He reminded me of how much he and his wife had done for me in the past and were still continuing to do. As such, he believed that I owed them as much in return.
While I wished that there had been something that I could have done to help with the grade, after all Karen was a great kid and here parents were terrific, the simple truth was that Karen had CHEATED and she had flirted with permanent dismissal from the university. Even if a phone call from me would have helped, it would have been wrong, as it would have taught Karen that it was fine to cheat and then get bailed out when caught.
Karen still called a couple of times a year and visited me once a year during the rest of her college years. Her parents did not keep up the contact and, when I called them on a few occasions, it was clear that they did not want to talk to me.
After Karen graduated from college with mostly “A’s”, a few “B’s””, and one “D-“, she came to see me. We talked about the old times in school, her college days, and her college years. Then Karen thanked me for my stand during her first year of college. She now realized that, had I gone to bat for her, she would have never learned her lesson and she might have relied on the plagiarism trick a few more times, instead of actually learning the material.
She told me that she had learned a valuable lesson and that she had me to thank for it. I told her that I was glad that she had understood and that I would have done the same exact thing for my own children. I also told her that it hurt me to watch her suffer with the "D-", but that I knew her long-term potential depended on following the right road.
I then asked about her parents. She told me that they had been upset with me for a few years and that the topic was discussed off and on since the moment that it happened. But, with a slight smirk, Karen told me that I might be getting a phone call from her parents in the near future. We finished our conversation and agreed to keep in touch over the years!
About a week later, Karen’s dad called me and said that he and his wife wanted to meet me for lunch. We set a day and time and ended the conversation.
On the day of the big lunch, I was just a tad uneasy, as I expected another to tongue-lashing over the cheating incident that occurred almost four years ago.
As I entered the restaurant, Karen’s dad and then her mom hugged me with some force! They profusely apologized for their previous behavior and their subsequent treatment of me. They said that it had taken four years, but that they now realized that I had done the right thing by not intervening for Karen and that now, four years later, they realized that my action had actually helped to make Karen a stronger person!
Well, it had taken four years, but I was finally back in good graces with Karen’s parents. To this day we are still friends and the incident has been forgotten – sort of! We still talk about it once in a while, but not often. Karen has gone to be highly successful (no surprise there!) in her chosen profession and her parents are continuing to offer their services to the school.
But, even though this story has a happy ending, it must not be forgotten that I was not interested in a pleasant ending as much as I was interested in helping a young college student to learn to do things properly, a lesson that would pay much higher dividends in life than a phone call to a professor.
I have shared this story with my own kids since they were quite young. Cheating is always bad; following the rules is always good; and … just like Karen, I will not bail you out when you knowingly break the rules! So far …. so good!
How about you? Have you ever had to choose between intervening for your kids when they have committed a nefarious act and telling them to buck up and accept the consequences and not repeat the act again? Let me know!
Ah yes, parenting continues to be difficult, but rewarding!