Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, October 31, 2011

In the Toilet

"Mom!" shrieked my oldest, age nine. "Your iPhone is in the toilet!"

And sure enough. Even as I stood staring down at the sleek rectangle nestled at the bottom of the pot, the finger pointing began. No one -- but no one! -- had touched it! No one had moved it off the counter to a height where baby could reach it. No one had noticed it was missing. The oldest had, apparently, flushed the toilet before she realized the phone was in there. Sure enough.

I am not overly attached to my material possessions. I am aware that many people in the world do not have a cell phone, let alone a spiffy technological wonder with a touch screen, and I have lived without a phone before. It's not the loss of the phone I mind. But some young person took my phone into the bathroom, and lied about it. Someone moved it to where baby could reach it, perhaps, and won't be honest. Someone left the bathroom door open so baby could get in. Someone was trying to sneak in a game of solitaire or watch videos, even when people have been busted and punished for such behavior in the past. It's the carelessness and the dishonesty that rankle and make me doubt my own parenting abilities, that these kinds of actions should persist even after numerous corrections.

Somehow the idea that we should tiptoe around Mother when she is angry has taken no root in my children, which I suppose I should take as a positive indicator that my children are not afraid of me. Even as I sat speechless, not so much with fury but in an attempt to quell my rising irritation, I was peppered with questions about trick-or-treating, costumes, and brilliant ideas from the amateur Sherlocks on how the phone could possibly have ended up in the toilet. The effort it took not to crush the noisy little souls around me makes my molars ache, even now. No one doubts my love for them, it seems, and it's good to have the reminder when I'm ready to give them some reason to doubt it.

And now, what? I can't punish all four older children on the theory that since I don't know who the culprit is, everyone will share the consequences. I could rant in general and hope that the intended target is impressed, but it's my experience that children only tune out scolding. I could sullenly refuse to get a new phone since there's no point in having anything around these kids, but even in my current state of dudgeon that sounds sulky and peevish. I have no carrot or stick to prevent this from happening again, only the dubious assurance that as kids get older, certain types of stupid behaviors become less common. Unfortunately, a bit of Googling informs me that dropping phones in toilets is not one of those behaviors.

"Mom!" shrieks my oldest. "Isabel just dropped a bunch of glasses all over the counter and they all broke!"  Time to clench my jaw and go love my kids again.


JoAnna said...

If you do get a new iPhone, get the AppleCare Plus protection. It covers accidental damage and allows you to replace your phone for $50, up to 3 times.

As for finding the culprit... tough call. Maybe make a big deal about how hurt and disappointed you are, and hope that guilt will lead to a confession?

Foxfier said...

I can't punish all four older children on the theory that since I don't know who the culprit is, everyone will share the consequences.

In the words of my mother, why not? You oughtn't make it as dire as it would be if you did know someone was guilty, but a minor punishment might encourage them to speak up if someone is doing what they oughtn't.
(It's not utterly fair, and you've got to be careful the punishment isn't bad enough that someone falsely confesses just to get it over with.)

The only time I was ever grounded, I didn't do anything. The lack of stopping my slightly younger siblings was justification enough for being punished equally....

Julia said...

Ah, you're a better woman than I!

When something like that happens around here (and it does, all the time), once I calm down (fast forward past that stage, ok?) I sit'em all down and explain two things:

1) We honor honesty here. I care more about the state of their hearts than the state of our stuff. If they're afraid to admit what they did aloud, a note under my pillow will earn a hug.

2) We don't have endless resources, and God didn't give us nice things so that we could be careless with them. Therefore, in order to replace the item, we will have to do it out of current resources. That means we'll all have to tighten our belts for a while: we'll eat simpler meals, forego treats, put off other purchases. I think this step is really important, because otherwise the stuff seems to reappear out of thin air. Everyone needs to know that when things cost money, it affects the entire family.

Of course, when I know who the guilty parties are up front, it's a whole different story. I allow my kids to earn the money to replace broken items. In fact, once there was a camera, two children, and 134 chores each...
and wow was that work for Mom to enforce! But it was worth it.

BettyDuffy said...

Try this:
"OK children, I have discovered who put the phone in the toilet. I know who it is. I am going to administer a consequence, which will either be major or minor, depending on whether or not the perpetrator confesses right now."

Christopher said...

Technical tip: If you haven't already, try placing the entire Iphone in a bucket of rice for several days to soak out all the moisture.

Not sure if it'll recover it completely, but I have seen this work with respect to a digital camera that was soaked through.

cyurkanin said...

Wow, LOL! I agree with every commenter so far, Mrs D. I personally have no problem with punishing them all and find it works more than half the time in finding the true criminal. At LEAST one suspect knows, and probably more (unless the squirrels in Ohio are as tricky and dastardly as the ones in Austin). I think the "I know who did it" method works well when coupled with the threat of the group punishment if that one person can't stand up for honor. If it doesn't this time, the likelyhood of it working on each future occasion increases as well.

Darwin said...

We've done the group punishment thing in contexts where everyone was around during some public event that no one will fess up to, on the theory that anyone who didn't actually participate was still culpable for not intervening or summoning parents.

In this case, part of the problem is that it's somewhat believable that none of them know anything -- except the baby who doesn't listen or talk in useful ways -- since the last known location of the phone was on a counter about six feet from the bathroom in question.

Lauren said...

I asked my friend who is a masi (auntie) extraordinaire, both feared and loved by dozens of children. She's all for the group punishment. If they are all innocent and the baby's to blame, you can pull the "brother's keeper" line on them.

Class factotum said...

I can't punish all four older children on the theory that since I don't know who the culprit is, everyone will share the consequences.

Why not? It works for the Marines.

Suburbanbanshee said...

Yah, my parents were big believers in group punishments. Spared argumentation.

Of course, if one kid were outstandingly bad, that wouldn't work so well.

I like the bucket of dry rice idea. Rice sucks up water big time.

Suburbanbanshee said...

Did you have the phone set on vibrate, btw? I've seen phones vibrate right off desks onto the floor. Very freaky.

Jenny said...

I've heard that a bucket of rice works. A friend of mine had an iPod dropped in the toilet by the her own joyful children. She left it in rice for a couple of weeks and it works fine now.

Arkanabar said...

The sad truth is that there are ADULTS who leave their cell phones on their belts when they go to use the bathroom, from whence they fall into the toilet.