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.