Sunday, July 11, 2010


In which the Tart family has to face that the TWEEN may make some poor decisions. [not a writing blog]

Before I forget though, don't forget to stop over at Burrower's Books & Balderdash to see the image and whether you want to give writing a Drabble a shot!

Okay, back to the blog!

Thing 2

My son has historically been my easy child. (that doesn't mean he's not ODD, just easy) He does many of the things he is supposed to without being asked (homework, brushing his teeth, bathing)--those of you with younger children may not REALIZE you can't take these things for granted—not all children do them without battles or trying to sneak out of them.

We left him alone from time to time starting at age 9, as he just seemed to have a really good head on his shoulders. I should have remembered that at age 4, he was my kid that took off down the street because 'the woods looked interesting'--the one who would take off on his bike without telling us where he was going. You see... he is mostly a good decision maker when he realizes there is a DECISION to be made, but he has lived all but his first 19 months in Ann Arbor, where reality never comes. He has grown up FEARLESS.

A Contrast

My kids were both born in Portland, Oregon—safe, as cities go, but a CITY nonetheless. My daughter was a REALLY PRETTY baby and toddler and as my first, I was TOTALLY paranoid somebody would take her, so I ALWAYS kept her close when we were in public places.

We got to Ann Arbor, wealthy college town without a spec of reality in sight... at a grocery store I rounded a corner as she lollygagged looking at something she was probably trying to convince me to buy. I hear this blood-curdling shriek.


Oh, the shame of instilling so much paranoia in my child! I was mortified! And I began the slow undoing—we live someplace a little safer now... we don't have to be quite as careful...

Unintended Consequences [this picture was one of my son's profile pics on FB--do not ask me to explain]

So I suppose in UNDOING for my daughter, I OVERUNDID for my son (who had nothing that needed undoing—he was tantrum boy—nobody was EVER going to steal HIM.). And ironically, while they didn't need that paranoia for a decade, I've seen in BOTH kids that it would be fairly useful as teens. My daughter maintains enough healthy skepticism that she has made such decisions as telling the boys who like to take a girl off to get stoned and leave her there that they are HORRIBLE and she is NOT INTERESTED. You see... her paranoia lets her spot their plan (that, and the reputation they have for DOING it, but a lot of teen girls have a 'they wouldn't do that to ME' thing going.)

But Back to my Son, the Changeling...

So he and his best friend, who is a really NICE kid (-->), have taken to riding their bikes all over town... harmless enough, yes? Well... within LIMITS... they have ended up some STRANGE places... Toys R Us comes to mind—it is about four miles away through a TON of busy roads and a fairly primary business district. I guess when I think, 'oh, they are off riding bikes' that they will go NORMAL places, but they don't seem to have any bounds on it.

So Friday my son was at a different friend's house... then ANOTHER friends house... then he was doing this then that... long story short, he and his friend wanted to do DIFFERENT things that night, the friend wanted to go to Extreme Bounce (which my son loves, but it is always here) and my SON wanted to go to the Carnival that comes once a year and sets up in the high school parking lot. So Thing 2 GOES, with a different 'friend' then wants to spend the night... Mr. Tart approves, and we don't learn until the next day that this boy was a BRAND NEW acquaintance from ANOTHER TOWN... holy crap, are you KIDDING ME? How did we let that happen?

So Saturday I pick them up at the mall, drop this other kid at a condo, as he requested... THAT was when I learn he lives in Ypsie (read:  rough neighborhood--though that is exaggeration, but still, around here, it is relatively rough)... The boy had something to do and then was going to come spend the night with Thing 2—he arrived LATE... and he didn't actually ARRIVE. Whoever was giving him the ride just DROPPED HIM OFF at a phone store up the street because they were lost... just LEFT HIM THERE! What kind of parents did we send our son off with on Friday? And what kinds of decisions is Thing 2 making that he doesn't even think that is pertinent information to tell us?!

*wipes brow*

Turned OUT fine, but I suppose we've had a wake up call that reality DOES periodically come to Ann Arbor, and that we need to be more diligent.

The New Debate with Mr. Tart

HIS answer is 'well you won't have anything more to do with that kid.' MY answer is 'that KID needs some responsible adults in his life, so being HERE is a better answer than just shoving him off and not letting him come back.' I'd love to hear what you guys think about kids with irresponsible parents...


Smackenicious said...

I'm deeply scared of what the future may bring when my son is on "let's-make-friends-and-hang-up-with-them" age.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

That's a tough one, as the presence of that boy will also influence your son while you are trying to influence him.

I grew up in Salem and never considered Portland safe, even thirty years ago! We aren't as paranoid living in our little Eastern NC town as we were living in Albuquerque, but no place is truly safe.

Cheeseboy said...

Oh, for the love! Poor kid probably feels more love at your home in one night than he does at his own home in a year.

I don't see a problem with him coming over as long as the boys keep their noses clean. But I would give them zero second chances.

Ezmirelda said...

I feel bad for those kids, they grow up way too fast. My mom treated me the same as your daughter. She alwas thought that someone would steal me.

Old Kitty said...

Oh dear! :-) All I know is that when I was that young (last century some time!) I would never ever ever dream of doing such a thing - thought about it often enough though but never had the courage to just go for it! Guess I was too scared of the consequences that was my Mother! LOL!

I'm so sorry I'm not much help! Your children look super adorable btw!! And you and hubby are lovely parents!

take care

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

My brother and I used to take off all the time at that age. But then again, that was many years ago. Just not safe to do that anymore.

LTM said...

ugh. I hate situations like that--Diane's right in that neglected kid will be an influence. I guess the question is who's the *stronger* influence of the two--T2 or NK. I guess just always be there voicing your approval/disapproval/implementing consequences...

I remember riding bikes all over my relatively safe hometown, and my girls could probably do it here, but I'm super paranoid, too. Comes of growing up 60 miles north of New Orleans, I suspect... I've just seen/heard too much *stuff*. :o|

P.S. GIANT bunny--LOL! :D

Hart Johnson said...

Thanks so much everyone for support and feedback!

LDW--You grew up in Salem? Really? I LOVE Oregon--went to college in Eugene and then lived in Portland for over a decade and safe is relative, I know, but I also lived in the 'rough' part of town (being poorish) and you learn it isn't actually DANGEROUS most of the time, as long as you are paying attention, friendly, and know what you're doing. That is me as a 20-something though... never was willing to apply it to my babies.

I tend to believe strongly enough in a universal karma to think even if the kid influences, we can also keep an eye, and a lot of those things are life lesson opportunities. My son is a straight A student and may be overly willing to take a dare, but he is also willing to listen to the logic of stuff, so I hope that is good. My daughter is ALWAYS the influencer, but my son is young for his cohort, so it sort of depends on the situation... will definitely keep a close eye when they are together--far closer than we need to with his best friend, who just is mild and good natured (an very likely to just say 'that's stupid' when somebody suggests something stupid)

Jan O'Hara (Tartitude) said...

Hart, first, I haven't been here in a bit but LOVE the template changes. It's now very easy to read and so fresh.

Next, your Bieberized son appears to have a certain zest, of which I approve. In some senses, it's easier to teach responsibility than put the spark in 'em, once it's been stolen.

My philosophy about parenting is much as yours. I wouldn't let my son go to the other child's home any more, but nor would I punish him for his parents' difficulties. If my own child began to act out in worrisome ways, I'd work on HIM first. From my experience, these relationships tend to fall apart pretty quick if the less-advantaged kid doesn't try to rise to the higher-advantaged level. They just may not have enough common ground.

Marjorie said...

I'm guilty of the "someone might steal you" thing with my kids. It SO important in a town like this that my kids know that there are some not-so-nice people out there that might look and act nice. I tend to live in big cities, but I DID live in a little town in IL when I was 13 and 14 where a little 3 year old girl was kidnapped and killed. The police didn't find her body until a year later when the local cornfield was harvested and ready to plant again. To me small towns are just as dangerous as big cities.

On the whole new friend thing: Yes, it looks like this child may need some guidance. You are a good mom, and Sam knows right from wrong. He's a good kid. Your son's best friend is a good kid, but your son is also a daring adventurer. So it makes sense that he would have a more reckless friend as well. In the end, he will either realize this friend is not his speed or your son's influence will change the speed of his friend. I have a hard time thinking that Sam will change the type of child he is because of the influence of one friend that is rather new.

Being a poetic person I would probably pull out Hamlet and explain the meaning of Polonius' speech to Laertes about the value of old friends versus new ones. Ha! I'm such a nerd. My kid would probably think so too.

Cold As Heaven said...

I have seen similar situations, with my now 16 yo boy and his friends. He has an uncountable number of friends around town, and other places. It's not easy to keep track of.

My recommendation would be don't show "that KID" off. Give him a chance, don't judge him because of his parents or his neighborhood. Maybe you can give him that little guidance and advice to lead him on the right track. And I'm not talking about God here; I'm a satanist and have taught my kids to swear from very young age >:)))

Cold As Heaven

Hart Johnson said...

Jan *snort* Bieberized son *snort* I should tell him... he will probably shave his head... he is very much a 'skater' stylistically, though his ride of choice is called a rip slide? I might have that wrong--only two wheels--the skateboard with the joint in the middle so you propel it by moving the back instead of stepping off. I feel very much reassured that the MD seems to have a similar philosophy.

Marjorie-I know in Tuscon, anyway, the reputation for danger is high, so you are WISE to instill paranoia, and you have LOVELY kids (and probably more than YOU want to be trying to keep track of--better that they know they need to stick to YOU. i KNOW stuff happens in small towns, but I ALSO know most violence in smaller places is personal--yes, a wierdo might come through, but a wierdo doesn't STAY long without everyone knowing what is what (my home town had a man with 'a reputation' (I suspect child molesting, though the words were never used) and everyone was just uniformly told to avoid him.

CaH-Yes, my son will likely go with the LOGICAL argument before any right/wrong philosophy--he is a committed atheist, which wasn't my intention with the 'let them choose for themselves' approach but there we have it. I KNOW what you mean though about teen years opening doors--there will ALWAYS be friends you don't know, and probably better to give kids opportunities to evaluate for themselves so they don't do something stupid at their first taste of freedom, than to try to regulate too tightly right off the bat.

Boonsong said...

A lively, enjoyable and thought provoking post. Thanks for this.

All the best, Boonsong