If you want your children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders.” — Abigail Van Buren (aka, “Dear Abby”)
That quote appeared in my inbox the other day. It was sent to me by the PTA (Parent-Teacher Association) of my son’s school, as part of a regular feature in the weekly updates called, “Read It And Breathe.”
It seemed to appear at just the right time: Right after my son had carelessly loaded his backpack into the trunk of my car, along with his golf clubs and gym bag. He walked away, not noticing the backpack had toppled out on to the driveway.
We were in a rush to get him to school on time. Our morning routine was “off” because the school instituted a one-hour delay due to the sloppy, wet March snow. We always mis-judge how much time we have to get ready for school with those morning delays. Before we know it, we’re scrambling out the door.
As my son came around to sit in the passenger side of the front seat, I pushed the button to automatically close the back gate of my SUV. Ahh convenience! I never had to leave my car to close the hatch again. As I backed out of our driveway, I felt the car run over something, but I figured it was the mound of snow the plow had made at the end of our driveway.
My husband noticed the crushed and wet back-pack as he was headed out 15 minutes later. Just as I was pulling into the parking lot of my son’s high school, my husband called me to ask why our son’s backpack was sitting in the driveway.
As soon as he asked me that, I realized what had happened. And that I had run over the backpack, that contained both his newly replaced cell phone and his Apple MacBook Pro. As I drove home, I prayed that my 6,000 pound vehicle drove over the part of the backpack that contained his lunch, but I knew better. That laptop was road pizza. The phone, miraculously, was unscathed. But oh how I wish it had been the reverse.
I spent the rest of the day trying to fix the problem. I brought the soggy backpack to my son’s school so he’d have his books for the day. I drove to the store to buy him a new backpack, because the one he had was now not only wet, but its zipper was destroyed. And then I drove to the Apple Store to see if they could bring his laptop back to life.
But, for $755, they could rebuild it like new. Yippee?
Why oh why couldn’t his cheap Samsung phone be the item that was ruined? We’d already replaced his phone several times, because he lost it — repeatedly. While that pissed me off, this pissed me off a whole lot more, because it was going to cost me a whole lot more.
I started to think more about my son taking responsibility for his carelessness. Despite the fact that I was the one who accidentally drove over the laptop, this WAS his fault, wasn’t it?
I wondered how to drill into his head that he has to take better care of his possessions, that he just can’t go flinging his backpack into a car or lose his phone numerous times. Naturally, he needs to learn the consequences of his actions. The obvious choice would be to not replace the laptop. Except he is required to have one for his high school.
The next choice would be for him to use his brother’s laptop, or mine and share it with us. But, neither Middle Dude nor I want to hand over our precious laptops, for fear of another “incident.”
According to Abigail Van Buren and her quote, I’m supposed to put more responsibility on my son’s shoulders. That will somehow teach him to be grounded and more mature. I think it’s a great idea. But, I do wish Dear Abby (may she RIP) was a bit more specific. Do I make him get a job, not only to pay us back for the cost of repair, but to know how it feels to work for money? In theory, that works, but in reality, he’s already over-scheduled with sports practices and homework. No way could he fit in a part-time job right now.
In my son’s defense, he claims he put the backpack in carefully. Our driveway does slant downwards and his overly stuffed backpack does weigh more than a small child. Perhaps he’s not at fault and it was just an unfortunate accident. I’m letting him off the hook this time, but if he loses another phone or damages his laptop again, he’s going to be headed to the nearest employment office. He better get started on his resume now.