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A Moral Compass
By Deborah Mitchell

Late one night I was reading peacefully on my bedroom loveseat when Emily, my 12-year-old, traipsed into the room. I looked at the clock--10:30, an hour and a half past her "lights out." I knew something big must be up. "I need to tell you," she said hesitatingly, rubbing her eyes, "about my science test."

I felt a chill. She was going to tell me that she had cheated on a test. I knew it. As I steeled myself for that information, I frantically tried to recall what I had told her about cheating. I remembered smoking talks, drinking talks drugs talks, sex talks. But I wasn't pulling up a cheating talk. I think I may have said once, "You must always do your own work in school," but past that, I was drawing a blank.

She confessed. During the test, she had changed an answer on her paper after inadvertently seeing a different answer marked on another student's test. After a bit of analysis, she thought the other answer better. "Was that wrong?" she asked. Was it? I asked her what she thought. Yes, she felt it was wrong, and she thought she'd better find out how mad I was going to be. "I can't sleep until I tell you what I did. You know me," she said. "That's the way I am."

The two of us decided that the best way to handle this was for her to tell the teacher. She didn't want to go alone, so I offered to go with her the next day. She sighed and marched off to her room and I heard nothing else from her that night. I met her at school the following morning for what I thought would be a difficult discussion with the science teacher. But Emily just started talking when we sat down and told the whole story. The teacher handled the situation like the pro she is, and I left the meeting feeling great relief.

As I walked down the hall toward the exit, I said silent thanks that my daughter—my wonderful daughter who senses right and wrong the way a compass points due north—had felt she had to tell me this. Because that's the way she is.

© 2002 Dads and Daughters, From Daughters: For Parents of Girls,
Duluth, MN www.daughters.com. This and other articles on raising healthy girls are available online at www.newmoonstore.com.


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