A couple of years ago, I had to make a call to another parent to let her know that her kid is a little douche bag – her response? “Inconceivable”.
Confession: The moment I hear the word “inconceivable” I think of one of my dearest friends from NYC – Laurie. Laurie and I are cult movie junkies and we can still recite verbatim every single blessed line from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Johnny Dangerously, and of course the The Princess Bride.
For any hard-core Princess Bride fans – you will ALSO find it difficult to hear the word “inconceivable” and not follow up with “I do not think that word means what you think it means”. Plus, given my Cuban heritage – I can do the accent perfectly.
Back to the story…. as pissed as I was both at her kid and her stupid response, I had to will myself not to giggle into the phone.
Let me give you the scenario so you can tell me if I’m way off base here…..
My son was 10 years old, and one of his school mates came over to hang out at our house.We’ll call him Tommy. I wasn’t particularly fond of Tommy to begin with. You know the kind – really mouthy, always *just* bordering on disrespectful, and he had the infuriating habit of throwing my pantry doors open and making comments like “what kind of a house doesn’t have Goldfish?”; to which I would respond “the kind that adds Lithium to your apple juice”. Little prick.
On this particular occasion Tommy took out the pocket knife that he apparently takes everywhere with him (bless his little shank-sharpening heart) – and carved his name into the side of the refrigerator in our garage. My son looked like he was going into cardiac arrest when he came in to tell me.
I lost it and called his mother – and this is an almost verbatim recreation of the exchange:
- Me: Hi Mary, it’s Jesse – I’m sorry to have to call you with this, but we have a problem with Tommy at our house
- Moron: Oh dear, what happened? He’s not hurt is he? I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, but he’s quite fragile
- Me: Um, yeah. Fragile. No he’s not hurt. In fact, Tommy carved his name into our refrigerator with his pocket knife
- Moron: That’s inconceivable – he would never do that – how do you know he did it?
- Me: It was his name carved
- Moron: Was he angry?
- Mom: (way louder than I intended….) No, and what in holy hell does that have to do with anything?
- Moron: Well, how do you KNOW he did it?
- Me: (a little louder) My son saw him
- Moron: Your son could have done it and blamed it on Tommy
- Me: (even louder with the Cuban neck swing) He wrote me an apology note admitting to doing it, now I haven’t done a DNA scan on the letter, but he handed me the letter himself
- Moron: Oh, OK I guess he did it.
Really? So unless this woman has her child’s misbehavior on video (preferably HD to discern identity clearly) she’s denying her child’s involvement. Shocking really that “Tommy” is as much of a little douche bag as he is….he really should be in jail by now.
And there’s the central point – all wrapped up and easily consumable. What did Mary do the first, second, third, and thirty-fifth time that the phone rang with similar calls? Granted, we can’t control what our children do when we aren’t around – but we can make damn sure that their life stops on a dime the first time it happens – preventing the second to thirty-fifth instances. This is also called Avoiding the Likelihood of Incarceration.
So here’s my guide to appropriately handling such a call:
- The moment you pick up the phone and begin to hear about the misdeed – just apologize.
It doesn’t matter if your blessed angel is not to blame. Apologize anyhow – try something like “regardless of what happened today, I’m sorry it happened in your home and we will get to the bottom of it, and make sure it never happens again”.
- Assume that your child is guilty until proven innocent
Odds are that he did do it so refrain from using any moronic terms like: impossible, incapable, and inconceivable. Your little sociopath is making other people’s life suck and it’s all your fault.
- Listen to everything the caller says without interruption
Unless of course there’s literally no way that it could be your kid – because you’re kid has been locked up in juvie or rehab for the past 6 months. For efficiency’s sake, feel free to offer that up right away.
- Interrogate your own child like he knows who killed Jimmy Hoffa
Once you’re off the phone ask the who, what, where, when, why. Try to catch him in a lie, double back and ask the same question 4 different ways. Make sure that YOUR child knows that you take any accusation very seriously and that you will make him feel very uncomfortable until you get the truth. If he’s actually innocent and was put into a precarious situation – then the lesson might be to choose your friends more carefully.
- Make your child take responsibility for his own behavior and for his own reputation
Children should be expected to be stewards of their own reputation and behavior. They are responsible for how outsiders view them. To take that burden off of the child, denies them an opportunity for emotional growth and maturity.
If it ends up being true that your child misbehaved in any way (large or small), you absolutely must bring their life to a screeching halt. Everything stops: electronics, television, music, telephones, play dates – literally everything. I’m not saying you should smother him in his sleep – that’s totally your call.
Your remedy needs to be loud, long, and consistent. If not – you’re on your way to cooking your very own little sociopath. But then, I am a firm believer that douche-baggy parents raise douche-baggy children – and there’s no fix for that.
- A Modern Woman’s Apology
- Parenting May Cost You Friendships OR Circle the Wagons – This is Really Hard!
- Kids Can’t Learn Coping Skills If They Never Have to Cope With Anything