“Mom, what happened with Ryan Lochte?” That was the first thing my 8-year-old son said to me when I face timed home from Rio this week. As a reporter for NBC, I’ve spent the month in Brazil covering the games and giving insider updates to my three kids back home in the US.
Like many American families, mine has been religiously following the 2016 Summer Olympic games every night on TV and have become deeply invested in many American athletes and their stories of determination and dreams. August evenings at the Flanagan’s have revolved around cheering for athletes that have inspired and motivated. Until my family started getting a mini Olympic episode of real life law and order every night.
“Well, Honey…” I started as I thought oh-boy how do I explain to my kid why the incredibly popular athlete with the weird colored hair, the same one my son celebrated for winning a gold medal last week, had now embarrassed two countries while creating an enormous international Olympic scandal?
Ryan Lochte falsely and willingly told the world he had been held at gunpoint and robbed by fake police in Rio only to later change his story and apologize “for not being more careful and candid in how he described the events”. Turns out Lochte and few other swimmers were apparently really intoxicated in the early hours of the morning when they urinated on the walls and destroyed a gas station bathroom. They weren’t robbed, but confronted by security guards with guns and asked to pay for the damage.
“Why would he do that?” My son asked.
“I think he was drunk,” I said. “Aaaand…. when people drink too much alcohol they often make poor choices,” I added hoping to throw in an extra life lesson.
“Why didn’t he just say he was drunk then?” My little third-grader questioned matter-of- factly as if it should be so simple.
“Maybe he was scared to tell the truth,” I replied.
“Why?” he wondered, while I realized this wasn’t going to end soon.
“Weeeeell,” I said trying to think of teachable answers fast.
“Remember that time when you dropped your iPad and cracked it, but you were afraid to tell me about it because you thought I’d be mad? Or that time you promised me you didn’t bite your sister even though I could see your teeth marks on her arm?”
“Maybe,” he said reluctantly.
“Just like you, sometimes people are so afraid of what would happen if the truth was found out, they forget the consequences of being caught lying are ten times worse, “ I explained.
“So,” he said now fully understanding the concept.“He would have been in less trouble if he had just told the truth?”
That’s an understatement I thought to myself as I said, “YEP, a lot less.”
Then I snuck in, “So do you see now why it’s never a good idea to lie?”
“Yes.” He replied while making funny faces at me on the face time screen, now bored by the direction this conversation was going. “Mom, can we stop talking about this now?”
“Sure,” I said realizing that he and Ryan Lochte were likely wishing for the very same thing.