Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Lesson in Loyalty

Loyalty is not a word you will find used favorably in the law. It's a virtue the law tries hard to ignore.  To the law loyalty is the obnoxious cousin the law tries to pretend is not part of the family.

This is probably because disloyalty is the favorite son of the law, the trophy child who gets all the attention. I mean think about it, most (if not all) lawsuits are based on some disloyal person being, well, disloyal. The divorce from an unfaithful spouse, the breach of contract, the covenant not to compete that gets ignored, the trademark infringement.  And don’t even get me started on “hand shake” agreements. If I had a dime for every time I have been in court over a "hand shake agreement", I’d be sitting on some island drinking an icy beverage right now.
And of course this world of the un-loyal permeates off the case books into our law firms. Don’t believe me? Just google search “mommy-tracked” or something like that. Most attorneys feel like loyalty doesn't exist in a law firm. Many attorneys feel they have been cheated or treated poorly without regard to how long they have been at a firm. Partners in law firms are stereotyped (often rightfully so) for advancing people based on hours only, with no consideration for loyalty to the person billing those hours. Associates often are job searching while working at their firms eager to find the next higher paying job.

As a defense attorney, my job is to defend the people who are accused of being anything but loyal. Dealing with all this un-loyalty can cause one to become a little cynical. It's happened to me too. I am starting to wonder if loyalty is just a dead art, something long forgotten in this world of selfish gain.

Well, yesterday thanks to my son, I was reminded that loyalty is still very much alive...  
A couple nights ago I was doing laundry (I know...big shock right?). I took out a load of laundry and started to fold it. I went to pull out L’s light blue puppy dog pajamas. As I lifted it up to fold it, I noticed that one sleeve had been cut off. The cut was jagged. I showed Todd: “Look at this, do you think it got caught in the dryer?” Todd smiled and said “Nope, looks like someone  got a hold of some scissors”. I looked at the cut trying to figure out if it was possible for the kids to cut through the light fabric with the only scissors they could potentially have gotten a hold of: the plastic safety scissors in their art boxes.

And thus started the “Who cut the Puppy Jammies” Mystery. The mystery had a bit of urgency to it, as both Todd and I had a fear the kids had somehow gotten a hold of regular scissors. Of course always giving our kids the benefit of the doubt we first started with our washer and dryer to make sure the sleeve hadn’t gotten stuck somehow. No sleeve.

The next day I decided it was time to interrogate the two prime suspects: H and J. Of course as every good child interrogator knows, the first step is to change your tone into a happy, calm “no one is in trouble tone”. I started with my daughter. “J, did you cut this sleeve?” J sat for a minute looking at the sleeve and adamantly denied any involvement. Todd chimed in: “Come on J, did you do it?”. Normally, J is easily cracked so when she stuck to her “No” after a few minutes I was pretty sure she was in the clear. That left H. H had an uphill battle already in this interrogation considering his prior “criminal history” in our house including involvement in such famous crimes as: “Who stole all the straws off the Capri Suns” caper, and the “Who stuck Uno cards in the DVD player” fiasco. But, still, the lawyer in me knew he deserved a fair “trial”.

            “H, did YOU cut L’s sleeve?”

He stuck with his no’s in the same fashion as his sister. Todd, not having the patience in interrogating that I do, started to get a little annoyed: “Come on, one of you did it, and whoever did it is not having scissors anymore”. Todd walked off to see if he could find the sleeve in their room, some sort of clue into the culprit's identity. 

Todd and I were fairly certain it was J, considering her love of art, her wish to be a fashion designer, and the fact she is usually the one with the safety scissors. So we kept asking her questions trying to get her confession and trying to find out if somehow she had gotten sharper scissors that we needed to get out of her room. She kept saying no, and started to whine and cry at the repeated questions. H stood watching.

I sat there playing with L, J "fled the scene" off to the other room, and Todd was hunting for evidence, the sleeve, the scissors, anything.  Suddenly, I looked up and there was H, hanging his head low, trying not to make eye contact with me.

 “Momma” he said in his soft sad tone “Momma I did it. I cut the sleeve”.

The lawyer in me got excited for the confession. J came around the corner to find out what had happened. She stood there quiet and watched as H was “booked” for the crime. Booking in our house usually means a short lecture of “We don’t do that” followed by a time out or taking away of some privilege. H stood there during his booking, again not making eye contact. He walked upstairs ready to take his time out. You could see on his face, he felt bad. “Why did you do that H? Where did you get scissors? Can you show me the scissors you used?” I asked. All he said was “I did it".

Through the threats of never having scissors again from Todd, and the look of disappointment from me, H took it all. But as the minutes passed, H’s story started to have some “kinks”. Todd demanded to know from the culprit where the sleeve was. H said “It’s under my bed”, nope not there. “It’s in that corner”, nope not there.

About 5 minutes passed of H being in the hot seat. Suddenly J  came up to me with a look of guilt on her face. I could just tell what the look meant. “J, you did it didn’t you?” I said. J shook her head yes. Yep, she did it, and she let her brother take the heat until her conscience caught up with her relief of getting off the hook.
This whole thing took about 10 minutes, but in that short time I learned a valuable lesson. There was H, at just 3 years old, taking the heat for his sister. Without being asked to he took the punishment, and sat there for a few minutes probably thinking he would never again own scissors in his life. But through it all , he stood loyal to his sister, even though I am pretty sure she would not have done the same. A sister who when he blinks wrong will come and "turn him in" to Todd and I. Now if that's not true loyalty, I don't know what is.

Needless to say, H did not get punished for the scissor incident. Instead I came up to him and gave him a hug. His loyalty for his sister was much more important to me than some footsie doggy jammies.



Do what you will, always

Walk where you like, your steps

Do as you please, I'll back you up

-Dave Matthews

No comments:

Post a Comment