I was in Target this morning having a crisis of conscience that haunts me just about every six weeks. Standing in the laundry detergent aisle, I was again asking myself, “What would happen if I didn’t buy the high efficiency Tide and just got the regular old Tide to save a couple pennies?”
As I pondered the potential ramifications of ignoring the “HE” logo attached to my washer, I imagined myself in the middle of a Brady Bunch episode. It was the one where Bobby uses the whole box of laundry soap and bubbles fill the entire laundry room and seep into the kitchen. Classic.
That’s why I was smiling when you turned the corner.
You said, “Hello!” so loudly that my “Hi,” was meek in comparison as I tried to place how I knew you.
That was short lived because it became immediately apparent you weren’t talking to me anyway. You turned your head, and I noticed the thing in your ear that looked like a flash drive. I couldn’t hear the person on the other end of the line, but clearly you were trying to gain control of the conversation. Your “No, wait, wait, wait, you aren’t going to believe this,” was so loud that people in the toy department on the other side of the store listened with rapt attention.
I made my selection and was turning my cart around when your next line had the dramatic effect of making me stop dead in my tracks. You loudly proclaimed, “I don’t know what goes on in their house, but my kid would never do that.”
Then you began naming names and giving hints as to what atrocity this deviant child had committed. I was drawn to the conversation like a moth to a flame, which is how I found myself standing with you in the small appliance aisle.
Yes, I admit, I followed you and was totally eavesdropping, (or whatever the term is for listening in as someone shouts into an earbud) but I couldn’t help myself. I was on the edge of my seat spellbound by this dramatic tale you were telling. And the fortunate byproduct of my stealth-like reconnaissance will come on Christmas morning when some lucky person on my list unwraps a pretty sweet crock-pot.
You are much younger than I am, and we don’t know each other, but you might want to shut the hell up, for a couple of reasons.
First, while Detroit may be ranked #14 of the largest US metropolitan areas, this is a small town, and while I didn’t personally know you or any of the names you were spewing, I am certain that I could have that mystery solved in less than two phone calls.
Second, and more importantly, it’s the parenting kiss of death to say, “My kid would never do that.” You’d be much better off thinking “there but for the grace of God go I” whenever you hear of a child’s bad judgment or misbehavior, and for good reason. Kids, teens, young adults and even adults are dumb. We make dumb mistakes. No matter how good your parenting might be, your child will screw up. And it’s our job to teach our children the error of their ways, enact appropriate punishment and hope they learn from their mistake.
But we also have a role to play when it’s someone else’s child that makes the mistake. It’s called forgiveness. Far too often we continue to stand in judgment of other people’s children who have suffered the consequences of a bad decision.
I don’t know all the facts of your story because, quite frankly, I became annoyed with the sound of your voice and walked away, but I do know you are not alone in the opinion you were shouting to your friend that this child should be further punished.
In the last few weeks, I have heard two other stories about kids who made really dumb choices, apologized to all involved and accepted their punishment, only to have additional penalties, including public humiliation, imposed.
What has happened to redemption? Our reactions to a child’s bad decision has become so punitive that I fear our kids are being unfairly and permanently labeled when they screw up. If they commit the crime and do the time, then we have to let it go. (Oops, is that song stuck in your head now too?)
No one, child or adult, should be solely defined by any one act, be it a gross error of judgment or a moment of shining achievement. We are the sum total of all of our actions. And kids, in particular, should know the power of redemptive behavior.
When I stopped semi-stalking you, I went back to the detergent aisle to follow the rules and buy the high efficiency Tide. Not for fear of experiencing my own Brady bubble bewilderment, but more so because, despite being momentarily enthralled by your story, I couldn’t help but notice how pilly your sweatpants were. So if you’re not going to shut the hell up, maybe you should learn to hang your lululemon out to dry…instead of your son’s friends.