Caught

The final piece to complete the portrait of my kids, before we move on to lessons learned and magical moments …

This is another “how my kids are alike” piece, but it’s a little different from the previous two. Normally I would say, “My kids are really good at getting caught, and that’s [just like/completely different from] me.”

But in this case, the comparison is irrelevant. Growing up, my sisters and I were neither good nor bad at getting caught. This was directly tied to the fact that we almost never did anything wrong (seriously). This, in turn, was directly tied to the fact that my parents each chose highly cutting-edge, progressive, forward-thinking discipline methods: One went with what is known in child development circles as “rage,” while the other employed what the literature refers to as “guilt.” Having been lucky enough to produce highly sensitive offspring, my parents ended up with some really, really well-behaved (terrified, on-edge) kids.

Believe it or not, I do not recommend this as a child-rearing approach.

Meanwhile, back to my kids. As I say, they share an extraordinary capability for getting caught when they “mess up” in some way. Depending on how you look at it, this has made my life substantially easier, or harder, than if they were a little smoother as criminals:

  • Easier, because I really don’t have to do much detective work to find out when they did something screwy.
  • Harder, because I end up feeling obligated to address many situations that I would have happily ignored—if only I didn’t know about them.

One day my then-neighbor Ted saw me outside, and said, “You know, Mark has been throwing food out his bedroom window.” Mark’s bedroom is on the back left corner of the house, and Ted and his family lived to our right, with no view to that far corner. So I was, understandably, curious how Ted could have possibly known about Mark’s shenanigans. It turns out that the neighbor behind us—who has a clear view of Mark’s window—saw Mark tossing cucumber slices out the window into his (the neighbor’s) yard. Said neighbor—I don’t know his name—just happened to be home, and happened to be out in the yard, at the time. Because Mark is black, and Ted is black, said neighbor put incorrectly put 2 and 2 together, came around the corner, went to Ted, and complained to him about the cucumber dump. Ted, rightfully remembering that his own teenage son a) didn’t have a window that opened onto said neighbor’s yard and b) didn’t eat cucumbers, put 2 and 2 together. And promptly came and told me.

So only because my back neighbor was in the yard while the crime was being committed and knew Ted and found Ted at home when he came over, and only because Ted knew us and made the connection that the guy was referring to one of my kids … did Mark get found out. (Now that we are safely years past the incident, I feel that I can point out that Mark had simply flushed the offending cukes down the toilet, none of this would have happened. Also, I might as well thrown in that he asked me to buy cucumbers for him. Just to make the whole episode completely ridiculous.)

But that’s nothing compared to his brother’s bad luck. One weekend Mark and I were out of town for a skating event (whenever Mark and I are out of town, you can pretty safely assume it’s for a skating event). We left early on a Friday, when Daveon was still asleep. The plan was for Daveon to get up whenever, call his Uncle Ray (who was working at home), and then head over to Cedric and Ray’s apartment for the remainder of the day and an overnight. What he did instead was, get up almost as soon as Mark and I were out the door around 6 am, chat with friends online, ride around on BART, and then skateboard home from North Berkeley. He finally called Ray around 1pm, and didn’t head over the apartment until about 3.

How did I find out about any of this? When Cedric went to work, a co-worker said, “I saw your nephew on the BART train.” This co-worker had met Daveon once at Cedric’s office a few years back. When Cedric met up with Daveon after work, he asked about it, and the whole story came out—not willingly, from all reports. So Daveon got busted because his uncle’s co-worker happened to be on the same BART train as him, happened to see and recognize him, and happened to mention this to his uncle.

These are just two examples, but honestly? This kind of thing happens all the time. On the one hand, I’m glad my kids feel safe enough here to mess up. On the other … you know how they say that when someone tries to get caught, it’s a cry for attention or help? Sometimes I wish maybe they wouldn’t cry quite so loudly.

Next: Structure

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