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Monday, April 11 2016

His clean dress shoes, his $60 haircut, and the platinum smile he tossed my way told me he wasn't from around here. He and his children had just stepped out of a Calvin Klein ad. They were from the Land Of The Pretty People. I smiled back at him and trudged with dusty boots to the refrigerator case for a frappuccino. On my return the family was still at the front counter trying to assemble children and purchases. There were two men and five children. The men looked enough alike to be brothers but I couldn't sort out children. It didn't matter, they were all beautiful and I admired the group as I stood behind them in line.

Money can buy nice clothing, but how do you keep children that clean? I reminded myself this was merely a snapshot in time. The father ran his fingers through the younger daughter's hair and chastised her for doing such a poor job brushing it. I heard the words, but until he'd pointed it out, I hadn't noticed the child's slightly windblown hair. She was beautiful. I compared her to her older sister, a gorgeous tanned child in a white cotton eyelet dress and nice leather cowboy boots. Her hair was straight and tamed. Nothing was out of place on this child. To my eye, the whole group of them could have been models from a catalog. Then it happened.

Cheez-Its flew all over the floor at their feet. The groan of frustration said one of the children in front had opened a bag of baked cheesy crackers and spilled them everywhere. In my world, we call this a mess. It's okay, kids make messes. We all do. Accidents happen, it's what happens after the accidents that matter. Accidents are teachable moments.

It was a moment alright. Making no effort to clean it up, the family stood on top of orange crackers and ground them into the tile of the convenience store. The mess could not be denied, and it was growing larger as each child stepped on crackers and broke them into tiny pieces under their feet. These were not little bitty kids, they were old enough to know better. I waited for the father to have the child clean it up, or clean it up himself. Surely he would not leave this kind of mess. Apparently he would. He just pretended the mess wasn't there under his feet.

Perhaps he needed some modeling. So while he continued to stand at the counter, pay for his items, and ignore his mess, I asked the clerk if she had a broom so that I might sweep up the cheesy goodness before it spread all over the store. He heard me and ignored me. She smiled and assured me that she had a broom and she'd handle it when she got a chance. This was a convenience store on a major highway on a Sunday afternoon, it may take a while before she'd get the chance to clean up Cheez-its that were now crunching their way around the store and out the door.

Gathering the rest of their purchases the Perfect Family walked away from their mess. It was a teachable moment.  The Perfect Dad just taught his children a powerful lesson. You can walk away from your responsibility. Someone else is paid to clean up your mess, let them do it. I was aghast. My mother would have beat my ass.

The door swung shut behind them and the clerk and I locked eyes. I said it.

"Wow. Just. Wow."

We shared a laugh about the fact that while we just had to deal with Cheez crackers on the floor, he was stuck with the lessons he taught these children. The clerk pointed out that these kids would be responsible for taking care of their father in his older years. Not only will these lessons come back to roost for him, but they will affect all of us. This is the generation responsible for our future too. We reap what we sew.

I am profoundly grateful to my mother for the example she set when we were children. We learned how to behave in public. We learned responsibility. We learned that if you make a mess, you clean it up. It is not someone else's job to clean up after you. If you steal Bang Caps from the Piggly Wiggly, she will DRIVE your tiny butt back up to the grocery store, inform the clerk of your sin, and make you beg for forgiveness and wallow in humiliation. She will also do the same thing when your brother steals bubble gum. That kind of crazy makes an impression on a kid. I became a cop. He became a surgeon. Neither of us has been arrested since then.

So we may have been dressed in clothes from the Sears & Roebuck catalog instead of Gap Kids, but I'd venture to say that in the long run, we were much richer children.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 11:21 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email

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