): 'Almost! She is twelve.'
Officer: 'Next time let her sit at the back.
She can only sit here when she is thirteen.'
Me: 'OK.'
The officer handed me back my license and waved me off.  As I started to drive, I
could feel the tension in the car all around my daughter. I knew I was in for some hard question and answer session and my brain was already busy conjuring up possible answers.
My daughter: 'Mama, I am 10 years old.'
Me: 'I know.'
My daughter: 'But you told that 'Road Safety' that I am 12 years old.'
Me: 'I know.'
My daughter: 'But Mama that's not true.'
Me: 'I know'
My daughter: 'Mama but you said people should ALWAYS tell the truth no matter what!'
Me: 'Yes, I did.'
My daughter: 'So Mama why did you tell her something that is not true?' (She is old enough to choose her words well and was deliberately avoiding the use of the word 'lie').
Me: 'Because you are taller than many 12 year olds and the use of seat belts is actually dependent on body size and not age. Many people already don't believe you are not 12 years old.'
My daughter (visibly relaxing): 'That is true. But you should have told her my real age.'
Me: (wearing my most serious face mask): 'You are right. I should not have lied to that woman. Afterall, what can she do? Maybe just arrest me and keep me for a day. Let me go and tell her your real age.'
I made a great show of trying to swerve the steering wheel to turn around. 
My daughter: (Looking very alarmed): 'Mama,
but she will arrest you! Please let's just go.'
Me: 'But, I feel so bad for lying. I need to go and tell her the truth. Lying must
never be an option.’
My daughter: 'Mama, please let's go. You are right that wearing seat belts is about body size and I look too big for my age.'
Me: 'But you agree that it is wrong to lie and I was very wrong in this case.'
My daughter: 'It is Mama, but in this case, you are right. Imagine Aunty X's son sitting in this chair. His head won’t even show and he is older than me. So Mama sitting here should not be about age because some children are very small for their age and some are big for their age.’

And that was how a little white lie sparked a big debate on why age should not be a determinant in choosing who should sit in the passenger seat of a car and how I was saved the indignity of continuing to explain why I said what I said.

*Note to self: Be careful what you say in front your children. Sometimes the trouble it takes to explain things is just not worth the trouble.
©Zainab Magaji

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