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Crowning success teaches dishonesty

(ran PAS edition)

Terri Dusek must have been so proud.

After all, her kids took top honors in two categories at the recent Little Miss and Mr. Flapjack Pageant.

A stellar day, to be sure, seeing one crowned Little Mr. Flapjack.

Too bad sweet victory rang such a sour note.

Next weekend, 3-year-old Tyler Dusek will ride in the Flapjack Festival parade, wearing a sash that _ by the rules _ rightfully belongs to another child.

The flapjack prince wears a tarnished crown.

See, pageant organizers specified that only 4- to 6-year-olds could compete for the Little Miss and Little Mr. Flapjack titles.

But Mom didn't want Tyler and brother Tristan competing against each other in the category for 2- to 3-year-olds.

So she fibbed. And it paid off. Tyler and Tristan both won.

When pageant organizers found out Little Mr. Flapjack was underage, they didn't snatch the sash away. Wouldn't be fair to Tyler, they said.

I have to agree.

We can't blame Tyler, or make him accountable for what happened here.

The fact remains, he won by deception.

It is bad enough that we glorify superficiality with beauty pageants for any age group. It only makes it worse when the winner takes the prize this way.

Naturally, the mother of the runner-up in the Little Mr. Flapjack competition was upset that her son _ who really is 4 _ lost to a 3-year-old.

One might expect a pageant mom whose kid has been cheated of the title to go ballistic, spewing venom and demanding satisfaction.

Not so with Daniela Arseneau, whose son Benjamin fell short in the competition.

In fact, quite the contrary. She was gracious, and considerate of Tyler's feelings.

"What can I do _ take the little boy's crown? That would not be fair," she said.

Terri Dusek, who snookered Tyler to victory, couldn't have been much less apologetic about the affair.

"If people bark loud enough, they get heard," Dusek told the Times. "Somebody ought to look at that woman and say "Just shut up.' It's stuff like this that makes this type of thing no fun. It's not fair."

Ahem.

Skirting the rules to win makes this type of thing no fun.

And bashing the mom you cheated isn't fair.

If you're caught winning like this, don't send the wrong message to your children.

Own up to it. Apologize. Let it go.

It's sad to think of the lessons this mess teaches kids like Tyler: Cheating has its rewards and, if you're caught, point fingers at someone else.

The whole fiasco seems to have turned Daniela Arseneau off to pageants and, frankly, I think that can't help but be a blessing for Benjamin years from now.

He'll find other ways to shine.

_ Wes Platt is the Times central Pasco bureau chief. He can be reached at 226-3454. Send letters c/o North of Tampa, P.O. Box 1439, Land O'Lakes, FL 34639. Send faxes to 226-3455. Send e-mail to plattsptimes.com.

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