I’m sorry, but I don’t trust parents who claim they are actually doing a bang up job raising their kids. Anyone who thinks they have all of the answers or feels they are simply “killing it” when it comes to prepping little humans to become productive adult members of society is either completely delusional or a big, fat liar suffering from a fairly common condition known as pants on fire.
The fact is, parenting can be the most rewarding job on the planet, but it can also be the toughest job… because screwing up means you’ve disappointed one or more of those little humans who you’ve been charged with caring for. Trust me, I’ve disappointed plenty of people in my day (just ask my wife!) but nothing beats that sinking feeling when you’ve let your kids down.
When something bad happens and it’s my fault, I will own up to it, ask for forgiveness and hope I get a chance for redemption. It’s a bold new concept I’m trying to instill into my offspring, with admittedly limited success.
I now have two kids in junior high, so I am all too familiar with the annoying phrase: “How is that MY fault?” It amazes me to no end how literally nothing they do can realistically be considered… their doing.
This has probably been the biggest source of friction between us as they both enter their edgy teen phase and I enter my cranky old man phase. That’s why when I make a bonehead move that negatively affects the lives of my kids, I always try to show them that I’m sorry, and explain how I’m going to fix the mess I made. Very recently, I made two very unforced errors within a week of each other. Because I believe in equal opportunity, I made sure both of my kids felt the wrath of my misdeeds.
Bonehead move #1:
My past struggles with doing the laundry have been well documented, so I won’t rehash my issues all over again… but for those interested in how I really feel about one of my primary household duties, click here.
But I digress. Lately, I’ve been trying to teach the kids how to use the washer and dryer, help me out with this mundane chore and thus earn more monthly allowance. Last week, I asked my son Daniel to round up his soiled school uniform and put it straight into the washing machine, as I was about to start a new load of laundry. He complied, and I fired up the machine. Almost immediately, I heard a small “thump” as the load of clothes made its first rotation. I half-heartedly peered into the glass of the front-loading machine, but didn’t think much of it. Just a few minutes later, I was still puttering around upstairs when I walked by the laundry room again and sure enough, there was the thump. Once again, I thought to myself: “Ah, it’s probably nothing.”
I regret to inform you all… it was something.
About fifteen minutes into the wash cycle, I overheard Daniel and Abby arguing. From my room I could hear them yammering on and on, both claiming to be right about something dumb so I finally yelled at them from across the house: “one of you just Google it on your phone already!” That was my attempt to help settle the issue without actually having to leave my room.
That’s when I heard the primal scream, and that’s when it hit me.
Dear god. I immediately knew what that mysterious thumping sound was in the washing machine! Daniel and I ran from opposite ends of the top floor of our house, arriving simultaneously in the laundry room situated right in the middle. We looked at each other with wide, wild eyes.
Daniel’s new iPhone was IN THE WASHING MACHINE!
Oh the humanity! I immediately shut down the machine, frantically threw out the soapy, sopping wet clothes from the washer, flopped them onto the floor and found his phone sloshing around near the bottom of the pile. Oh thank god, it was still working! I knew from past experiences what to do and what not to do with a waterlogged phone. My struggles with dropping iPhones into oceans have been well documented, so I won’t rehash my issues all over again… but for those interested in what happened, click here.
But I digress. The first thing we had to do was back this bad boy up on iTunes… like not now, but right now! Daniel was moaning and writhing around on the floor like he had been shot, but I kept telling him to stay calm, apply pressure to his imaginary wound, and he would surely survive this ordeal. It seemed like it took an eternity for the iTunes software to rev up, and we both held our collective breath as I plugged the phone into the computer. Would it sync? We waited, we watched, we waited some more… and… whew! Success! I was relieved we managed to back it up, as a few hours later the phone was toast, with multiple cracks and water completely clouding the touch screen. Not even the famous rice trick could save it.
While Daniel was very upset with himself for depositing his new phone directly into a washing machine, I made it very clear I was not upset at all, and promised him I would make it right. If I had only checked on the thump immediately, I could have pulled out the phone before it was damaged… and THEN I would have made a point to take Daniel to task for being so careless! I would have taken his phone away from him for a few days as punishment for his actions. But, with my overwhelming guilt over being so damn lazy, I only had one option. I simply had to apologize to my son, hope for forgiveness and fix the mess I made. Within a few days, my son had a new iPhone, completely restored to its former glory. I was happy to put the incident behind me, because little did I know that I was about to make another dumb mistake.
Bonehead move #2:
Before we dive right into my second screw-up within a week, let’s set the stage. When it comes to volunteering at our kids’ school, I’ve always prided myself on being pretty “on top of things”. Over the last ten years, I’ve driven countless kids to swimming lessons and field trips, flipped pancakes, assembled playground equipment, quizzed students on their times tables, listened to struggling young readers try to get through their first chapter books and even helped coach junior high basketball. In the past couple of years, Abby’s class has had several taco-in-a-bag potluck lunches and I’ve always been one of two parents to provide the ground beef. When I got the email from the school about the latest lunch, I promptly added my ground beef commitment to my phone’s iCalendar. I can be forgetful, so I added not one but TWO reminders for the morning I was to cook up some beef and drive it to school.
So, the fateful day arrived and I was already back at home after morning school drop-off. I was sipping my coffee, staring out the window at a drizzly, cold landscape and I was thinking that my daily jog/walk to the river did not look particularly appealing. My mind turned to our new exercise machine that I had barely touched since we bought it six months ago. I thought to myself, “this will be the day I go to town on the treadclimber”… and go to town I did. I left my phone on the kitchen counter and made my way down to the basement, where I set the machine to its highest incline setting, ramped up the speed and sweated-out a very invigorating 45-minute workout. After a lengthy, refreshing shower I made my way back to the kitchen and started thinking about what I wanted for lunch. I was feeling pretty good about myself, then I noticed my phone buzzing on the kitchen counter with a new message. It was 11:20 and Abby had just sent me text in all caps.
“DAD! WHERE IS THE BEEF?”
For a split second, I actually found Abby’s message funny as I remembered that old Wendy’s advertisement with the little old lady bemoaning the small amount of beef in her hamburger. Ha! Where’s the beef! I remember that… ah that’s funny… and then my stupid grin slowly morphed into a gaping mouth, my eyes widened and that’s when it hit me.
“Dear god! I FORGOT TO MAKE THE GROUND BEEF!”
I immediately called Abby’s cell phone and I was about to ask her if the other parent had brought so much ground beef that it wouldn’t matter that I forgot to make mine. But, before I could get the words out, she yelped:
“Dad! We are already running out of meat! When will you be here?”
Dammit! There was no way in hell I could buy raw ground beef at Safeway, fry it up at home and drive it to Abby’s school. That would take minimum 45 minutes to an hour! Gah! My mind was spinning but I knew I had totally screwed up (again) and somehow I had to make it right. I asked her if arriving in 20 minutes with more beef was still OK, or was that too late? She paused for a moment to ask her teacher, and I had my answer: because it was raining, they were going to stay indoors for the entire noon break and if I could get there in 20 minutes, they could still make their taco-in-a-bag potluck lunch work.
I told Abby I’d call her from the road when I was close to the school. Then, I grabbed a large plastic Tupperware container, sprinted out the door, jumped into my Subaru and drove off like a bat out of hell. I had a plan, and by god, I was going to make it work. I immediately got on my iPhone and demanded that Siri call the nearest Mucho Burrito. She politely complied and within seconds I was talking into my hands-free bluetooth speaker with an employee of the Mexican fast food chain. I quickly blurted out:
“Hi there! I’m on my way to you right now. Can I buy just a whole bunch of ground beef? Just ground beef?”
Her answer made me want to scream: “Sorry, but we don’t have any ground beef…”
Before I could utter a “What in the hell are you talking about!”, she finished her sentence:
“We actually serve shredded beef at Mucho Burrito”.
Relieved, I breathlessly replied: “Great! See you in five minutes!” and hung up the phone before she could respond. Beef was beef. Shredded would have to do.
The drive there was nerve-wracking, as I seemed to miss every traffic light and somehow got stuck behind cars that were inexplicably traveling at the posted legal speed limit. How dare these people slow me up with their perfectly reasonable driving habits! I pounded my fist on my steering wheel with each missed light and I cursed every law-abiding citizen around me.
Finally, I arrived and I know the woman behind the counter immediately figured out who I was. Who else would dash into a Mucho Burrito with wide, wild eyes, carrying empty Tupperware? I asked if I could fill the container about half the way up with shredded beef but she seemed momentarily confused by my request. She wasn’t sure how to fill my order, so she asked the manager for assistance. I grew more anxious as the “beef conference” dragged on. I noticed a third Mucho Burrito employee move closer to the meeting of the meat minds, and I wanted to shout out: “Step back bro! Let the manager deal with this! These are the hard decisions he’s trained to make!”
My right foot was now tapping furiously, and I almost stepped in to say: “Listen, I’ll pay whatever you want!” Thankfully, the manager made an executive order to charge me two bucks per “scoop” of shredded beef. It took eight scoops to fill the container half way up. When I paid my sixteen dollars, I thought to myself: “Geez, I probably would have paid a hundred bucks for this stupid beef!”
I dashed out as quickly as I dashed in, and hit the road. The route to the school was much faster, with only two traffic lights to deal with. I hit them both perfectly and celebrated with fist pumps. YES! I was absolutely flying now, zipping in and out of the two lanes, speeding, and passing cars at will. Then my phone rang again. It was Abby.
“Dad! It’s been 20 minutes! WHERE ARE YOU?”
I was actually on the home stretch, so I instructed her to wait for me in the parking lot, as I was almost there. We made the shredded beef exchange in record time, and I watched Abby dart back into the school. I looked at my watch. 22 minutes. Whew!
It took 22 minutes from the time I hung up the phone in my kitchen to the critical completed shredded beef delivery at school. Taco-in-a-bag potluck lunch was miraculously salvaged. I was more than relieved as I slumped back into my car seat for a few minutes… letting the stress of the ordeal slowly evaporate. Did I screw up? You bet I did. Was my daughter totally pissed at me? Absolutely. When I asked at after-school pickup if it had all worked out in the end, she replied with a very terse “it was fine”. I also asked if her classmates were mad at me, and she said: “No! I was the one calling you dumb and they were actually defending you!” I’m glad some of those girls had my back. I guess it pays to be their assistant basketball coach.
In the end I apologized, was forgiven… but most importantly, I fixed the mess I made.
So, what can I take away from this week of misadventures? Am I the “worst dad ever”? No, I don’t think so. However, I have come to the conclusion that while I’m not a bad dad per se, I’m definitely a lazy dad and a forgetful dad… and that lethal combination most certainly led to a couple of bonehead moves that wreaked havoc on our household. That being said, I have learned my lesson and have introduced two new personal directives that I swear to faithfully follow from this day forward to ensure this never happens again.
NEVER ignore a thumping sound in your washing machine.