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When It Works To Be Unpredictable

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.

He didn’t.

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.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • tutugirl1345 February 27, 2009, 5:32 pm

    My parents had the same reaction when I got my ticket. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the money for the ticket at the time, so I was indebted to them for a long time. I finally paid it off by babysitting 15 kids at once for my mom. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do, but it sure got me to slow down.

  • Joeprah February 27, 2009, 6:11 pm

    That was a great fatherhood post. I am seriously going to have to keep this lesson in mind for the future. It was really cool to see how you reacted to your dad and what type of impact his message had on you.

  • New-Dad-Blog February 27, 2009, 6:43 pm

    It’s funny when you’re waiting for the axe to fall and nothing happens.

    The same thing went down with my parents when I crashed into a fence. I told them “I got into an accident” and whinced. . .

    They just said “well you didn’t mean to do it, that’s why they call them accidents. . .”

    Love the site by the way!

  • Kat February 27, 2009, 7:25 pm

    That’s why you and Jim are cool parents too.

    Btw. love the elaborate drawing. Get’s the point across LOL.

  • ShankRabbit February 27, 2009, 7:56 pm

    I remember the first time my parents made me feel grown up…

    Of course… mine involved less of a cop and more of my dad walking in on me and my girlfriend with our pants down. šŸ˜€

  • Isabella February 27, 2009, 7:56 pm

    I think I’ve learned more from the lessons my parents taught me when they admitted they weren’t perfect and did the same thing. Nothing spoke to me clearer than knowing they related to me.

    Great post!

  • Mags February 27, 2009, 8:27 pm

    LOVE the drawing. It made me totally understand the story. šŸ˜‰

    I also love that your ** is about how your dad speeds. Love it!!!

  • Oh My GOFF! February 27, 2009, 8:31 pm

    although I don’t approve of your poor driving habits… i love the story!
    sincerely,
    traffic angie

  • Otter Thomas February 27, 2009, 8:59 pm

    Great story. It’s great to see how a father can impact his children so positively.

  • Tom February 27, 2009, 9:30 pm

    Wow. That’s a great story, and something I will very likely be able to use in the near future.
    Oh – and I am certainly uncool.

  • ciara February 27, 2009, 10:06 pm

    my dad is a total lead foot, too…i have a post about bout dads as well.

    i didn’t get my first ticket until i was 28. amazing i went that long considering i used to drive like scheisse lol

  • WeaselMomma February 27, 2009, 10:15 pm

    Very cool how your Dad handled that. You had to be so relieved.
    And now I have to say how hard I am laughing at you! Dumbass is the only word that covers it (and I mean that in the funniest way possible). Got lucky once and 5 minutes later screwed yourself. Your killing me! I loved it!

  • Daddy Files February 27, 2009, 10:32 pm

    Cute story, I enjoyed it. I’ll try to throw a little unpredictability into my parenting repertoire!

  • Melisa with one S February 28, 2009, 12:06 am

    tutugirl: Big lesson learned, huh? You and me both. (FIFTEEN KIDS AT ONCE???? Whoa!)

    Joeprah: Thanks, Joep!

    New Dad Blog: I found that, after that, my dad often did really react the total opposite of what I expected. It was refreshing when it was good, and EEEK! when it was bad. LOL

    Kat: You like that, huh? I had so much fun drawing it that I might make it a semi-regular feature. šŸ™‚

    Shankrabbit: I have a similar story to that as well, but it will never see the light of day on this blog! (*nervous giggles*)

    Isabella: Thanks! And thanks for stopping by!

    Mags: He totally does! He drives an electric blue Mini Cooper and wears a hat–not a cowboy hat–and makes me want to puke when I ride with him! ha ha

    Angie: I feel scolded now. I go the speed limit now, I promise! (er, well, MOSTLY.)

    Otter Thomas: Yes, especially when he may not even know it!

    Tom: Use it in good health! šŸ˜‰ (You’re cool: what are you talking about??)

    Ciara: Wow, 28? I think I had three by then…You’re a good girl! šŸ™‚

    Weaselmomma: You’re right, I WAS a total dumbass. To this day I know that! (and was teased about it too)

    Daddy Files: Do it! And thanks for stopping by! šŸ™‚

  • Mocha Dad February 28, 2009, 7:36 pm

    A father’s wisdom is a beautiful thing.

  • Melisa with one S February 28, 2009, 9:20 pm

    Mocha Dad: So true!

  • peteej March 1, 2009, 3:09 am

    I got a ticket as a teen and didn’t tell my parents. They found out when I got mail from the county sheriff’s office. Yeah, didn’t see that coming. Ooops.

  • Michelle March 1, 2009, 4:39 am

    Nicely done, Melisa’s dad! I’ll have to remember that one.

    My first ticket I threw a drama fit about how I wasn’t fit to drive and how horrible a person I was and cried and moaned… and my mom told me it wasn’t a big deal and it was fine and no punishment. I don’t think I even had to pay for it. I do remember throwing they keys on the kitchen table saying I was never going to touch them again though šŸ˜‰

  • Colleen - Mommy Always Wins March 1, 2009, 4:53 am

    1) The adjusted layout looks GREAT!
    2) My hubby wants to BE Burt Reynolds from Smokey & the Bandit. He's got the 'stach just in case he ever gets the car.
    3) That was ALWAYS the worst punishment – having to tell Dad! I know I'll be sure to empose that one on my own kids!

  • Anonymous March 1, 2009, 3:57 pm

    You know what the equivalent of “no MTV” would be in the Martucci house? “No Weather Channel for you!”
    xoxo
    wk in dc and on tv except now i am in florida…

  • Craig March 2, 2009, 5:40 am

    Great point, sometimes you need to keep the kids guessing. Unpredictability is a great tool.

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