When I was in the third grade my best friend was a kid named David whose Dad was pretty cool for three reasons: 1) He swam in the Olympics, 2) He was a multi-millionaire because he had invented a new kind of beef jerky, and 3) he had every single issue of Playboy magazine Hugh Hefner ever unleashed upon the world. Of course, as nine-year-old boys, David and I were most impressed with number three.
When no one was looking David and I would liberate one of the Playboys from a chest his Dad hid in the garage, then climb onto the roof and check out the centerfold.
“Look at that,” David cried out one time. “Boobies! And I can look at ’em anytime I want!”
“You sure live the life,” I replied.
David ripped out the centerfold and handed it to me.
“What are you doing?”
“It’s yours,” David decreed. “Take it.”
“But won’t your Dad get mad?”
“Please. He’s got so many of these he’ll never find out.”
I took the centerfold, but truth be told it wasn’t David’s Dad I was worried about finding out… it was my parents. I mean where the heck was I going to hide the sordid thing?
From that moment on I had a pit in my stomach 24/7. Every day I worried endlessly that my parents would find the centerfold (I had hid it under my bed). I never even looked at the thing… just fretted about its existence.
Then one day my mother picked me up from school and dropped the centerfold into my lap as we pulled away. I was mortified. At dinner my parents told me the centerfold was inappropriate, and that I wasn’t to look at that sort of thing ever again.
That night I lay awake trying to figure out how long it would take for my parents to forget about this. At least a year, I thought. But more likely five or ten. “In twenty years they will have definitely forgot,” I finally decided. “But twenty years is SOOOOO long!” I then worried that my parents would never love me again.
I bring all this up, twenty-five years later, because I now realize my parents probably weren’t as deeply disappointed in me as I imagined, and that there was no chance they would have ever stopped loving me. In fact, they may have even had a laugh about it.
Parents, having been there themselves, understand that kids are going to do things wrong. The problem is, kids don’t know that. In their minds doing something wrong (be it swiping a toy from the store, cheating on a test, or hording a centerfold) is a big deal, and something their parents may never forgive them for. This all may be a normal part of growing up, but I hate to think that one day Annie might lay awake at night worrying if Heather and I still love her because of something she did.
I’ve got a few years to figure out how to handle Annie’s first transgression, but I just hope to find a way to let her know she did wrong while also making it clear I was in her shoes one day and understand. And that, of course, I still love her to pieces and always will no matter what.