Friday, September 26, 2008


What started as a sure bet on my part has now turned into a Mexican standoff; neither boy willing to admit guilt in the Pop Tart caper. As the days drag on they're both quite tired of being grounded, but still nary a confession. Yesterday I tried cornering Brett and offered him a deal of immunity; no prosecution, no penalty for lying, just finally be honest with me. He still denied it, but did tell me he'd fake confess if the whole thing could be over. It was tempting.

A few minutes later he mentions to me that he did once see Mike in the lunch room with what he *thought* was a pop tart. Michael has always been the prime suspect, just because swiping things is his MO, especially forbidden/monitored junk food. Last year I caught him trying to sneak an ice cream down to his room, and found a few more wrappers when I checked under his bed. A month ago we discovered $30 missing from Brett's wallet, which Mike had taken to pay the cafeteria for the crap he was buying at lunch time.

All kids do stupid things, they all will test drive lying, I get this. Both times Mike was busted he was lectured on the importance of honesty and integrity, and then ceremoniously voted off the island. And, the thing that worries me is the last two times I caught him, it was because I stuck with the accusation despite my creeping doubts of his guilt. The little snot is good at lying and I really had started to believe him. And I know some pop tarts and petty theft are pretty small potatoes considering what some of his contemporaries are up to. Lord knows I pulled my share of shit when I was his age, in fact comparatively speaking, he's a frigging boy scout. *shudders* But that doesn't mean that I condone it. This is do or die time, I only have four or five years left with him and today it's small shit, tomorrow it's alcohol and drugs.

So yesterday when I picked him up from soccer practice I made sure I was alone. (Don't worry, mother-in-law had the others) I had my best serious mommy-means-bidness face on and lit right in to him.

"Aren't you tired of being grounded? This is your last chance to come clean Michael, I mean it. I spoke to someone at the school today who says they saw you with a pop-tart at lunch. I want the truth now Michael."

"Mom, I seriously did not do it. I mean, I'm totally sick of being grounded, I'd much rather just be punished for taking them than spend forever stuck with nothing to do. I know I've lied to you before, I know I wasn't always honest, but I'm really telling you the truth this time, I didn't do it!"

We got home and I made a pissed off beeline for my room to finish putting laundry away. I had just shut the door when Brett asks him what the matter was.

"This stupid freaking grounding. Now she says someone at the school saw me with them and I didn't do it. I'm getting blamed for something I didn't do and it pisses me off." When I came out of the room he was near tears and visibly upset.

So, I'm stumped. I honestly have no idea if he's lying or being truthful. And at this point I'm so ready to be done with all of it that I'd happily just drop the matter, but if he is guilty what does that say to him? That if you hold out long enough and deny, deny, deny that you will get away with it? I have visions of him standing smugly in front of wife with lipstick on his collar stubbornly repeating that he really was just working late.

On the other hand, how much longer can this go on and what if Curt was wrong about them missing? Those damn things were up in the cabinet for quite a while, I'm wondering if it's possible that he just miscounted or forgot he'd eaten them.

I feel as though I'm stuck in a miserable Catch-22 and in uncharted waters. Any option that I come up with seems riddled with pitfalls; I'm running out of brainstorms and getting dejected about the whole thing. So I'm asking for suggestions. Books you can point me to on how to raise marginally normal-minimally farked up teenagers, clever solutions to the quandary I put us in, anything.

Stymied in Bumfark


April said...

That's tough. I remember being his age and having a similar situation, only it wasn't over pop-tarts, it was something else entirely that I had been accused of. To do this day I remember thinking how stupid of a situation it was, it was something that I would not have even been in trouble over, yet my mother was convinced I was lying so I got it bad. Now that I have kids of my own, I understand her dilemma and I don't ever want to put my kids into that situation. I hate when I suspect my kids of lying and I can't prove it because like you, I feel if I let it go then they learn how to get away with it and if I punish them, they resent me for not believing them. I have no suggestions, sorry, but you do have sympathy. We're all in this parenting arena together.

Anonymous said...

Tough situation. Maybe treat it like the real justice system.

Sit them both down and tell them the facts of the case--you have circumstantial evidence, no witnesses, no confession. All you have is motive. It's not enough to convict. It's been enough to hold the suspects for questioning but now you've got no choice but to release them. Tell them you aren't happy about it, but that's the way the justice system works. You can't convict on a hunch.

I mean, definitely be sure they know that you really hate being put in this position in the first place. Lay it on heavy enough that hopefully if one of them IS guilty, they feel like shit.

I think it's the best you can hope for without substantial proof or a confession. I think that even if one of them did it, you'll get points, impart a decent lesson and get a little guilt for playing fair in the end.

We can't catch everything. They WILL get away with things sometimes. They will CHOOSE to lie sometimes now and as adults. You can't stop it all. You can only be a smart, fair parent and hope for the best in the end.

Good luck.

C. Beth said...

I had no idea what advice to give, but JL's sounds good to me. So I'll just second hers....

What a totally frustrating mommy dilemma--I can tell how sick you are over this, and I'm sorry.

Angie said...

I was gonna say what Jonah Lisa said, only she said it better. At this point I would consider it time served for both boys. Maybe both of them being grounded for something the other may have done will be enough of a lesson for them. This may very well be one of your family's best mysteries.

Angie said...

OH, and I DO NOT think you have failed as your title suggests. I think you've tried what was right. We all screw up our kids somehow. If your biggest mistake is grounding someone for a few days for poptarts they didn't take, I think you're doing pretty darn good!

Bri said...

Bait 'em. Buy a new box of Pop Tarts and see who steals them. In all seriousness though, I would go with JL's approach. You've stood your ground this long and for all their lives... you aren't failing over a box of Pop Tarts. Big hugs and good luck!

Julie said...

I never post but I love love love your blog. First off, you are a great mom, no doubt about it. Please don't feel like you've failed in this situation, you haven't. I agree with Jonah Lisa's comment as well. I think you should be honest about how you feel. That you'd hate to blame them for something they didn't do but then again you would be very hurt by one of them getting away with a lie and thinking they're hot stuff cause of it. Stress the importance of honesty and trust, relating the "pop tart incident" to a potentially bigger issue down the road. Point out that the lies your son has told in the past have made you question his honesty in this situation and may in future situations as well. What's that saying?, "Trust is hard to gain and easy to lose". When I was younger I was usually afraid to do something bad not because I was afraid of getting caught but because I was afraid of losing the trust my parents had in me. Don't get me wrong, I did my share of bad stuff but overall I was a pretty good kid. My point is that with my parents I knew they trusted me and I really respected and appreciated that. They were always honest and open with me which in turn made me feel more comfortable being honet with them and myself.

Best of luck!!

Trace said...

As the mom to a teenager, I have to say that some things you just have to let go. I can tell this is really stuck in your craw, but it sounds like the kids have actually learned a lesson from this...they are really bothered by the fact that they are being questioned about it over and over, and the stress is showing. I say, tell them you are letting this one go, THIS time. After all, you are not really sure that the box went missing, and you don't want your kids thinking that you don't believe them when they tell you something, over and over...The fact that they are saying they will "fake confess" says to me that they really are at their wits' end as to what to do. They have told you the truth, but think that was not good enough to solve the situation. You don't want them to learn to confess to something just to get things overwith.

You have to let some things just go. You are beating yourself up over this. You are a great mom, and it sounds like you have some terrific kids.