Unless you’ve been living in the woods for a week, you know the story of Ryan Lochte, 32, and his buds, Jimmy, 26, Jack, 21, and Gunner, 20. And if you are a parent getting ready to send your child off to school, from kindergarten to college, you need to write Ryan a letter of thanks. When is the last time we’ve seen a single situation provide so many defining lessons about decision making and consequences, doing the right thing, and qualities of a friend? He’s made Parenting 101 so much easier by living example, hasn’t he? Let’s review just some of the lessons parents can share.
Lesson 1: Dumb decisions are dumb decisions, and it doesn’t matter what you drank. Admit your own stupidity, immediately, and in your own words. Don’t wait until some PR expert or attorney (or a parent) writes some words for you to release, expressing your heartfelt apology. Feel the mistake, acknowledge it, make the matter better, learn from it, and move on. There isn’t a single person I know who hasn’t regretted some type of stupid decision; just take some responsibility for it.
Lesson 2: Lying is not the solution. Ever. Ryan told the news guy that a gun was put to his head, and all Ryan said was “whatever.” Are you kidding me? You wouldn’t’ be pleading for your life, crying like a baby, begging for mercy, all while realizing you’ve just soiled your pants? Lies catch up with you every time, even after you’ve skipped the country, and think you’re safe.
Lesson 3: Make sure the person you pick as your friend, or the one you’re going to follow, is going to have your back. That’s what friends do for each other. So when you get pulled off a plane or worse yet, can’t leave the country until your parents have figured out how to get $11,000 into your hands, make sure your friend is right there with you, not home eating steak, drinking beer and sleeping in his own bed. Parents, insert your own examples here appropriate for your child, but a person who sticks with you through thick and thin is a true friend. Especially, when Lesson #1 is being learned. Friendship lessons are some of the toughest for school age kids.
Lesson 4: No one likes a cry baby. You might not be the ring leader, but if you find yourself in a situation that you think is wrong, do something about it. If for some reason you can’t escape, at least tell the truth immediately, before someone has to delay your flight. Nobody likes to hear “It was all his fault; he started it.” Come on. This isn’t recess on the playground.
Of course, there are many other lessons in the case. Lost in this are the lessons of hard work and goal setting and making sacrifices to achieve your dreams. Ryan Lochte is a great swimmer, but no one is talking about his talent, only his character. And that may be the best lesson to share with your child, and reason enough to write that thank you letter. Character. It’s that simple.