Say your kid is 17, and you get up, say at 3AM to say, get a drink and he’s not where he should be—say, in his bed, sleeping.
You call. It goes to message. Text. Nothing.
Now this is not the first time—ha!—this kid has ignored frantic bleats from frantic parents.
Back up. He is a good boy, a good student, a hard worker, super talented, a big hit with his friends and adored by his adorable girlfriend.
With whom, of course, he was.
He strolls in, 6 AM, smiling.
His Dad calls me, apoplectic and out for punishment.
Grounded, grounded, grounded for two, no forever, no two weeks.
No boondoggling with his buds in the city.
Trouble is, grounding, and punishment doesn’t work. I am right. You know why I am right?
Because kids who get grounded, keep getting grounded. Like those piled up lifetime sentences of (lehavdil) criminals.
They just keep doing stuff they just got grounded for. They swap “grounded” stories with rueful smiles when they come to visit.
And what was really yucky was that this time I was gonna have to mete out someone else’s punishment because it was my turn to have him. You know, joint custody.
I got it down to one week. I was dreading it. I thought he was dreading it. It was absolutely delightful.
We talked, he played with the twins, he played piano, played Wii.
We shopped, BBQ’d, planned for our family summer camp.
He went to a party with his fairy stepsister Ilana and her friends. (A technical loophole, I admit.)
He talked late into the night about Schopenhauer and the nature of things with Sruli—just like old times. He You Tubed his favorite TEDs for us.
I told him I wished he were grounded every week. He smiled ruefully.
Then, on Thursday, the mountains came to Mohammed. His buds from the city arrived in Englewood to collect him—the 17 year old driver had a spankin’ new license.
Of course I let him go.
He had less than 2 days of freedom before he started working—and I mean slaving—for our camp.
I don’t believe in grounding, I believe in talking. And I did have a talk with him.
About an hour after the reunited buds left, and, thinking again of that spankin’ new license, I texted him to see if he got back to the city alright.
Such a delightful week.
Safe and sound, he texted back.
Within 10 seconds.