When our family bought our house some sixteen years ago, the nice young couple that we bought it from were the original owners. They had lived in the house for five years and were quite proud of the fact that not just them, but that all of the other families on the street were also the original owners of their homes as well…the point being that everyone was obviously very satisfied and content with their home, their neighbors and the neighborhood in general. That seemed to be one of the main selling points as this couple kept mentioning this overall happiness that permeated our street. After we had moved in and had lived there for about a year, we noticed that five separate families on our street alone had put their house on the market. Hmm…what could this fact be saying to us?  We had often joked about whether this was a mere coincidence or perhaps there was a link between us moving in and others moving out. I am actually being only half serious when I say that, but I cannot help but wonder if we were responsible for the mass exodus when I reflect back on many memorable episodes of the Hastings kids capers. One such incident has been recorded in the family record books as the “Late Night Streaker.”

 

    I have already mentioned in an earlier blog that Ben’s best friend named Patrick, who, when they were eleven to thirteen years old had come to live with us during a two year period. During this time period, our youngest son, Matty was eight. Patrick basically stayed overnight at our home every night except Saturday night when his mom would pick him up late , approximately around 10pm and take him home. On one particular Saturday evening right around 10 pm the doorbell rang and sure enough, it was Patrick’s mom at the door. When I opened the door, I became concerned when I saw an alarmed expression on her face. She immediately began talking very rapidly to me and since she is Korean and spoke very broken English , I had a difficult time understanding completely what she was saying to me . She just kept gesturing and saying over and over “ Your little boy , not Ben , but little boy..he running with no clothes on.”  I gathered that she was trying to say that she saw our youngest son Matty outside somehow running naked. I knew that this was am impossibility because first,  Patrick, Ben and Matty were all downstairs in the basement playing and second, my kids would certainly never even think of doing something like that because they knew that they would be dead meat for lack of a better term. I flatly told her that she was mistaken by saying “No, that is not possible because he is downstairs….” however I never finished what I was going to say. I was stopped in mid sentence because just as I was about to say the word “playing”, I saw what appeared to be a four foot  streaker run so fast across my front yard that I thought perhaps I had not seen what I thought I had just seen but deep down I knew that I had. Our eight year old son had just streaked across our front yard …yes...that is what I mean….running at full speed in nothing but his birthday suit. Mrs.Volpe (Patrick’s mom) also saw him again and turned to me with eyes as big as half dollars and said “See- that your little boy, right?”  I looked at her and nodded and said “Yes, that is my little boy who will not be a very happy little boy in about two minutes.” I then invited her in as I went flying around the house to the back yard to catch up with bad bare Leroy Brown! I got to the back yard just as I hear the door from the back yard to the basement slamming but thankfully I get a hold of the doorknob before the little fugitive has time to lock it. I open the door to see him running in to the basement and he is now standing there in front of me stark naked and in full knowledge that if I get my hands on him that he is close to breathing his last breaths. I yell “What in the world is going on?” and he very nervously says “Ben and Patrick and I were playing strip poker and well, I’m losing.” I immediately shoot a glance over at Ben and Patrick who are sheepishly sitting like Indians on the floor holding hands of cards. Patrick is sitting there in nothing but his whitie tighties and he says in sort of a panic stricken way “I’m in second place”. Ben is fully clothed from the waist down but has no shirt on and he says “I’m winning..I’m in first.”  I am standing there open mouthed and for one of the only times in my life, am speechless. I finally get over the initial shock and I ask a logical question… I am trembling and trying to keep somewhat under control and I yell “Okay, Matty has been stripped down to the bare essentials guys, guess what..that means he lost..game over..why is he running around the house?” Ben answers, “Well, he didn’t have anything else to take off, so we had to come up with something because he lost the last hand again.” He then continues "We only made him run around the house just two times!" At this point I am mad and want to explode and scream but this slowly begins to strike me as just a bit hilarious. I want to laugh and cry at the same time. I instead said “Game over and all of you get dressed” and went upstairs to Mrs. Volpe who was laughing with her hand over her mouth. I was definitely relieved to see that she had a sense of humor about the whole thing. In the end, I am sure that they were punished  somehow although I cannot remember what the penalty was. Once again, like Ben’s “juvie night", this one is in the family records book..

          
    
I tell that story for a specific reason. I shared it because I want to try to help parents who are in the trenches of active parenting right now even as I type this. I want to encourage them by helping them realize that kids will surprise us, they will be unpredictable to the point of shocking us at times with some of the stunts that they will pull. Does this make them bad kids and does it make us bad parents? Absolutely not! Please understand that I am not excusing bad or even outrageous behavior such as my son’s that night and I do feel that wrong behavior should definitely be dealt with and children should be punished appropriately. The Bible does clearly tell us however that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child and this incident alone proves the truth of that scripture. How we react to their inevitable actions of foolish behavior is the key. Do we become so ridiculously harsh and severe to the point that as our kids are growing up, they begin to think that we have no sense of humor or appreciation for the fact that as kids, they are going to really mess up at times? Or do we deal with incidents reasonably and perhaps even have the flexibility to chuckle at the unexpected, even if it reaches the top mark on the outrageous meter? Do yourselves and your kids a favor and choose the latter..it will make an enormous difference in the closeness and the tone of your home if you do. By the way, I have come to realize that the same daring spirit and spunk that my son exhibited that evening as an eight year old is also the same attribute that has contributed to his great success as a man in both his personal and professional life and that is a very good thing. Our whole family has sat and reminisced and had a good laugh together many times over our little late night streaker many years ago. If I could, I wouldn’t change a thing about what happened that night as quite frankly that memory is one of the joys and blessings of being a parent. I wouldn’t have it any other way!