The Other Side of the Coin
I write a lot about my son. He's the love of my life and like most parents I'm proud of him. I brag. I show off. He's a good kid and I want to tell the world.
But as a parent, I know that there is a flip side to the coin. It's a side we don't want to brag about. It's a side we don't want to see or admit to. I'd like to think I am a good parent and as such, I need to own up to my mistakes and errors. My son needs to do the same.
First some backstory...In the fall of 2013 we decided, as a family, that my son was mature enough to walk to and from school on his own. When I was a kid I did it at a much younger age, but those were different times. We did a gradual transition; walked him half way, and then quarter way and even "spied" a couple of times once we let him do it on his own. He became a trendsetter and soon his best friend wanted to walk home with him without adult supervision. It took him a bit out of the way, but everyone thought it was a great idea and it went well. Then another friend asked to join in. This fall, the best friend's younger sister joined the mix. The boys now had the responsibility of "picking up" the sister (different grades are dismissed through different doors) and bringing her home. And then some problems began. Third boy began "teasing" the sister, tugging on the coats of all of them and generally behaving in a bullying fashion. I will admit, it was my view (and remember, I was NOT the mother of the little girl or her brother) that boys will be boys. However, the mother of my son's best friend took it very seriously, as did MY husband. The situation was brought to the attention of the school and all the kids were brought (individually) to the principal's office to talk about the situation and discuss bullying (which is NOT tolerated at all in our school district.) In the end, the third boy was no longer welcome to walk home with the others and thus far, things have gone well.
What really bothered me about the whole situation was that the boy saw nothing wrong in what he had done and the mother was angry that the incidents had been escalated to the school. Her son was a "good boy."
Don't we all thing of our kids as "good"? I know I do, but I try to keep an open mind. I know that "good" kids can do stupid or bad things. I just hope that my "good" kid doesn't.
But then last night I got a text message from the mom on our block....
Seems like my "good" kid made a bad decision last night. While the kids were out playing being kids, my son decided it would be a good idea to throw a rock at the playhouse in the neighbor's backyard. I thank God that he threw it at the play house and NOT at another kid, but it must have been a pretty hefty rock because it took off a chunk of wood.
Do I need to say I was mortified?
Now my son had come back in the house maybe 20 minutes before I saw the message. He was dirty and sweaty, as he always is after playing outside with his group of friends from the block. I'd made him dinner and sent him to take a shower. He'd said nothing about "the incident". I'm sure that's no surprise.
Needless to say, we had a LONG discussion with him. There was some yelling. There were tears. But most importantly there were consequences. I love my son more than anything in the world; nothing will change that and I made sure he knew that. But my husband and I also made sure that he knew how disappointed we were. That what he had done was vandalism. That it showed a lack of respect to his friends and their family. The very family that had just invited him to a birthday party the previous weekend; the family that had fed him pizza for dinner one night this week and bought him an ice cream treat when the truck came by our block for the first time this season just the night before. We asked him if this was how he would treat the very people who obviously like him and care for him. There were lots more tears.
As a mom, I also have to take responsibility. He is MY son. I called the mom and left a message saying I appreciated the text, that we were all very sorry, it would NEVER happen again and that my son would be disciplined. Since I only left a voice mail message, I also sent an email to both parents reiterating what I said. He is my son; he is my responsibility. It is my job to teach him right from wrong and responsibility. I take ownership of that and as a parent I need to make sure that HE takes ownership too.
This morning, we had my son write an apology note. This afternoon, after he has re-written the note (this morning was a rough draft/sloppy copy), he will hand deliver it. He doesn't want to. He wants to leave it in the mail box or slide it under the door. We've told him that he has to personally deliver it. If he wants, we will be there with him when he does, but he has to hand it to one of the parents. He has to own up to his mistakes; he has to be responsible for his actions.
Am I making too much of this incident? Perhaps. But it is my hope that this bad choice will make a lasting impression on my son. That he will learn that his actions have consequences. That he is responsible for his choices.
If my "good" kid does something "bad" the least he can do is learn from it. I can hope that next time (and you know there will be a next time) he'll make a better decision. Because last night I didn't like being on the other side of the coin and I don't think my son did either. With this lesson learned, hopefully we can "flip back" to the other side; to the "good" kid who thinks before he acts and makes the kind of good decisions that I know he is capable of.