On Saturday, Mike and I came home after the kids had gone to bed. We found my iPad on the kitchen table, its screen shattered.
There was a note:
“We’ll disguss (sic) this in the morning. I would recommend you not touch it. – Jack”
Hmm. We would indeed ‘disguss’ this in the morning.
Jack is at an age where babysitters are less necessary than spelling tutors, and he and his brother can hang out without us for extended periods of time without either of them getting into trouble. Usually.
This meant his dad and I could spend the better part of this last weekend at a local music festival, knowing they’d be fine without us, sustained by mac and cheese and the Xbox.
Hallelujah. It felt like getting my driver’s license, or moving out of my parents’ house. Freedom.
We watched other parents at the concerts, those with little kids hanging from packs on their backs, or clinging to their legs, and we reveled in that freedom.
But this isn’t about our independence. It’s about that note we came home to and what it represents.
When I was Jack’s age, I was sitting on the dining room table once, talking on the phone. The light fixture with its flame-shaped bulbs and glass globes was overhead and I absent-mindedly started spinning it around, and then letting it unwind, around and around, faster and faster. The reflections of light on the walls reminded me of what a club might be like, or the school dance with a disco ball throwing reflective beams on the gym floor.
Dancing queen, young and sweet, only seventeen …
So I spun the fixture around, again and again, watching the play of lights on the dining room walls.
Until one of the globes somehow lifted off and flew into the wall, shattering into a million pieces.
Oh shoot, I thought (although I didn’t think ‘oh shoot’), here I was dancing queen, and all of the sudden the disco ball had come crashing down on my party.
I asked Jack later about the iPad. He’d had it on the edge of his bed, and bumped it. The corner of it hit something solid and the screen shattered.
“I thought oh shoot, oh shoot, mom and dad are going to kill me,” he said (although he didn’t say ‘oh shoot’).
In my case, faced with similarly imagined mortal peril, I squeezed out a good tear or two and a story about how I was dusting when I broke the chandelier.
I got brownie points for dusting rather than a lecture about breaking fixtures (sorry mom).
I’m thankful my kid’s antics don't come with an Abba soundtrack, and that he can take responsibility.
“I left the iPad on the counter,” he told me later, “but I knew if I didn’t leave a note, you guys would freak out or something. I didn’t know what you would do. I figured I’d just have any and all electronics taken away from me for all eternity.”
So he coped to it, steeled himself to take the consequences, and went to bed. Where I’m sure he slept like a baby.
There are all too many instances where adults in the limelight take the easy way out. Anywhere my kids look, they can find examples of people completely dodging responsibility. I’m unreasonably proud Jack didn’t follow their example.
For better or for worse, we as parents get the blame for every crappy thing to which our kids’ adolescent judgment and teenage sense of entitlement leads them. Sometimes, we deserve that blame.
But, as parents we’re sticking our thumbs in a dam holding back a sea of bad examples: people saying and doing outrageous things and claiming to be misquoted or misunderstood. We can set our own example, our kids might even notice, but the outside world regularly overflows into our everyday psyche, threatening to wash us away.
So, even with my dancing queen past, and Mike, with whatever history of questionable teenage decisions he has (if there is any, it probably has something to do with a combination of firearms and prairie dogs), we’re going to claim this little victory.
And figure out some chores around here so Jack can work off the iPad repair bill.
Beth Markley is ManicMom, blogging at www.manicmumbling.com
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