It could have been awkward. It could have been confrontational. It could have resulted in animosity. But it wasn’t, and it didn’t. It was a case of two parents trying to sort things out and do the right thing, two parents who believe it takes a village to raise children in the best possible way. How empowering that is, especially when the reason for coming together is a child’s mistake.
I like to think I can tell when my kids are lying (oh, silly, silly Mommy….) and when their desperation for my understanding is based in their innocence. But conflict between kids, especially between kids and the neighbors or classmates, often happens under the radar, so it’s tough to sort out the actual details. Especially when emotions run high, which is almost always. In the end, we parents have to accept our kids’ side of the story and do the best we can to resolve the problem fairly.
So of course I wasn’t present. At least, I didn’t see what happened but I certainly heard the problem unfold. I was in my bedroom, my daughter in hers. And my son was sitting in our living room, head down, immersed with something on his Ipad, headphones on. He hears next to nothing else when he is engaged like this; a bomb could detonate and he wouldn’t notice. But when I heard him yell Get out! Get out! I knew he had seen, not heard, something happen. As there were only three of us in the house, I assumed he was giving it to his sister, whom he didn’t want interrupting his quiet, alone time.
But, boy, did I get an earful when I returned to the living room.
Apparently, neighbor kids were running around “Ding Dong Ditching.” When I was kid, we weren’t clever enough to have a catchy alliterating name for let’s-ring-doorbells-and-then-run-and-hide. But I remember doing it. Doesn’t everyone? It’s harmless and a little annoying, but I figure it’s one of those things; and since the kids didn’t leave a smoldering bag of dog poop, I wasn’t too worried about the antics. Now this time I didn’t hear the doorbell; I had been in the shower. But my daughter said yes, the doorbell had been ringing. Ok. She went on to say that one of the girls involved was running around our house, looking in the windows and trying door handles. Ok, not really ok. Then my angry son added that the same girl, finding a door unlocked, walked right on in to our home and scared the bejesus out of him, the reason for his yelling only minutes before. He hadn’t heard her enter, but saw movement out of his peripheral vision and there she was.
Ok, really, really not ok.
His story made complete sense, and this neighbor girl has run around our property before, but never had been so bold as to barge right on in. Oh, damn. I knew I had to do something about this.
I hate, hate, hate having to call other parents under these circumstances. I hate having to “make the call” on whether to make the call. But this was a no-brainer; the girl’s mom needed to know that the usual fun-and-games of childhood had crossed a line, right onto our property and into our home. Not. Cool.
So I called. Her mom was mortified. I mean, mortified. It reminded me a little of the scene in A Christmas Story when Ralphie’s mom calls the mother of the boy from whom Ralphie (supposedly) learned the art of using the F-bomb. I felt guilty laying this news on her but stood my ground and empathized with how disappointed and embarrassed she felt. We agreed to talk again soon, after she and her husband had discussed matters with their daughter.
A few days later, my hunch was confirmed: the girl denied coming into our home. She did admit the act of ding-dong-ditching but not the reason for my call to her mom.
This is where things could have become strained and weird. But they didn’t. I made myself prepare for the possibility the girl wouldn’t own up to her transgression, and clearly her mom did, too. Despite her mom’s several discussions with her about the incident, her daughter stuck to her story and Mom said to me,
I have to believe my daughter.
Of course she did. And I had to believe my son. We could have dwelled on an impasse, a classic he-said-she-said, but clearly her mom was prepared for this as well, because she beat me to the punch:
I want my daughter to come apologize to all of you. She did trespass and that’s not cool.
Yup. My feelings exactly. She was caught and called-on doing something she shouldn’t and she admitted that. Maybe not fully, but still, her mom and I agreed she should apologize. Being held accountable will hopefully make her think twice about about pushing the envelope again. And that, in the end, is what we hope for.
I could be angry about her apparent lie. (Ok. I am frustrated but not surprised. She’s a kid…whose mom was furious and I’d be scared, too, of a major punishment.) And of course, maybe she didn’t enter our home uninvited. We will never know for sure. We just have to hope our kids are being honest, as we have taught them to be, and trust in that.
And it’s tough to be forgiving. Kids struggle with it, and I know I suffer from grudge-holding myself. Forgiveness is hard. So we prepared ahead of time for the visit from the girl and her mom. I gave my kids a script: respond with Thank you for your apology. We kept it simple. Then, I put into motion the mantra that drives my kids batty but have latched on to because it’s just so good:
When they go low, we go high.
When the time was right, I pushed aside my inner dialogue of little liar! and said to the girl, who bravely gave her apology:
If you are ever in trouble, or hurt, know our home is a safe place. Please know you are welcome to come knock on our door if you need help.
I meant it. And that was that.
You never know how parents are going to respond when you make that awkward call about their child’s transgression. I know some of these situations that have gone terribly awry and am thankful it hasn’t happened to us. We’ve been lucky to have the support and to be supported by many other families. And I feel heartened to have yet another comrade in this raising of kids, another member of the village of parenting.
Because it really does take all of us.