Thursday, July 14, 2011

Wreaking Havoc

Don’t you just hate those awkward positions your kids put you in? There’s the classic “hey, he’s fat” comment to the overweight man. Or the “why can’t that lady walk?” question about the woman in the wheelchair.

As they get older the stakes get higher. There’s the baseball that breaks the neighbor’s window. Or the shove that results in the other child (who really wasn’t being very nice) needing stitches.

These situations are just not easy to handle. How much do you apologize for your child’s mistake? How much do you PAY for your child’s actions – especially if it was just an accident?

Well, I’ve got a doozy for you.

In late June I went on a five-night trip to serve as a leader at a camp for disabled kids and young adults (one of my post-divorce I-can-do-whatever-I-want decisions that has become an annual event). I arranged for my 12-year-old son to stay three nights at my mom and dad’s and two nights at his dad’s.  I gave my mom cash to take him bowling, arranged a playdate with a friend and also lined up a babysitter for one afternoon. The air conditioning wasn’t working downstairs at my parents’ house, so I wanted to make sure they had plenty of activities for getting out of the house.

My son has stayed at my mom and dad’s house hundreds of nights without incident.  How could I have foretold the coming catastrophe? I dropped him off and fled their house like a single mom who has left her child and is headed to do something she loves. No looking back for me!

After an amazing five days at camp, I was driving back full of post-camp joy, and I decided to call my mom to see how the three nights went. Big mistake. Forget that post-camp joy thing.

My mom proceeded to tell me how my son was a total twit at bowling. She tells me every single I’m-a-12-year-old-boy-and-you’re-an-embarrassing-idiot statement that he said to her. Nice. Then, she ends the conversation with “And there’s something else, but you’ll just have to see it when you get here.”

So much for the pleasant drive. The first sign of trouble when I entered their house was the loud fan blowing hot air in the downstairs dining room, which, combined with the lack of air conditioning, had increased the temperature to somewhere around you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me degrees. I cautiously went upstairs and noticed another large fan blowing hot air in the guest room.

I opened the master bedroom door to discover my parents, child and dog huddled in the one bearably cooled room in the house. What in the world?

It turns out that on the first night, in the middle of the night, my son had a nose bleed. It happens often, and he knows how to take care of it. Well, apparently, he got up, went in the bathroom, turned on the water in the sink and somehow the stopper went down. (Keep in mind that my son says he doesn’t remember getting up, which I kind of believe because he has sleep-walked before.)

And then he went back to bed. Without turning off the water. Yeah, WITHOUT TURNING OFF THE WATER. My mom came in the next morning to discover a medium to large sized flood in the bathroom, which had of course spread out into the guest room. And of course, both rooms are carpeted.

To top it off, my father went downstairs to discover the water had gone down the wall and soaked the carpet in the dining room. Are you kidding me?

The appraisers came and determined that they will replace some of the carpet, but of course all of the house is carpeted in the same carpet, and they’re not willing to pay for all of it. So, not only will my parents owe the $500 deductible, they also are looking at $3,000+ to re-carpet the entire house.

Seriously? Can I not just go away for a few nights without all heck breaking loose? Does any good deed go unpunished?

So here’s the awkward position I’m in. What do I offer to pay?  I think I can handle the deductible, but I certainly can’t cover the $3,000 worth of new carpet.

Whatever happened to the simple, awkward days of comments about fat people and hateful stares at smokers?

Laura Johnson is a single mom and freelance communicator who lives in East Dallas with her 12-year-old son, dog, hamster and three fish.


  1. Oh, wow! That is awful and a horrible position to be in. Yeah, the $500 deductible is a definite must. Beyond that... do what you can and communicate, communicate. That's probably the best you can do.

  2. Just continue to bask in the joy of your service at camp, and know that God is in control. Maybe Mom & Dad will accept the hamster and 3 fish for payment. Something good will come of this....