Cleaning up the kitchen isn’t usually a hazardous activity, which explains why I was especially unprepared for the full force stream of water that hit me squarely in the chest the moment I turned on the tap. The water, ordinarily flowing downward from the faucet, was somehow spraying horizontally toward me.
It had been a long, tiring day which put my brain at a definite disadvantage. Instead of quickly turning off the water, I was busy contemplating thoughts of hmmm…I’m getting wet, and that’s odd…the water doesn’t usually spray sideways.
Getting hit with enough water shakes up your mind sufficiently to allow rational thought to return. As I reached to turn off the tap, I noticed a large piece of black wire tied tightly around the hose sprayer behind the kitchen sink, causing it to remain in the full-on spray position.
Now I understood.
I went to the bottom of the stairs and hollered up to the kids, “whichever one of you thought it was a good idea to rig the sprayer in the kitchen sink so that I’d get soaked: you’re grounded.”
Immediately, sounds of kid blame wafted down the stairs.
“It was your idea.”
“But you’re the one who tied the wire around it.”
“Yeah, but you were supposed to take it off.”
“Nuh-uh! YOU were supposed to remind me!”
I went back out to the kitchen to dry off, confident that they were busy punishing one another more thoroughly than I ever could.
Their reaction was surprising since grounding is a punishment that none of my kids have ever personally experienced in our house. It’s simply not a tool within our discipline arsenal and neither kid likely knew what “being grounded” really entailed. When I told them they were grounded, it was to let them know that they were in trouble, but more importantly, to give me time to dry off and think of an appropriate punishment.
Later, while catching up on some email, one of the perpetrators appeared, looking especially contrite.
“I thought you’d like to know that Evan is really upset,” my son Matt said. “He’s locked himself in his room and put this note on his door that he’s not coming out for two days.” Matt handed me the note which still had a piece of tape attached to it.
The note read:
LEAVE ME ALONE! I’M GOING TO STAY IN HERE THE ENTIRE WEEKEND AND EAT NO DINNER LUNCH OR BREAKFAST FOR TWO DAYS! I’M GROUNDED! - EVAN
P.S. DON’T EVEN PUT ME TO BED
Next to his name, Evan drew a frowny face with large mad eyebrows. The whole note was so dramatic that I nearly burst out laughing if it weren’t for the fact that Matt was clearly worried.
“Did you see the mad eyebrows? You really should talk to him right now. He’s not going to eat for two days!”
“I will talk to him soon. I’m sure he won’t starve to death in the next twenty minutes while I finish up what I’m doing.”
I could tell Matt was waiting for a reaction from me, but I simply remained quiet. Moms know that this is how you get the best stuff out of them.
Matt continued, “But he says that he’s not going to eat anything for two days.”
“I never said that he couldn’t eat for two days.”
“I know, but he’s really upset. You should talk to him right now.”
“I’ll talk to him in a little while. It won’t kill him to stay in his room a little longer. He should think about what he’s done.”
Defeated, Matt went back upstairs. I could hear him trying to convince Evan to come out of his room.
A few minutes later, Matt was back. “Can you please go up and talk to Evan? I still can’t get him to come out of his room.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll talk to Evan when I come up to put him to bed. He’s not hurting anything by staying in his room.”
“But he shouldn’t be grounded.”
“I never told him that being grounded meant he had to stay in his room. He decided that on his own. I’m sure he’ll grow tired of being in there and will come out of his room soon.”
Matt seemed conflicted. It was clearly important to him that I talk to Evan, but I could sense there was something else he wasn’t telling me.
He started walking toward the stairs and then stopped.
“You shouldn’t ground Evan. It wasn’t entirely his fault.”
Now things were getting interesting. “So if it wasn’t all Evan’s fault, whose fault was it?”
“It was mine. I sorta tied the sprayer. I mean, he asked me to tie it, but still, I’m the one that did it and then forgot to take it off. I knew I shouldn’t do it but I did.”
“So if you're the one who tied the sprayer, why is Evan locking himself in his room and refusing to eat for two days?” I asked.
“Because it was his idea and he feels bad, but even though he asked me to do it, I take full responsibility because I’m the one who didn’t untie the sprayer. So ground me instead. Not Evan.” The relief at having confessed was visible on Matt’s face.
An image of Satan in a parka with his teeth chattering entered my mind. My 14-year-old was sacrificing himself to protect his 10-year-old brother, the same brother that he usually tries to get into trouble. Brotherly kindness between those two is as rare as a day without foot odor.
“So, I guess I’d better go upstairs and let Evan off the hook, huh?”
“Yeah. Just one thing…”
“Don’t tell him that I told you.”
**image by Ryan Kern