Oops, I Messed Up

Oops, I Messed Up

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Be The Best You Can Be

Oops, I Messed Up

The truth brings with it a great measure of absolution, always.

~R.D. Laing

The other day at school we had an assembly. When a speaker is talking, we are supposed to be quiet and listen — that’s what I usually do. But this time I kept talking to my friend Jamie. My teacher got up and walked around, trying to figure out who was talking, so I looked innocent and kept quiet until Mrs. Nussbaum gave up and sat down.

Then I started again. What I didn’t see was that our P.E. teacher was sitting two rows ahead of me. She got up and came over to tell me to behave and listen, and then she went back to her seat.

After the assembly, my teacher asked me if I had gotten into trouble with the P.E. teacher. “Not me,” I answered. “It must have been someone else.”

She looked at me and said, “It’s a good thing it wasn’t you, or you wouldn’t be having recess.” Then she excused our class and sent us outside. I thought I was off the hook until we came back into the building. My teacher and the P.E. teacher were talking to each other, and they were looking my way.

When we went into the room, Mrs. Nussbaum told our class that we had some thinking to do. She said “someone” had caused a disturbance at the assembly, and until she found out who it was, none of us would be having any more recesses. When some of my classmates pointed to me, Mrs. Nussbaum said she had already asked me, and that I had said it wasn’t me. She said that I wouldn’t have any reason to lie. She was looking right at me in kind of a funny way when she said that, and then she turned away.

Jamie looked at me and said, “You started it. Why don’t you admit it?”

“Because then she’ll call home, and I’ll be in lots of trouble and probably not be able to go to my soccer game tonight.”

“So we all have to suffer because of you? That’s not fair.”

“Did you want to say something, Jamie?” Mrs. Nussbaum asked.

He looked at me. I wasn’t sure if he was going to turn me in or not. “No, nothing,” he answered while he glared at me.

After school, I waited until everyone had gone. I walked home slowly, thinking about what I had done. Why did I have to talk when I wasn’t supposed to? Worse yet, why couldn’t I just admit it when I was wrong? Now I had gotten the whole class into trouble.

I went into the house and stood by the kitchen door, knowing what I had to do. I walked in and saw Dad.

“Hi, son. Your mom is running late, so I’ve started supper. We’ll eat early so we can all go to your soccer game. You’d better change.”

I looked at Dad.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

I told him the whole story. He said we had to call Mrs. Nussbaum right away. Dad called the school and had Mrs. Nussbaum paged. When she came to the phone, he handed the receiver to me.

“I have to talk to her?”

“Yes, you do.”

I took the phone and told her it was me, that I was the bad kid. She said I wasn’t a bad kid; I just had messed up. In the end, I had been honest. She wasn’t even going to punish me!

When I got off the phone, Dad said, “I’m proud that you finally admitted what you had done, but I think it’s sad that Mrs. Nussbaum almost had to punish the entire class for your misbehavior.”

“Does that mean I can’t go to soccer?”

“That’s up to you. You decide if you think you deserve to go to the game.”

I looked at Dad and knew the answer. “I’ll call my coach and tell him I won’t be there.”

When my mom and big brother came home later, they asked why we weren’t going to soccer. My dad looked at me, and I explained it all.

“Wow,” my brother said.

“What?” I asked.

“Well, I think it’s great you told the truth, even when you knew it would make you miss the soccer game.”

I like my big brother, and I look up to him. I thought he was only proud of me for the scores I make in my soccer games. Now I realize he could be proud of me for being honest.

That night, my brother helped me write a letter apologizing to Mrs. Nussbaum and the class. Even though I was nervous to go to school, I knew what I had to do. The next day in class, I was shaking as I read from my paper in the front of the classroom. When I finished, I didn’t know what to expect. Some of the kids were upset with me, and I don’t blame them. But others came up to me and thanked me for being honest.

I try not to talk during assemblies anymore, but let’s face it — no one’s perfect — least of all me. But now, when I do something wrong, I admit it. Life is just way simpler that way.

~Mike Schneider as told to Nance Schneider

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