As parents we can’t, in good faith, condone our children’s devious behavior… no matter how cleverly they pull it off. However once the kids are asleep, and the bedroom door is shut, it’s sometimes tempting to snicker admiringly at their clever, if ill begotten escapades.
Sometimes they’re just little things, like the time my oldest son poured a whole bottle of white glue into his younger brother’s underwear drawer, and I didn’t realize it for three days.
Or when my daughter got on her eleven-year-old brother’s Facebook account and, pretending to be him, started flirting with all the girls on his page. He was so embarrassed he refused to go to school the next day.
But every now and then someone will pull off such a huge, amazing and creative misdeed, it goes down into the annals of family history, to be brought up and recounted for years and years of family reunions and Christmas dinners to come.
Take the clever young man who, in a fit of anger, tore apart his younger brother’s bedroom. Once the crime was committed and the possible repercussions assessed this same genius managed to convince his whole family and the local police, that a burglar had broken into the house and ransacked the place. It was years and years later before he finally confessed, and when he did, the story became an instant classic.
One of my favorites is the case of the mysterious kitchen hole. A teenager was goofing off with his friends one morning in the family kitchen, and as often happens, things got out of hand and a hole the size of a rolling-pin ended up marring the otherwise perfect yellow wall.
Being a quick thinker, the young man grabbed a calendar and tacked it up precisely over the unsightly gap. Fortunately it was April at the time and by the end of December when the calendar was taken down and the hole discovered, no one even thought to suspect him.
An eight-year-old girl will never live down the tale of pushing her even younger brother off the second floor of the backyard play house in a box. She convinced him to participate by assuring him that the box would glide gently to the ground like a kite. They both learned an important lesson in physics that day and created their own permanent place in the chronicles of family legend.
However, if tales could be rated on complexity and sheer chutzpah then the golden banana story would surely be the winner.
Our parents were out-of-town, and my brother was home alone. Despite the strict rules about no social gathering, he planned an elaborate party that included setting up the camping tent in the back yard, an adventure that led completely through the house including the garage and attic and ultimately the digging for buried treasure in the school playground across the street.
When the police pulled up to the school at eleven-thirty that night, they were convinced that the crazy teenagers tunneling through the tan bark must be either high or drunk. And when my brother explained that they were searching for the Golden Banana, they weren’t reassured.
However when he produced an actual banana, spray painted metallic gold and resting in my mother’s chest shaped jewelry box, the police dispersed the group quickly with a severe warning about breaking curfew.
How long this famous event would have remained a secret is unknown if it hadn’t been for the unexpectedly early arrival home of my parents. Telltale clues of dirty dishes in the kitchen, melted candle wax and black crepe paper in the bathroom and the unexpected appearance of the family tent set up on the left side of the house eventually forced a confession.
I believe my brother was grounded for the better part of his fifteenth year, but the story remained well after his own children were grown; a small price to pay for infamy.
So the next time your toddler runs out of the bathroom and into the living room where you are entertaining guests, with Kotex pads stuffed into his diaper, or your second grader rips open a double bean bag chair and sprinkles a billion tiny white pellets throughout her room because she wants to pretend it’s snowing, take a deep breath. Remember that these are the moment’s family memories are made of. Then punish them.