The sound of the glass breaking was unmistakable. My wife and I ran to the backyard. There we found 12-year-old Philip, baseball bat still in hand. Even without words, the scenario was quite clear. Philip had been playing baseball in the driveway, again.
With a great deal of self-control, I said “Philip, what was our agreement?” He muttered, “I’m only supposed to play ball in the backyard.”
I nodded and then asked, “And, why did is it that you should only play ball in the backyard?” Looking at his feet, he responded, “Because there are no windows back there.”
We both knew where I was going with this conversation, and we both knew we would have to take the whole trip together. So, I continued, “And what happened now that you played in the driveway again?” Sheepishly, he said, “I broke another window.”
Last year’s three broken windows were punished with Philip being grounded and losing the privilege to play his beloved hand-held video game. I thought, to myself, that he was probably expecting more of the same.
Philip was now a year older, almost four inches taller, and was becoming a man before my very eyes. In just a few months, he would be a teenager. His choices and their consequences would be much more important than a broken window.
Without anger, but with resolve, I had told him we would go to the hardware store together and select a new window. Then, we would decide how he would earn the money to pay for that window. I explained that when adults break things, they are responsible to pay for the replacements. Philip nodded his understanding.
We went to the hardware store. As we selected the new window, Philip told the sales clerk what happened. He caught on quickly and patted Philip’s shoulder. He said, “Good man. You’re taking responsibility for your mistake.” Philip nodded yes in reply. Philip didn’t see the sales clerk as he winked his approval to me.
On the drive home, Philip cleared his throat and said in an earnest voice, “Dad, I was thinking, if you let me borrow the lawn mower and the power washer, I could earn the money for the window.” I nodded my agreement and told him that was a good idea.
I taught Philip how to install a new window that weekend. He didn’t complain about having to help, and he actually did quite well. He might have a gift for carpentry. Truthfully, I enjoyed our time together. I liked being his teacher and not his executioner.
A bulletin board in our kitchen has pinned to it, things such as schedules, chores, bills that are due, etc. I pinned the little receipt from the hardware store to Philip’s section of the board.
He worked hard and earned the money for the window in just a few weeks. I saw unmistakable pride in his eyes as he handed me all $262. I had bought a stamp and a bright red ink pad for the occasion. I took that little receipt from the bulletin board and ceremoniously stamped it “PAID IN FULL”. I handed it to him. I shook his hand said, “Great job! You’re paid in full!” He smiled a big, broad smile and pinned it right back on the bulletin board!
As a parent, you rarely get to know the effect your actions have on your children. Sometimes you get silence, sometimes tears. Sometimes you become the central theme in their therapy sessions! Once in a while, though, you find out that everything went just right.
When Philip went back to school in September, his first assignment was to write an essay about his summer vacation. He showed me the essay. I began to read the title aloud, but lost my voice, “What I did on my summer vacation – I learned from my Dad how to be a man.” He got an A+.
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