My Bad Judgment
This morning, the phone rings. It's N., one of the boys' friends from fifth grade. They've known him since kindergarten. As a kindergartener, he was adorable--a very round, dreadlocked, smiley kid. Let's just say he's not so cute anymore.
So, N. calls. TwinBoyA always answers as if he's channeling Jerry Seinfeld ("Newman"). "Yeah, N.?" he sneers.
Then, "Mom, can I go to N.'s birthday party today at 3?"
I pause. We normally do not allow our kids to play at their friends' homes unless we know the parents very well. We do not know N.'s parents well. N.'s dad has dreadlocks, too, and plays in his own steel drum band. N. has two older brothers. N. gave TwinBoyA two videos for his ninth birthday: Jurassic Park and Lara Croft: Tomb-Raider (both rated PG-13). TwinBoyA's never been allowed to play at N.'s house, though N.'s been to our house lots of time. But this is a birthday party. And TwinBoyA is ten now.
I dropped him off at 3 p.m. on the dot. I walked him to the door and one of N.'s teenaged brothers answered the door. When he opened the door, I smelled dogs and cigarettes. I said, "You're having a birthday party for N.?" And he kind of shrugged and said he didn't know. "I just got home, but there is another kid here, so I guess so."
Oh. "Can I talk to your mom or dad?" He hollered for his dad. I waited, peering into the stink of the house from the porch.
His dad came to the door, looking a little weary. "Are you having a party for N. today?" I said.
He kind of look confused. He didn't seem to know. "Well, yes," he said. At least he sort of said something like that. I said, "Well, I'll be back at 5 p.m. to pick him up."
That was my error in judgment.
At 5:05 p.m., I drove up N.'s street. The street was dark, but ahead I saw a bunch of kids riding a bicycle-cart contraption. I recognized N.'s dreadlocked bulk and saw four or five little girls hanging on the thing, but couldn't spot TwinBoyA. N. waved for me to pass him, but I rolled down my window and shouted, "I'm here to pick up my son!"
"He's in the house," N. said.
Oh. In that smelly house with N.'s dazed dad and his two teenaged brothers? Alone?
Okay, I know that I'm a little on the overprotective side. Even paranoid, I admit. But I would never allow that. Why would N. have left my son alone inside his house?
I rang the bell. Twice. Finally, N.'s dad came to the door. "I'm here to pick up my son," I said. He called for TwinBoyA, then disappeared down a set of stairs to find him. TwinBoyA came into sight and was at the door when the dad came up the stairs. I said, "Tell them thanks," and TwinBoyA said, "Thanks!" And we left.
He smelled like he's been at a bowling alley. I said, "So, tell us all about it. What did you do?"
TwinBoyA said, "Well, first we just played some games that were all rated E."
"Then, we walked down to the 7-11 and bought some stuff."
The 7-11? "Who walked?"
"Me and J. and N."
Oh my. I don't even let my boy play in the front yard without an adult watching! I would never in a million years have allowed him to walk a half a mile to the 7-11 to buy anything!
I managed to just breathe.
Then, he said, they played in the yard. And then played more video games.
He was starving.
"Didn't you have birthday cake?" I said.
"So, N. did not have birthday cake?"
Sigh. Never again, I thought. Never, ever, ever again.
I said, "I hope you had fun," and inside my head, I added "because you will never, ever do that again."
I should have known better. We overprotective mothers have standards to maintain!
Posted by Mel
at 10:10 PM PST
Updated: Friday, 30 July 2004 8:04 PM PDT