If you have read any of my blog you will notice that my favourite subjects to write about are my art and my children. With four kids of my own and two step kids it does lead to a lot of writing material. The current ages of my kids run from a 6 year old up to a 19 year old. So there have been a lot of different issues to contend with as a mom.
So far I have been lucky in that my children have not screwed up too much, except for one incident which we will get too in due time. I managed to keep my oldest in line enough that he made it to adulthood relatively unharmed and somewhat balanced. I only ever received two phone calls from a principal, one because he bullied a boy on the bus in the misguided effort to impress a girl he had a crush on. The other because he got the brilliant idea to give the middle finger to a police cruiser from the school bus window. He was pretty shocked when the cruiser pulled the bus over and had “words” both with my son and his friend, the second culprit. But aside from those two incidences he has been a relatively good boy.
My youngest son however, who just turned 9 seems to live at the principals office. He has done everything from telling his teacher she wasn’t the boss of him, that only mom was the boss, to giving his principal the middle finger, to drawing happy faces on the walls of the school bathroom in permanent marker, to an outburst during an assembly that centered around the topic of Respect. At the end of this assembly the speaker asked the kids “so, did we learn anything here today?” To which my son blurted out, loudly of course “nope, nothing at all.” Apparently he thinks he’s a comedian, but his comedic ways have landed him in the principal’s office like it’s his second home. He’s actually a funny kid who seems to hold no fear for anyone in charge, which scares me and causes many, many sleepless nights. But his stories, of which there are many can be saved for another day.
No, today’s story centers on the first time any of my children have truly shocked me. You see we have two teenage girls, my daughter who just turned 16 and my stepdaughter who will be 16 this summer.
When they were 14 they had a sleep over with my stepdaughters friend from the city. They approached me the next morning to ask if they could go hang out in the small town we live near. Of course I said no, what would be the point in going and hanging out except to get into trouble. There just seemed no reason, they had no money to spend, it was too cold to go play at the park so what else would there be for them to do but “hang out”. So instead they asked if they could go for a walk around our little neighborhood. We live in the country in a small village that is surrounded by farms. So to this I said yes, of course you can go for a walk. Here is where I failed as a parent; there was a barn up the road from our house that apparently was frequented by the local kids as a “hang out”. I had no idea they spent their time up there, when they said, “go for a walk” I took it at face value. These are kids that have never gotten into any real trouble you see, in fact I will go so far as to brag and tell you they care about school, their marks and their future. So they decided this day to go hang out at the barn up the road. They climbed up into the rafters and talked and laughed and joked around. However while they were talking they also took out two lighters and proceeded to light little pieces of straw on fire and then throw them out the window down into the snow covered ground below. I’m guessing you can imagine what happened next? And you would be right.
One of the pieces of straw went unnoticed, landing below them in a stack of hay where it lay smoldering. This barn was all but abandoned and had been filled to the rafters with old hay. Hay that had been left untouched for years. It was the friend that noticed the flames, as they all had their backs to it. The barn was actually on fire! They jumped down and attempted to put out the fire with snow first, then by stomping their feet into the flames. But for each little fire that got smothered another one would flare up. When it started really spreading they decided to go for help. As soon as they ran out of the barn into the road the whole thing went up in flames. I cannot tell you how lucky we are that this didn’t end in worse tragedy for this dried up barn all but exploded with them just a few feet out of harms way.
This has been by far the worst thing we have had to deal with as parents. It has left these girls with a huge burden; they feel guilt towards the farmer, who didn’t press charges. Only asked that they help in the clean up of the debris. Guilt towards the homeowners who’s siding got melted from the heat of the flames. Guilt towards my husband and I because our insurance premiums rose due to the pay out for the melted siding. They have had no social life to speak of since the incident, no cell phones, no computers (except for the use of mine for homework). Their life consists of doing homework and going on excursions as a family. It’s a harsh lesson I wouldn’t wish on any kid or parent. Even the kids you think won’t screw up have the potential to truly shock you and you really can’t take your eyes off of them at any age.
Did any good come out of this? I doubt any of my kids will ever play with fire again; this was a traumatic event for the whole family, right down to the littlest one. I also think my teen girls have lost that “it could never happen to me” mentality that most teens have which may save them in the future. They also don’t seem to take things for granted anymore and have since learned the true value of money. This incident threatened to ruin us financially, if it weren’t for the good hearted nature of that farmer who wanted no money, no charges laid and was satisfied with their sincere and tearful apology.
I just hope my girls pay it forward if they ever find themselves in a position where forgiveness is needed. That they will never forget that farmer’s big heart and forgiving nature as they grow up and move through their own lives. And that they never take their eyes off their own children.