Fifteen years ago I was working in the HR department of an insurance company. Being that I have a horrible memory, there’s not a whole lot I remember about that job. A few key people, my amazing boss, and the fact that our mail room clerk was an awkwardly skinny, pimple faced kid that loved to doodle on desks. “Why use paper when you can deface the property of your employer” must have been his motto because the kid was crazy with his sharpie. Oh, and the freaky tech guy who looked just like Steve Buscemi did in Fargo.

There was one thing I learned while working at this job that I have never forgotten. And even though I was only 25 years old and no-where near marriage or motherhood, it was a lesson in parenting. I loved the story, have repeated it many times over the years, and vow to keep it in my arsenal should I need it in about ten years or so.

Being that I already told you about my memory – or lack thereof – I’m sure you’ll find it of no surprise that I recall nothing of the woman who told me this. But that doesn’t really matter. I do remember, in decent detail, what she told me.

She was the mother of a teenager who had recently started lying to her. Her daughter would lie about where she was going, what she was doing, who she was with, her homework, almost anything. This woman and her husband tried grounding, taking away privileges. This, believe it or not, was back in the day before cell phones, ipods and before most people had home computers, so I guess they likely took away telephone privileges, going out with friends, and maybe TV.

Anyway, the afternoon of the school prom they had caught their daughter in yet another lie. Frustrated that she was not learning her lesson, they tried a new approach. After giving her the lying-is-not-acceptable lecture for the umpteenth time, it was time to talk about the punishment. Being that she had been looking forward to prom night for months, had found the perfect dress, and landed her dream date, they figured that keeping her from attending the prom *might* just be the lesson that would finally teach her something. So not surprisingly, they informed her that she would not be attending the prom that night.

As you might imagine, there was a melt down of massive proportion. Tears. Screams. Doors slamming. You’re-ruining-my-life-and-I-hate-you. The whole thing. In a desperate attempt to save herself, their daughter resorted to negotiation. “If you just please let me go to prom tonight, I promise never to lie again. And in exchange, you can ground me for two weeks with no telephone”. After about an hour of back and forth negotiation, the parents agreed to allow their daughter to go to prom in exchange for a delayed punishment.

Several hours later, their daughter’s girlfriends arrived and frenzy ensued as they all gleefully got ready for their big night. At 5:00pm sharp, the doorbell rang. The boys were at the door, the limo poised behind them.

Coming down the stairs with a smile the size of Texas, their daughter was beaming with excitement.

“Where are you going?”, asked her mom.

“To my prom!”, she answered.

“No. You’re not. I’m sorry”

Her voice cracking and showing signs of panic, “What?? What are you talking about”?

“I’m talking about the fact that you’re not going to the prom tonight”

“But, you said I could go! We agreed!!”

“I lied”