Our children all tend to pull a lot of stunts while growing up, don’t they? At the Hastings home, it seemed as though those little imaginations were running wild on a daily basis dreaming up what new act that they could commit that would be forever etched in their mom’s memory. Such was the case of what I have affectionately dubbed the “Bound for Juvie” incident.

      In the history of our family, we had a period of about two years that we now refer to as the “ Patrick era .”  Patrick was my son Ben’s best friend in school from the ages of about eleven to thirteen. Patrick was an only child and both of his parents were required to work extremely long hours in their jobs and so Patrick became an honorary member of the Hastings family. He had his own bed, his own dresser and eventually brought his own dog to our home. He went on vacations with us, he fought over food at the dinner table with our boys, he was there just about twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for almost two years and we enjoyed him. He was full of mischievious ideas and tricks however and if the Hastings kids were already a “colorful” bunch (which they definitely were) , then Patrick in the mix most definitely launched them from “colorful” to “vibrant” status!  There were countless incidents involving Ben and Patrick at age eleven and little brother Matty at age eight…enough to account for several of my gray hairs. They had soccer tournaments in the back yard, roller blade competitions in the culdesac and never ending games of “pickle” with the baseball as well, but these were the tame activities. The majority of their time was spent doing such exciting things as playing football and running on the ice of a nearby frozen lake,  doing the low crawl on their bellies though dark sewer pipes and probably many other shady ventures that they still have yet to confess even to this day. ( I only found out about the lake and sewer adventures in the last five years ). One such event that will never be forgotten and has gone down in the family record books as a lesson well learned is the night that Ben almost landed in “juvie”. It began with a phone call one evening around 10 pm. It was from Patrick’s mother who lived in a nearby town house division and she sounded very fearful and was quite hysterical. She informed me that someone had broken into her home because she discovered the front kitchen window had been forced open and there were muddy foot prints all over her kitchen floor. She had already called the police.  She was especially fearful because we had dropped Patrick off at their home earlier that evening as it was Saturday evening, the one evening that he sometimes spent at his own house as he and his mother would go to church together the next morning. She had run upstairs when she saw that their house had been broken into and thankfully was relieved to find Patrick safe and snoozing in his bed. Just the thought of someone being in their home however while he had been asleep upstairs was quite naturally unnerving to say the least. As we were talking on the phone, the police arrived and so we hung up and I asked her to call me back once the police had taken the report and had left. About half an hour later, she calls me back sounding both relieved and somewhat sheepish. She proceeds to tell me that when she was talking to the police downstairs in the kitchen of their townhouse, Patrick heard them talking and had come downstairs to see what was going on. When he realized that his mother had thought that someone had broken in, he confessed to her that earlier that day, he and Ben and Matty had gone over to his house and tried climbing up to the second story and crawling in through his bedroom window, but his window was locked so they had gone around to the kitchen and found a way to jimmie open that window and the three of them had climbed into the house and had apparently left the muddy footprints that they had neglected to clean up. Needless to say, I was seeing red. Ben and Matty had broken one of our first rules of  never being at a friend’s house ever when the parents were not at home, but to think that they, together with Patrick had also forced their way into Patrick’s locked home was off the charts and an offense that in my mind was worthy of a tough love lesson. I asked Patrick’s mother if the police officer was still at her home and she said that he was. I asked her if I could speak with him and when he got on the phone, I told him that I wanted to teach my boys a lesson that they would not soon forget and would he mind calling our house in about fifteen minutes to say that he would be by to pick them up in the cruiser to take them to the juvenile detention center? He chuckled and agreed to play along with my plan. As soon as I hung up the phone, I marched straight upstairs, down the hall and into Ben and Matty’s room that they shared. Of course, as soon as I opened the door, I triggered a trip wire that Ben had rigged up that caused some army men to fall out of a bucket at the top of the door way. His hero and favorite show back then was MacGiver…need I say more? I flipped on the light and went over to the top bunk and started yanking on Ben and in a very loud voice said “Get up, get packed…you’re on your way to the slammer!”  He was groggy from sleeping as was Matty who was slowly starting to sit up on the bottom bunk. As I am pulling Ben down off of the top bunk, he is somewhat alarmed and is saying “What do you mean the slammer?...do you mean jail?” I answer him “Yes…now start packing.” I go on to tell him that I just had a call from Patrick’s mother who had a police officer at her house who would be calling  very shortly to confirm that both of my boys would be ready to be taken to jail. Matty, being eight years old starts to cry hard and I immediately realize that this tough love prank might be a bit much for an eight year old, so I turn around and say to him “Not you…you have to be a certain age to go to jail and lucky for you, you are only eight and too young, but this house will be your jail because after this stunt that you guys pulled today, you aren’t going anywhere for a long time.” I then turn to Ben and as I am throwing a suitcase on the floor in front of their bunk beds , I say “You are not too young though, so get packing, you are on your way to the slammer, the joint, the big house and you have a one way ticket for breaking and entering !”  Ben is standing there frozen with a panic stricken look on his face and he says “I’m too young to go to jail “ and I realize that he is right, that this parental prank is not going to be believable and therefore is not going to work unless I alter the destination just a bit. So I fire back at him “Of course you are, but you are not too young for kid jail which is “juvie” so start packing”. He then replies “ What is the youngest you can be and still go to juvie?” and I look at him with a serious very sad expression and I said “ sadly, it’s eleven.”  His blue eyes began to water up as he is protesting that it should not count as breaking and entering because it was Patrick’s own house and on and on. I simply start throwing several pairs of underwear and clothing in his suitcase as his watered up eyes start to blink out some huge tears. Right about this point, the phone rings in our bedroom just a few doors away down the hallway and I make sure that I am speaking very loudly to the police officer on the phone ..,”Yes officer, he is getting packed right now…yes, I understand completely…he will need clothing for a very long time…yes sir, I completely understand…how soon will we be able to visit him sir?.....” and well, you get the picture. By the time I returned to Ben and Matty’s room , they both were well into sobbing and a “code red” level of panic. I realized it was time  to end the charade and tell them that there actually would be no trips to juvie for anyone ….not that night anyhow. I had two very relieved little boys to say the least. As we have told that story countless times to friends and family over the years, many have laughed and some have even called me cruel to have played such a trick . I have to say that while I can understand in one respect why they accuse me of having been mean and heartless, another part of me disagrees. I just wanted them to experience the feeling of actually being sent away . I wanted them to learn a lesson that they would not soon forget. I wanted them to never again, ever come close to even thinking about breaking into a home whether it is the home of a friend or not. I got my wish, because it never happened again. I am not bragging that I am so wise and all knowing…far from it. I am however so very thankful that God laid it on my heart and mind to teach a powerful lesson that night and that it gained the attention of my sons. Sometimes life is just like that….we all need lessons that are driven home so hard and make such an impression that we don’t ever want to go back to that place again.

           We laugh now as we remember the night that Ben almost went to Juvie …it was a long night , but one that will never be forgotten. Parents, don’t be afraid to take a drastic approach now and then by giving these kiddos a taste of their own medicine with a real good scare.  Those boys certainly gave me enough gray hairs…returning the favor that night might have spared me some more later on!