A Letter to My Kids About Ryan Lochte and Admitting Your Mistakes

Dear Joshua, Sophie, and Jonah,

Hey kiddos. Last night as we watched the 2016 Rio Olympics closing ceremonies, I was sad. I was sad they were over because I have had SO much fun with you these past two weeks, rooting for Team USA. Staying up super late, eating popcorn, our jaws dropping as Simone Biles flew high, cheering as Michael Phelps raced to touch at the end of the pool, watching Katie Ledecky BLOW AWAY the field, and agonizing over losses and relay disqualifications. It was a BLAST.

Such a blast, that I was kinda hoping you woudn’t notice the one thing that tarnished the games for our country: swimmer Ryan Lochte’s whole “robbed at gunpoint” lie. We had cheered Lochte on in the swimming relays, we had laughed about his green hair and he and Phelps calling themselves “the old guys.” But Saturday night, as NBC devoted a large part of its broadcast to Lochte squirming under Matt Lauer’s pointed questions, I couldn’t not talk about it. I mean you have eyes and ears, after all. And it’s possible that as a responsible parent, I should turn Lochte’s folly into a “teachable moment”—the ones all parents simultaneously long for and dread.

So my dears, here are four things I want you to know about Ryan Lochte’s behavior, and what I want you to do instead when you mess up. BECAUSE YOU WILL MESS UP—and even if it’s not on a grand scale and in the public eye like Lochte’s screw up, there’s still a right and a wrong way to handle it.

1. If you’re drunk when you mess up, your mistake is more likely to be a big one

What happened my dears, is that Ryan Lochte and some friends drank way too much alcohol at a party, and then they acted really stupid. Too much alcohol is a very bad thing, whether you are underage, or like Lochte, 32 years old. He and his swimmer pals drank too much, and because they were under the influence of alcohol, they acted really dumb and made poor decision after poor decision when they found themselves in a Rio gas station. Now, let me be clear: they are responsible for these decisions NO MATTER WHAT, but I am guessing that they would not have acted like such idiots if they weren’t drunk. When they were frustrated that they couldn’t get the bathroom door open, they vandalized and damaged the gas station using violence. THAT is what led to a security guard pointing a gun at them, NOT them being robbed, as Lochte reported. Which brings me do my second point…

2. Don’t lie about your mistakes

Lochte says he was “still intoxicated” when he made up the story about being robbed at gun point and reported it to authorities in Rio (see #1). But that doesn’t matter. A lie is a lie no matter when or under what circumstances you tell it. ADMIT your mistakes and take responsibilities, my kiddos. Lying about them will only make them 1,000 times worse! If Lochte had admitted his mistake right away, instead of lying and making up a story to try and cover it up, it would not have  been nearly as big a deal as it is now. He would not have insulted the city of Rio de Janeiro and the country of Brazil. He and his fellow swimmers wouldn’t be facing criminal charges most likely either — probably just could have paid more for damages at the gas station and kept it a civil matter. But my vandalizing the gas station and THEN lying about it, Ryan Lochte became a bigger embarrassment to his self, his team, and his country—and now the companies that used to pay him and sponsor his swimming are canceling his contracts, so he’s losing his livelihood, too.

3. Don’t run away from your problems

Before this situation was resolved, and knowing he was going to be found out, Ryan Lochte hopped a plane back to the United States—and left his swimming buddies hanging. By the time the Rio police had figured out that Lochte made the story up, he was gone, but the other swimmers he was with were still in Brazil and had to face charges. Two of them were even pulled OFF their plane as they tried to go home, and one of them had to pay over $10,000 before they would let him leave the country. Ryan’s lies affected his teammates big time, but by the time it was clear there would be consequences, Lochte was LONG gone. Kids, this is an example of someone being a TRULY CRAPPY friend. Please, please, please, don’t ever try to make anyone else pay for YOUR mistakes. Ryan said in his tearful interview with Matt Lauer that he was so sorry for letting his team down and causing more trouble for these guys, but if I were them it would be a LONG TIME before we were hanging out again. Yes, they all had their own part, but he LEFT them to carry HIS part of the consequences as well—and that’s deplorable.

4. Don’t insult others with a fake apology

FINALLY, after he basically HAD NO CHOICE, Ryan Lochte admitted his wrong and apologized on social media. Well, sort of. It was basically a #sorrynotsorry or an “I didn’t mean to.” And frankly, it was insulting. He said he regrets not being more “careful and candid” about what really happened and in the interview with Matt Lauer he used the word “over-exaggerated” several times. And ALL of that, my babies, leads me to believe that Lochte isn’t sorry about his behavior. He is sorry he got CAUGHT. His apology just seems like more lies, and I don’t think it’s actually mending any fences. Kiddos, if you’re  not sorry? DON’T SAY IT. I pray to God you will be repentant when you make mistakes and hurt others, as you will do, and I pray that you will be sincerely hurt over hurting others. I pray you will say you are sorry, and I pray you will mean it.

And also, I pray you never bleach your hair gray/white and then go swimming a lot and have it turn green. Fail.

So guys, there’s my talk about Lochtegate. I hope it’s not the ONLY thing you remember from our super happy Olympic fun times these past two weeks, but I do hope you remember it well—and learn what NOT to do when you mess up. You’ll mess up, we all do, but it’s the way  you handle your mistakes that really shows the world who you are.

I love you guys!


Feature image: Screen shot, NBCOlympics.com

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Jenny Rapson
Jenny Rapson is a follower of Christ, a wife and mom of three from Ohio and a freelance writer and editor. You can find her at her blog, Mommin' It Up, or follow her on Twitter.