The call came in last week: “Mom. I did something really stupid.”
How does one respond to this? I sat. I waited for the story I was sure to come.
“So I was running late for work the other day so I rode my bike, but I was wearing a skirt so I didn’t want to ride my bike home from work. I figured I’d just get it the next day when I was there.”
Yeah? Where’s the stupid part, aside for riding your bike to work with a skirt on?
“Well, when I got back to the dorm I don’t know what I did, but the keys to the bike lock fell out of my purse and I can’t find them anywhere.”
Immediately I pictured the bike lock that her dad bought before she left for college—a huge, heavy-duty U-shaped lock that only opens with a key. The packaging bragged that no bolt cutter could cut through this lock. No, sirree.
“Oh, Kate. How did this happen?” I asked.
“I don’t know!” the panic starting to rise in her voice. She’s probably picturing the U-shaped lock, too. “We played Capture the Flag when I got back. I set down my bag somewhere. The keys probably fell out on the grass.”
Yes, she had looked everywhere. Yes, she had torn her room apart. Yes, she had asked people if they had seen the keys. Nothing.
And, no, she had not separated the keys—two identical keys were still linked together on the small ring.
Don’t even get me started.
“Let me call Dad,” I offered, knowing already what he would say. But I felt like I needed to do something, and that was all I could offer at that point. “I’ll call you back.”
I made the call and got the response I knew I would get.
“Don’t help her out. Whatever you do, do NOT call anyone for her. If she were out East, we wouldn’t be able to help her, so just pretend she’s away at college, not just right down the street.” After 25 years, I knew this was what he would say, but I needed him to be the fall-guy, not me.
I called Kate back.
“Kate, I don’t know what to tell you. You’re going to probably have to call a locksmith to come and pick the lock for you. And then you’re going to have to buy a new bike lock.”
“How much is that going to cost?!” The panic rising in her voice even more.
“I don’t know. You’ll have to call to get an estimate.”
That little incident was one of the hardest parenting issues I’ve faced in a long time. It seems so simple in theory—make your child do the hard things . . . face the consequences of their actions . . . yadda yadda yadda. I KNOW all this in my head, but putting it into practice is so very hard.
I didn’t offer to Google locksmiths (even though I had already done it). I didn’t offer to pay for anything. I just remained firm that she would have to figure this one out, and I made sure she knew that I was sorry, so very sorry, for the hardship she was experiencing. And I was. More than she would ever know.
So tell me, has your child ever gotten into a jam? What did you do? Anything? Nothing?
I’ll let you know tomorrow how this all worked out.