Note: This post is part of Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs, where all the cool kids are hanging out. (Moms are welcome over there!) Welcome to my visitors from DB; thanks for stopping in!
Jim and I pride ourselves on being consistent, steady. We firmly believe that when kids can count on their parents to be consistent, they grow up with a stronger foundation of what’s right and wrong.
My sister and I grew up with very consistent parents as well. (And we turned out GREAT, don’t you think?) It’s a proven method.
Sometimes though, when the kids are older, it’s good to throw in a little surprise now and then. A GOOD kind of unpredictability, if you will. Take the time when I got my first speeding ticket.
I had been sixteen for only about five months. My mom asked me to go and pick up my sister from soccer practice, which for me was a huge imposition for no other reason than I just didn’t feel like it, and I was a teenager and felt like I had better things to do with my time, like watch MTV for three hours, keeping an eye out for one of my favorite Duran Duran videos. Or fiddle with my Rubik’s Cube.
But I went to do the pick up. I had to, really, if I wanted to continue to use the family car for my own pursuits*.
There I was, speeding along the main street in our end of town, as indicated by this wonderful artist’s rendering of the event:
Suddenly I noticed that there was a parked police car, radar gun at the ready, on the right side of the road, half-hiding next to a bank. I quickly put the brakes on to get back down to the speed limit, and nervously watched my rear view mirror to see if he was going to come after me.
Shew! What a relief.
I picked up my sister, and we got back on the same main street, going home.
And guess what? I totally forgot that there had been a parked police car there, radar gun at the ready, when I passed by only five minutes before. This time, I wasn’t so lucky.
My stomach dropped when I heard the siren and saw the flashing lights in my rear view mirror. I was horrified that not only was I getting pulled over, but that my kid sister was in the car with me at the time (and later, that I found out one of my mom’s friends had seen me get pulled over).
When the officer moseyed on over to my car, he took my license and told me he clocked me at 45 miles per hour in a 25 mile per hour zone. Oopsie. Then, the real “ouch”:
He said, “You know, I saw you go by the first time but didn’t get my radar on you quick enough, so I got you on the return trip.” Ouch.
We drove home–SLOWLY–and I was totally freaked out about having to tell my parents, especially my dad. I waited until my mom was doing the dinner dishes to tell her what happened. She was, predictably, furious. As I recall, I got alot of “What were you thinking?”s and “I can’t believe you”s. And then, the worst:
She hissed, “YOU’RE going to have to tell your father!”
Shoot. I was hoping I wouldn’t. I was shaking in my boots at the thought of how bad the grounding would be. Loss of driving privileges? No MTV? (The horror!) No curling iron? Eek!
So I did what any scared-of-punishment teen girl would do. I didn’t tell him. I went to bed, anxious and wound up. And feeling guilty.
And I couldn’t sleep.
I stayed in bed, trying hard to put it out of my mind and go to sleep, for about 90 minutes. Finally, I decided that if I was going to have to tell him before my body would relax.
I quietly went downstairs where he was watching television and stuttered out, “Um, Dad…I have something to tell you…I…uh…got a speeding ticket today.”
He looked at me and said, “Really? How fast were you going?**”
I told him.
Without even blinking, he said, “Well, you’re paying for your own ticket. I’m not paying for it.”
“Okay….” I said, waiting for the rest.
He just sat there, looking at me.
I asked, “Am I getting grounded or anything?”
He said, “Nope. I’ve gotten tickets before. I pay for them. You drive; you’re old enough to be responsible for your actions. So you pay for your own ticket. And slow down.”
That was something I never expected. I think it was probably the first time I *really* felt like I was growing up, and my parents were letting me. I remember it like it was yesterday: how blindsided I felt when my dad didn’t react as I predicted he would. It taught me a HUGE lesson about responsibility, and I model the same methods with my own kids.
And that’s why I totally recommend throwing a little unpredictability into your parenting style while still consistently loving and teaching. It’s a winning combo!
*Note: Now that I am 40 and my sister is 35, I would have no complaint whatsoever about going to pick her up from somewhere. It would be my pleasure. Just sayin.
**My dad, for the record is a TOTAL lead foot. He’s like Burt Reynolds in “Smokey and the Bandit”, but without the cowboy hat, mustache, and Trans Am. Just sayin.