Friday, June 24, 2011

Past Deadline: Get-Offa-My-Lawn!

The morning after Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, Boychild asked who won.

“Boston,” I said, somewhat solemnly.

“Oh.” He had been rooting for Vancouver, but he didn’t appear heartbroken. Don’t tell anyone, but our family regards hockey with somewhat distant affection. It makes us a little odd, I guess. (Yes, we are all Canadian born.)

“And you know what?” I said, unable to contain my disgust. “After the game, a whole bunch of idiots came out and rioted in Vancouver.” I explained how they smashed windows and set fire to cars and that several people got hurt.

Boychild didn’t say much, but looked pensive. He didn’t have the benefit of watching the compelling coverage of the unfolding mayhem on the late news the night before.

Later that day, as I walked down Wilson Street to meet the kids after school, I noticed the landscapers had returned to replace some of the private cement walkways in front of a few homes. The forms were still in place and the cement still looked dark and wet. There were no workers in sight.

There is something about wet cement that triggers a primal urge, don’t you find? Doesn’t it make you want to draw pictures or carve your initials or leave your mark somehow? Well, that’s what I was thinking as I escorted a small throng of little boys and one Girlchild back along the same route, questioning the wisdom of leaving unattended cement along a school zone.

I stood at the end of one walkway as my entourage passed, with no mishaps to report. Right behind them were four older boys. I continued walking, casting a glance over my shoulder, and sure enough they had stopped right in the danger zone and looked as if they were about to leave a legacy behind.

“Hey!” I hollered, startling my troops. “Leave that alone!” And they did.

“Mom!” Boychild scolded. “What are you doing? You don’t even know those boys!”

“So?” I said. “They were about to damage someone’s property, and I wasn’t going to stand by and let them do it.” (Yes, I know. Next I’ll be standing on my front porch shrieking, “Hey-you-kids-get-offa-my-lawn!”)

“But you’re not the boss of them!” Boychild insisted.

“It doesn’t matter,” I said. “When you see someone about to do something wrong, you should speak up.”

I don’t think the message really resonated until later that day when the stories about the riots were recapped on the 6 o’clock news. “Look,” I said to Boychild. “Come and see what these people did in Vancouver.”

He watched with rapt attention. “Those cars that are burning,” I said, “belong to people like us. What if someone had set our car on fire? That’s why you have to speak up when you see people doing bad things.”

I know. Carving your initials in cement is not the same in scope as torching a car, but teaching respect for other people’s property has to start somewhere. And, yes, I realize that not every person who has carved his or her initials in a sidewalk ends up looting and pillaging and committing arson.

It does seem to come back to respect: for people – their feelings and their authority – and for property – their own and other people’s; not to mention taking responsibility for one’s actions. It’s easy to blame “mob mentality” for what happened in Vancouver, I suppose, but that seems awfully convenient when we all have our very own brains to tell us when we’re doing something bad.

After watching the coverage and seeing the flames and the injuries and the craziness of it all, we all agreed that, yes, it was bad.

Maybe it was about hockey and maybe it wasn’t – it depends on who you ask. Whether it all comes out in the wash or not remains to be seen, but is sure is a nasty stain.

Boychild didn’t comment on the part of the coverage that showed a man yelling at looters to stop. They then swarmed him and starting beating him. I hate the thought of having to explain that sometimes the “hey-you-kids-get-offa-my-lawn” approach doesn’t always end well.

Ah, parenting. Not for the weak.

Published in The Perth Courier, June 23/11

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