As soon as I put the final period on my story as to why I needed roadside assistance, the representative from AAA with whom I was on the phone cried out, “Oh, honey, why aren’t you screaming right now?”
All she knew is what had happened (there was a piece of mulch stuck in the ignition) and how (my seven-year-old son had put it there). She couldn’t see him in the backseat—downcast, embarrassed, and in tears. An experiment borne of curiosity gone awry, a move the consequences of which he could never had imagined, he didn’t need anyone “screaming” at him. He didn’t need anyone even to tell him that he had done something wrong, that this was going to be a time-consuming and expensive problem to fix. He garnered it himself—within moments—and the depths of his conscience became apparent.
When he realized I couldn’t put the key in the ignition he immediately owned it. He could have pretended not to notice; he could have blamed a brother. He could have made up any manner of story. But he didn’t. He said, “I put a little piece of mulch in there,” then asked hurriedly and with more than a hint of panic, “You can’t get it out?”
At home tonight when we discussed consequences, I asked Oscar what he thought would be an appropriate consequence given what he had done. He suggested I might take away his LEGO or ground him from playing with his friend or watching television. I asked him to think a bit more.
We talked at length about the expense of this mistake, of course, but also the colossal inconvenience as the possibility of my not having a car for an extended period of time looms. And he said, after acknowledging that even a year’s worth of lemonade stands wouldn’t address the financial component, “Well, since I have made things inconvenient for you, maybe I could do stuff to try to make your life easier.”
And there it was—a consequence commensurate to the infraction, brought to you by a seven-year-old.
And even though he put a piece of mulch in the ignition of my car, with this move tonight Oscar retains his title of one of the most reasonable people I know.
And this is perhaps why I didn’t need to scream.