The mom scrapes the last of dinner into the disposal, noting that her son left quite a bit on his plate. “Are you feeling ok?” she asks, and he confesses that he ate a bunch of veggies and hummus late that afternoon. She considers the damage and lets it go with a reminder to watch the snacking around dinnertime. Later that evening while putting the throw pillows back on the sofa she discovers the actual hunger-busting culprit: there are no fewer than eleven candy wrappers mashed between the cushions.
You want the truth about irrefutable evidence regarding your kids? I think you can handle it.
I am going to go out on a limb and make a few pronouncements here: We all love our kids; we all have good kids; we all have good kids who will sometimes do unwise things.
Here’s the thing. Sometimes it’s painful for parents and kids alike to deal with these situations – it may be tempting to suggest that the overarching lesson is don’t get caught. Or, their shenanigans may be so inane that your first response is to laugh in their faces and then call it a day.
Sometimes you may be tempted to go the-best-defense-is-a-good-offense route, and double down on their side when things go to the bad. This choice is highly unfortunate, usually, and culminates in crazy confrontations where a parent who should know better refuses to back down from the belief that her child can do no wrong.
All of those responses, while understandable, don’t reflect the responsible attitude that we parents are called to embrace. Ideally our reaction to these episodes should demonstrate our commitment to helping our kids realize their potential to move through the world as responsible, happy, well adjusted, contributing adults.
So when faced with undeniable evidence of wrongdoing by your kids on the home front, you do your best to respond appropriately – firmly but kindly, and in a manner that will teach important and useful life lessons. Sometimes you execute this perfectly. Sometimes not so much.
This dynamic becomes pretty stressful when your kids mess up in a public way.
One afternoon I was loading groceries into the car when a call summoned me home. Apparently there had been an incident on the street – and the neighbors were pretty sure my boys were involved.
No one was hurt, and it was not a terrible situation, thankfully. But it was an unfortunate one. A cracked and broken and frustrating stretch of pavement directly in front of our neighbors’ house finally had been repaired by the city. The new sidewalk was gleaming white and perfect.
But before this beautiful concrete could dry, somebody decided it would be cool to use it to give a big shout out to longboarding, a passion of several of the neighborhood boys. This tribute was no small deal. The culprits carved LONGBOARD in large letters across the bottom of the briefly perfect new sidewalk.
My boys were into longboarding. Could we know that they were among the ones that did it?
Oh, yes. Because after they did it . . . they signed their names. In the concrete. For good measure they also added a few siblings and friends who were not present but surely would not want to be left out of this brilliant event.
And then they promptly took off running like the guilty juvies they were, just as soon as our neighbor drove down the street and turned into her driveway. Let me just repeat that so we are all clear: my boys and their coconspirators signed their names in concrete and then tried to run so as to not get caught.
Just . . . wow.
After placing a call to our financial advisor to revisit the wisdom of our current 529 contributions, we circled up with the boys. My husband and another dad questioned the group about their obliviousness to the potential for displeasure with this activity. “Did anybody think this was a bad idea?” they pressed. Uh, yeah. It turns out my youngest – they youngest in the group –was pretty hesitant from the get-go about this plan. As the group activity continued there was increasing uneasiness among them, as evidenced in their final sign and dash.
For a moment I hesitated about how to move forward. It was clear that the boys had not meant to be rude or mean or disrespectful. They certainly weren’t the first people on the planet to mark on wet concrete. But ultimately we all could appreciate that perhaps the non-skating neighbors had a point about the location of this hugely enthusiastic tribute.
So they apologized and used their allowance to help to pay for the repairs. They learned an important lesson about being a good neighbor, and they did it like champs. All’s well that wipes clean and dries and solidifies well.
Sometimes our kids will trip up in life, and sometimes they will stumble where all can see. But even when it’s inconvenient to face certain realities regarding your kids, the truth is that holding them accountable for their behavior is undeniable proof that you love them.
Want to get a better handle on irrefutable evidence regarding your kids’ behavior? Read about the benefits of parenting with love and logic, laugh at Roderick’s misdeeds caught on tape with this clip from The Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie, and celebrate getting busted with this throwback ditty from Young MC.