I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff in my lifetime. I mean, I don’t think we need to get into the particulars since I’m pretty public about my escapades, but I was so certain I had disinfected the gene pool of my perplexing personality defects by marrying a guy that rarely does anything wrong, that I didn’t think there was any way I could pass on my foolishness to my children. His worldly smartness HAD to overpower my amazing ineptitude. Don’t get me wrong, he’s totally crazy, but not stupid; and I’m confident part of the attraction when we first hooked up solidly proved every Darwinian theory possible about survival of the fittest and women unconsciously coupling with candidates who ensure and increase the likelihood of future human existence.
Apparently there’s been some sort of glitch.
Maybe our combined super pool of genes was just too much and the universe couldn’t handle that much perfection.
Like chaos theory at it’s finest. My EXTREMELY small flaws have disturbed a highly complex system of awesomeness and unfortunately altered the impeccable harmonious order, resulting in disastrous consequences.
I started noticing small aberrations haphazardly, like Noelle tripping over everything AND being an amazing athlete. Or how she never misses a spelling word but still gets her B’s and D’s backwards when she writes. Little things like this.
Wyatt doesn’t have any incongruities.
Well, except for the arson situation.
I have to admit, I’m not sure how he’s going to find time to fit in his new criminal behavior, what with his demanding soccer and wrestling schedule, 4.0 GPA, avid reading, hunting, hiking, ATV riding and whatnot.
And being grounded for life.
The firemen assured the parents of the friend he was with when it happened that it was normal childhood behavior. Which is partly why I’m so upset. He’s not normal, I hold him to a higher standard. I’ve got to believe at least one of us in our family can lead a respectable life. It was all riding on him.
Now he’s gone and wrecked everything.
When I got the call, I was just stepping into a meeting with clients. I’m not sure how I made it through those 45 minutes with my anger quietly boiling inside. Plus, I had to figure out a way to tell E. It was a delicate situation, seeing as how his rage is overtly robust and passionate, like a toddler at bedtime. It was best he knew in advance before I brought the offender home so that he had some time to get used to the idea.
Obviously we both handled it like mature responsible adults.
After I securely fastened Wyatt into the car (safety first!), I began my conversation in a calm and matter of fact manner.
Me: Wow. Where do I start?
W: I’m so sorry Mom, I’m in so much trouble, Dad is going to be so mad!
Me: Let’s worry about your dad later. Right now we need to talk about your legal troubles. Do you have a defense strategy in place?
Me: Well obviously the firemen have a duty to let the landowner know what happened. You didn’t think that just because the firefighters let you off easy that it doesn’t mean the landowner couldn’t come after you? Surely you’ve thought this through?
W (*eyes welling with tears*): What will the owner do?
Me: Hmm. Well, let’s see. Arson is a malice crime. It’s treated like first degree murder which means you go to prison for life.
W (*panicking*): Mom it was an accident I swear!
Me: So you accidentally lit the match that burned a fort to the ground on a strangers property?
W: It wasn’t our matches! We found them there! We lit it together!
Me: (*skeptical eyebrows*) That does not make any sense whatsoever and the defense will not hold, Mister. You can’t go into court with unclean hands.
W (*looking at hands*): My hands aren’t dirty, why does that matter?
Me: Never mind. I guess if he doesn’t want to press charges for arson, he could go with trespassing or malicious mischief. Trespassing would be better since it’s a misdemeanor and the maximum sentence would only be 90 days. Malicious mischief is a problem though, if it’s first or second degree, you are looking at a felony conviction.
W: What’s a felony?
Me: A felony means you probably won’t get a college scholarship. Or go to college. In fact you’ll be lucky to even get your GED. Probably be standing on a street corner with a sign asking for iTunes money.
W (*incredulous*): MOM! HELP! I CAN’T GO TO JAIL, I’M JUST A KID!
Me: That doesn’t really matter now since the damage is done. Your intent was clear the second you lit the match. Pity really. We had high hopes for you. Oh well. There’s always your sister. I mean we had two kids just in case the first one didn’t work out but I didn’t realize we’d be relying on our backup plan so soon. I wonder if it’s too late to adopt…..
W (*sniffling*): I’ll do anything, just tell me what to do to make it better! But watch the road please, you almost just drove into the ditch.
Me: I’m a perfectly capable driver young man, you needn’t tell me what to do. Anyway, orange is really not your color, such a tragedy. If there was only SOME way to make this better, hmmm?
W: I could write an apology letter to the owner?
W: I could offer to clean up the mess?
Me: Getting warmer.
W: I could also volunteer some time to a cause?
Me: Okay, uh huh.
W: And donate my allowance? Stop checking your phone, that’s dangerous and against the law Mom!
Me: I’m making sure your dad hasn’t been airlifted to the hospital because of explosive anger and anxiety, and stop telling me what is or isn’t against the law, you are the one in trouble here! Now back to your legal problems, your plan is sounding pretty good. But we’ll need to clear it with your father first.
And then the poor kid went dead white and remained silent the rest of the way home.
When we arrived at the house, we apprehensively tip-toed in, not knowing quite what to expect. Based on prior experience, things could be challenging. I looked around and didn’t see E anywhere. That made me extremely nervous. Finally, I heard some movement in the dining room.
E: Hey, Tough Guy, get your butt in here.
W: DAD I’M SO SORRY!
E: Sit down.
W: W-w-what are you doing?
E (*sliding a bottle of whiskey across the table*): You think you’re pretty cool!? How about some underage drinking, THAT’s really cool Wyatt. Take a drink!
W: No Dad.
E: C’mon, it’s SOOO cool Wyatt. You like to be cool, take a drink!
E: But Wyatt, underage drinking is so IN. Maybe you could mix a couple drinks and then take a joy ride in the BMW? THAT would be pretty cool.
E (*sliding a handgun across the table*): Okay, you know a lot about guns, right? Been through advanced training, know how to be safe. You’re at a friends house, he doesn’t know anything about guns but his dad has one and your friend wants to look at it. You’re a cool kid so you agree. But what you don’t know is that the dad keeps the gun loaded at all times. But you’re cool. You’ll take a look.
W: *more silence*
E: So your friend goes to hand you the gun but is stupid and has his finger on the trigger. BAAAMMM! You’re dead. But that’s okay, you’re cool.
W: No Dad, that wouldn’t happen.
E: It wouldn’t Wyatt? How about he hands you the gun and you don’t know it is loaded and you kill him? How about that Buddy? But you are so cool Wyatt. Want to be part of the cool kid group.
E (*sliding a baggie of “weed” across the table*): Hey Wyatt, you know what’s cool? Smoking pot. Let’s smoke some pot Wyatt, that’s really cool.
W: Dad, no!
E: Oh come on Wyatt, all the kids are doing it, it’s just one little joint. Let’s smoke some weed man, it’s COOOOOL. You are so cool Wyatt.
W: Stop it Dad. I think that’s oregano.
E: Hey Wyatt, let’s smoke some pot and drink some whiskey and play with guns, THAT’s super cool Wyatt. You want to be cool, don’t you Wyatt?
E: You should do all that Wyatt. You know why? You’ve just stabbed a knife straight into your mom’s heart with your behavior. But that’s okay, it’s COOL.
W: Dad, you’re hurting my ears. And showering me in spit. And one of your eyes keeps going funny. Are you feeling okay? Here, let’s do some breathing exercises to reduce stress.
E: YOU KNOW WHAT’S SUPER COOL WYATT?!?!? LOSING YOUR HUNTING LICENSE FOREVER BECAUSE YOU HAVE A FELONY CONVICTION. ISN’T THAT SOOOOOO COOL!
W: Whoa, whoa WHOA. Wait a minute. What?
E: Yeah you little punk, how about you lose your right to hunt for THE REST OF YOUR LIFE?!
W: I would?
E: You would, kid. It would destroy me if that happened.
W: I’m so sorry Dad.
E: So am I. You are smarter than this. And more responsible. And in a family that knows a lot about fire so why would you even think to do something so dumb?
W: I don’t know.
E: Me either. And I love you too much to let you be a loser. Now get to your room, you’re grounded forever.
W: Like what kind of grounded? I have to clean my room good grounded?
E: Not even close.
W: I have to bring dirty clothes down instead of throwing them on my floor?
E: No, you’re a boy, dirty clothes don’t matter, duh.
W: I have to read more books?
A: Did you and your mom strategize in the car?
W: Yes. She said I need to come up with a “devious law stratagem.”
A (*eavesdropping from kitchen*): THAT’S NOT WHAT I SAID! I said a “legal defense strategy,” please use proper English!
W: That IS proper English, Mom, look it up. A stratagem is a plan or scheme, usually devised to outwit an opponent.
E: Son of a ….
W: Can I watch TV?
W: Can I play video games?
W: So, CAN I read?
E: I don’t know. I’m confused now.
A: HE MAY READ, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!
W: Can I play my trigonometry and physics game? How about Wordbrain or Scrabble with Mom?
E: You may read if there is enough time each day after you do backbreaking chores outside. We have a rock retaining wall to build and a fire pit to put in, which now seems like a really bad idea. You may do geometry because it’s the only math you’ll need, especially if you’re in jail.
A: Ahem. I think what your dad is trying to say is that you are grounded for life. Except for soccer and wrestling and sport camps and Camp Reed and hunting and fishing and reading and motorcycle riding and camping and learning games and anything to do with fire.
W: So basically I can’t watch TV or play video games.
A and E: WE SAID GO TO YOUR ROOM!
And then he shrugged, picked up his encyclopedia and went to his room. E and I nodded and fake high-fived because clearly we nailed it as parents in that moment, the poor kid didn’t even stand a chance against our amazing discipline. NOW it was clear who was in charge in our house damn it!
I poured a glass of wine, because duh, stress, and E went outside to work on the rock retaining wall alone since it seemed inconsistent to send Wyatt to his room and then bring him right back out, like we didn’t know what we were doing or something, when we so clearly had control of the situation.
Like every traumatic event in our household, we now either never speak of it, speak of it in code (“The Fort Incident”), or use it as a mechanism for torturous teasing – all strategies specifically detailed in-depth and approved in Dr. Spock’s hit book Idiot Parents: Why Gen X Shouldn’t Reproduce. The real victim here of course is Noelle. Her brother ruined her easy ride. She’s the one that should be irate with his behavior. Instead she gave him a hug and asked him if he wanted to go build a fort on our own property.