Crunch time

IMG_5559Two perfect puncture marks, accented by a spiderweb of cracks, adorn the screen of my son’s new, only-had-it-since-Christmas, please-Mom-I-really-need-it smartphone. It actually doesn’t look that bad; I’ve seen people using phones that look as if they’ve been on the receiving end of a sledgehammer with nary a hiccup of service. Even so, those two marks that perfectly match our dog’s dentition are enough to ensure that the screen won’t respond at all.

Of course, my boyo is mad. His best buddy in the world took a bite out of his social livelihood. What a jerk, right?

I’m not so sure. After all, Wallace is a puppy. Chewing has been etched into his DNA since before time began. At seven months old with new molars erupting, the urge is stronger than ever. He might know he’s not supposed to, but that beautiful, shiny toy was just lying there in plain view on the couch like an open invitation. And the fact that it smelled like his favorite human-brother must have sealed the deal.

Wait. It was lying on the couch unattended? In an environment where we have to put shoes on high shelves to avoid Wallace’s mouthy attention? Where boyo insists on keeping his bedroom door shut so his favorite puppy can’t wander in unattended and chew stuff up?

Hmm. Who should have known better here? Whose fault was it really? The dog’s, for doing what he has been genetically programmed to do? Or the kid’s, for failing to take Wallace’s into account puppydom and properly safeguard his possessions?

Boyo didn’t like that when he called to plaintively report the transgression, my first question centered on why he had left his phone unattended–and the second on why he had left the dog unattended. I would have reminded him of Aesop’s fable about the snake (You knew what I was when you picked me up, so why did you do it?), but he wouldn’t have listened.

He wanted to kennel Wallace for the rest of the night, shame him on the internet, and refuse to talk to him for weeks. Sorry, bud, but it doesn’t work that way. Punish him in the moment to deter future bad behavior, but the responsibility rests on you. It’s your job to take care of your stuff. YOU knew better.

He doesn’t want to hear that. He wants to whine and point fingers and lash out. He’s mad, but deep down, he’s really mad at himself, and here’s the reason, whether it involves a puppy or anything else:

Placing blame is easy; shouldering it isn’t.

We could all use a reminder of that from time to time.

When you point your finger ’cause your plan fell through, you’ve got three more fingers pointing back at you. –from Solid Rock, by Dire Straits


So sue me

About a month ago, I took my he-man wrestler son to the emergency room for only the second time ever. He had bent his elbow at an odd angle in practice, and though I was fairly sure the prescribed remedy would be ice, immobilization, and ibuprofen, I went through the motions of having it checked, just in case.

Three hours and a pile of forms later, we walked out of the hospital with an ice pack and a sling, as well as instructions to take ibuprofen. (Told you so.) After a few days, my son’s arm was back to normal. Case closed on a normal adolescent rite of passage.

Apparently, I was wrong.

Last week I received a form from the insurance company to be filed in cases of an accidental injury. Although a bit puzzled (shouldn’t most injuries be accidental? and if they are instead deliberate, shouldn’t THOSE be the ones requiring explanation?), I attacked the form with my pen, eager to move on.

I quickly observed that the form was intended to help the insurance company determine where it could lay blame, i.e. who else might be able to pay for the charges. There were sections that requested the name and address of the responsible party and homeowner’s insurance information. My hackles really started to rise when I reached the question about whether I had retained legal representation, but I didn’t completely lose it until question number 9.

If a lawsuit or claim against the responsible party will not be filed, please explain.

Wait, what? I have to explain why I’m NOT filing a lawsuit? I guess that means the presumption is that we should always be looking for someone else to blame, and I find that appalling. It should be the other way around. People should have to justify the lawsuits they do file, not the ones they don’t.

Whether we play sports, get behind of the wheel of a car, order a hot beverage at a drive-thru window, or [fill in the blank with your own example], we bear responsibility for our own actions. My son chose to participate, with my blessing, in a physical contact sport. Sometimes people get hurt, and we both knew that going in–and accepted the risk accordingly. Now that it has actually happened, we can’t look for somewhere else to shift the blame.

That’s my not-so-humble opinion. If you don’t like it, sue me.