That's what I hear through the closed door of my son's bedroom. I fling open the door and see three boys -- none of them my child -- standing in the room. One, a boy I'll call "Rat," flips shut a phone and sets it down.
* * *
As a parent, you try to teach your kids their colors, the numbers, the alphabet, tying laces, how to tell a dessert fork from a salad fork, bed making, separating whites and colors to do laundry, and so on and so on through a host of other facts and skills. You don't always get to pick the teachable moments. Sex education questions pop up at any time. So do lessons in learning right from wrong.
While Rat's mother was out to dinner, I was watching Rat and his little brother. A neighbor friend of Eldest's was over as well. Two nearly-12-year-old boys and a 10-year-old boy were in Eldest's room while he was upstairs, all of them having just come in from jumping on the trampoline.
* * *
* * *
I just happened past the room. I heard those words, and I knew almost immediately what had happened. Rat had scrolled through Eldest's phone, found the number for the girl he likes, and made a crank call.
Only it wasn't the kind I made back in the day. "Is your refrigerator running?" It was a mean-spirited and cruel call, meant to hurt both the very sweet girl and Eldest. Don't get me wrong. I understand, as much as anyone can, that 12-year-old boys need to say "boobs" and worse and then giggle like, well, 12-year-old boys.
I kicked the kids out of the house, telling the one kid to go home and telling the two brothers that I'd be calling their mother to come get them NOW. I still didn't know where Eldest was. I hit "talk" to re-dial the last number, noticing it was the girl. I identified myself. I know her, thankfully, so at least I didn't have to go through a long song-and-dance. I explained that these "asshole friends" of Eldest's had done this unbeknownst to him, that I was sorry for their being mean, that they were being punished, that I hoped she was okay, and that I hoped her summer was going well. [Hey, it was a social call in a sense.]
Eldest was mortified. And not just mother-is-looking-so-I-best-be-mortified. A shy kid, it's taken a lot for him to befriend this girl and maintain a friendship even as he second-guesses every word and gesture.
The teachable moments were many last night: What you don't do in the
name of fun. How hurtful words can be to other people. When words of a sexual nature are appropriate (within the boundaries of a relationship) and when they are not (spouted out for laughs). How to demand sincere apologies. How to forgive.
How not to scream and yell at other kids but instead calmly kick them the hell out of your house. Barefoot.