We FINALLY went to the library a couple of weeks ago. I say “finally” because we are one of those families who tends to renew the same books four or five times in a row. Honestly, afternoons get crazy, and the library usually doesn’t make the priority list. I am working on that because my kids are all avid readers and adore the library.
Let’s be honest, though; it is not as if they are without reading material. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie is still sitting on the shelf, just like it has been for 16 years. I am pretty sure it is not possible to get tired of that one. After they finish that, we have several Junie B. Jones books that make me laugh every time. Then they can start on the Magic Treehouse collection that Carson got for Christmas. Reading those would give my teenagers a break from reading the heavier stuff, like Lord of the Flies, for instance. They really should be thanking me.
I was not looking forward to going to the library this time around because Carson left a hardbound book out in the rain, and I knew that we would have to replace it. Those hardbound books are expensive, you know. Why couldn’t he have ruined a paperback?
Since I was dragging my feet even more than usual, it had been close to three months since we had been to this thrilling palace of books. Being the responsible mother that I am, I had renewed all of the books for the younger kids to avoid late fines. The older kids are in charge of doing that for themselves. I do not even know when their books are due because they are supposed to be responsible. At least, that is what I anticipated when they decided to use their own email addresses for library reminders.
After we had arrived at the library and returned the stack of books that were due, the kids scattered to look for their next treasures. They have learned that whatever they choose will probably have to last them for a few months, so they were trying to choose wisely.
A few minutes into this process, one of my older children, who shall remain nameless to protect the [not so] innocent, came to me with a stack of books in his hand, and this conversation ensued:
Child: Mom, I cannot check out these books until I pay my fine.
Me: (Realizing that small fines never keep you from checking out books) Exactly how much do you owe?
Child: (Mumbling) $46
Me: (Trying to use my library voice, but probably not succeeding) Excuse me, but did you just say $46?
Child: Yeah, I know it is bad.
Me: Well, you could say that again!! I am pretty sure that you are not checking out any books today.
Child: (Slamming the books down on the nearest table, and definitely not using his library voice) Fine!
Child stomps away to hide in the stacks. I pick up his books and follow him.
Me: (Upon finding him) Why don’t we look up your account on the computer?
We find the computer designated for paying fines, and look up his account. Sure enough, $46 screams out at me from the screen. I didn’t know words on a page could scream, but I was sorely mistaken.
Me: Do you have the money to pay this fine?
Child: No, but they have a program that allows you to get 50 cents towards your fine for every can of food that you donate. I could just go home and get some food from the pantry.
Me: So, let me get this straight…you are planning to bring in 92 cans of food to pay this fine? That would cost way more than $46.
Child: No it wouldn’t, because I could just bring cans that we already have.
Me: I don’t think so, mister! You are paying for this fine out of your own pocket, and you are not checking out any more books until you pay it off.
Child: (Smoke coming out of his ears) Fine!
Me: Fine. I love you. 🙂
Please tell me that stuff like this happens to other people, too.
Lest this experience passes without a lesson, let me tell you a couple of things that this large library fine has brought to the forefront of my mind:
1. Responsibility is a learned skill.
Even kids who seem to be on top of things will still have to learn it in one way or another. For instance, even though it seems logical that turning in library books on time and turning in school assignments on time are similar, a kid who never turns in homework late may still rack of huge library fines without giving it a second thought. Just take my word on this one. 🙂
2. Responsibility is often learned at a cost, but the cost will be far less if kids learn it from a loving parent while they are still young.
Although $46 seems like a ton for most kids, it is much cheaper than late fines on a credit card or mortgage payment will be in the future. At least, I am the collections agency this time around. While I do insist on payment promptly, I am nice about it. It is good for kids to learn these important life skills in a safe home environment because the real world will not be quite so forgiving.
3. Rescuing children from the consequences of their own choices will likely come back to bite both of you at some point in the future.
While part of me wanted to pay the fine and move on with life after giving him a little slap on the wrist, the bigger part of me thought: “You made your bed, and now you must sleep in it.”
Although I do feel that most of the time it does more harm than good to routinely bail kids out when they make bad choices, I am not saying that you should never do it. There are definitely occasions when it is appropriate to rescue them, but I don’t think there is a “one size fits all” solution to when that would be in order. That is where wisdom comes in. I do wish that trait was a natural byproduct of parenting, but I’m afraid it is a learned skill that I am still working to develop. It just might take me a lifetime. Hopefully, my kids will turn out OK in spite of me!
4. Laugh, laugh, laugh.
These are the kinds of stories that get told over and over again. Life would be downright boring if it weren’t for mistakes that give us something to talk about following the words, “Remember when…”
I am so thankful that I have such
responsible hilarious children who always give me a reason to laugh!