It’s Tech Week at the high school; the school play opens a week from Thursday. That means late-night rehearsals, after-school prop gathering ventures for my daughter, the Prop Mistress, and the ever-popular Tech Week Dinners. A group of over 20 parents (and a few grandparents for good measure) donates, prepares, serves and cleans up 7 nights of dinner for the whole cast, crew and orchestra.
It was much more hectic last year when the dinner group numbered 140. This year we’re only feeding about half that, so there’s really not enough work to go around for the parents who show up. It’s a lot of fun, actually, and I enjoy helping. The kids are all polite and appreciative. They pray before eating and thank the parents after with a loud cheer. And I get to meet some other parents. Tonight we were trading leads on sources for the girls’ uniform tights, including inside information on what brands stand up to the kind of punishment high-school girls dish out.
Little Brother’s not in the play this year, but he’s at Tech Week Dinners with me because there’s no one else at home to watch him at that time. This year, he’s the only kid there. He eats with the kids, his old buddies from his Munchkin days during Wizard of Oz last spring. He’s even made a few new friends among the freshmen, including one young man who was kicking a soccer ball around with him outside the cafeteria after dinner tonight.
I was helping to put away the drink coolers when we heard a crash. Sure enough, that soccer ball had sailed through one of the cafeteria windows. And all the other parents were watching as I ran to the door, spied my son, and ordered, “Get in here.”
“Get in here,” I heard someone chuckle behind me. (Seriously? You’re going to laugh at me now?) Clearly I was on the stage, with an audience of more than 20 parents and grandparents who were clearly glad not to be in my shoes. So I took it outside, where my little boy and his soccer-playing buddy both assured me that my son wasn’t the guilty party. The young man who’d been playing soccer with him showed me his own feet, trying to convince me that Little Brother’s legs aren’t powerful enough to have kicked the ball through the window. After sending Little Brother to the car to put away the soccer ball, I took off my apron and started picking up the few shards of glass that had fallen outside the building. Did you know that aprons are good for picking up–and holding–broken glass, so you don’t cut your hands while you do that job?
The vice principal is also in charge of stage crew, so before long he was in the cafeteria talking to my son and the freshman boy. Again, lots of parents were watching as I told the vice principal that whether or not Little Brother had kicked it, he had been the one to bring the ball to the dinner, so he should share in the damages. The other student was trying to take all the blame upon himself, and I insisted (and will follow up) that we divide the bill for the glass replacement. Little Brother insisted that he would pay for it with his own money. While a custodian taped cardboard over the broken window, I returned to the kitchen to finish cleaning up. The parents wanted to know if I was OK.
Aside from a few bonus blood-pressure points, I was fine. Actually, I was impressed with the freshman who tried to deflect the blame from my child, willing to take all of it (including a financial penalty) on himself. I was more annoyed with the parents who said, “You shouldn’t have to pay for that. It’s a cost of doing business.” No. It’s not. My kid was playing soccer against the side of a building–in an area where there were windows. It was an accident waiting to happen and we’re all very lucky that no one got hurt. I was annoyed with myself for not stopping him sooner. I was annoyed with the parents who laughed at my initial reaction, which I found remarkably restrained, considering.
The soccer ball won’t be coming back to Tech Week Dinners. We will pay our half of the glass bill and Little Brother will have to contribute to that. And I can’t help but wish that the parents who seemed to think that Little Brother and I should let a 15-year-old boy shoulder all the blame for this–and the ones who seemed to think that neither soccer player was at fault at all–had taken a page from that 15-year-old’s script.
We parents have our work on display at all times, every time our child leaves the house for the day at school. “By their fruits you shall know them,” after all. I hope that Little Brother learned a lesson or two tonight. I don’t know if the Play Parents did. And if I ever get to meet the parents of a certain 15-year-old, I’ll be sure to tell them that they can be very proud of their son, who politely and immediately claimed and accepted responsibility for his role (and more than his role) in the breaking of that window.