On Sunday, many fathers awoke to breakfast in bed, along with kisses and hugs from their children, maybe even handmade drawings or gifts.
Four Medina fathers did not have that kind of Father’s Day.
Instead, they each spent the day with a son, helping teach the four young men how to say “I’m sorry.”
They were making up for damage they caused early Saturday morning while at a sleepover at one boy’s house. Sometime well after midnight, the boys left the sleepover and wandered the neighborhood in search of targets. They festooned the trees with toilet paper, which is harmless enough, but they took it a step or two further — and pushed over mailboxes at the homes of two families they knew through school.
One of them was ours.
We awoke at 6:30 a.m. Saturday to find our toddler’s basketball hoop in the middle of our cul-de-sac and probably 10 times the toilet paper we have in our two and a half bathrooms strewn across the treetops. Worse, the mailbox post had been broken off at the grass level. Apparently, there was a similar scene a street over.
Two boys surveying the damage walked quickly away to the next street, and professed to not know who did it. I didn’t believe them. What 13-year-old boys are out for a stroll at 6:30 a.m. on a summer Saturday? I didn’t know who they were, and I didn’t have the presence of mind to make them stop and give me their names. I thought later of the Sandra Bullock character in “The Blind Side,” which we had watched recently, and thought she would have made them stop and tell her exactly what they knew.
I was crushed. I thought this was a personal attack on my children, one of whom has become (and made himself, to some extent) a bit of a target for his off-beat behavior. We filed a police report and left the damage for the neighbors to see as they awoke that morning. I wanted them to share our outrage.
Later on that day, through one of those it’s-a-small-world moments, we learned two different boys — classmates of my daughter – were bragging to children of mutual friends about their antics. My husband called their parents and informed them of what had happened while their sons were at this sleepover. As the story started spilling, he did the same with two additional boys who were involved as well.
What happened next is the real reason for this blog.
The parents of three boys immediately apologized for their sons’ behavior and promised they would fix it immediately. The parents of the fourth, who by the way had hosted the sleepover, stepped up eventually as well.
And they did. While we were out Sunday at the Winery at Wolf Creek for a Father’s Day picnic with my father and his wife, four 14-year-old boys and four fathers worked hard to dig a new posthole, install a new mailbox post, position the old mailbox back onto the post, and plant grass around the area they dug. By the time we got home from our picnic, everything was done and cleaned up.
But it didn’t end there. Yesterday, we were visited by three of the boys for face-to-face apologies and promises to never again cause damage like that. The fourth had called my husband on Sunday.
We are not angry. These are good boys who made a poor choice. A mistake. And through the admirable efforts of their parents, they learned a hard lesson about crossing the line between having fun and causing harm. They also learned the honorable way of making up for it — by confronting their mistakes, restoring the order and apologizing.
There are some unanswered questions — why were these boys out so late at night? Where did they even get the idea they could knock over a mailbox? Where were the parents at the sleepover when all of this was going on?
But we learned something in all of this too — how good parents take a bad situation and, with grace and integrity, turn it into a life lesson. The fathers didn’t do the work — their sons did. And I’m sure the boys quickly learned that it was no fun.
With three boys of our own, I can almost guarantee that one day we will be in a similar position of having to apologize for their mistakes and find a way to help them make up for their actions. I know I will draw upon the character that we witnessed in these fathers and remember the way in which they took an embarrassing situation and showed their sons how to be, as the Jesuits say, ”men for others.”
Isn’t that what being a father is all about?