- Don’t touch a cowboy’s hat or a lady’s hair-do.
- Don’t ask anyone how many acres they have, how many head of cattle they own, or how much money they have in the bank.
- Do not ask a lady how much she weighs or how old she is.
- Never ask a big lady when her baby is due.
- Don’t tell anyone your social security number, your pin number or your locker combination.
- If you eat the whole bag of Fritos, keep it a secret.
These are social norms or rules. They aren’t laws, but they are so ingrained that they might as well be laws. Some are as old as dirt, and some are relatively new. The Frito rule might be specific to my little family. There are a lot of rules that kids need to learn, and a lot of them can sound kind of silly. Now that Will is older, he understands the one about a cowboy’s hat. He still doesn’t get the one about a lady’s hair-do. Maybe that’s because I don’t really have any sort of hair-do, and I don’t personally adhere to that rule about my own hair. Will is a literal fellow, and I can remember that it took a lot of explainin’ to get across the point about not asking how many cows someone has, or how much money they have. If he was quick to tell someone how many pennies he had in his piggy bank, why wouldn’t they say how many dollars they had?
Last night Mark was over. The visit included the usual high-pitched, sing-song voice, the faked appreciation of the kids’ artwork, and tediously exaggerated tales of his grandeur. When Mark left, Will told me, “Dad gave Bob our locker combination so Bob could wax my skis.” I have met Bob only one time.
The kids and I have been invited to share a locker with some other family members. (These family members are extended family, and they are not part of Mark’s extended family.) The locker is not ours. The locker combination is not ours. Perhaps you may even be able to hear my fingers slamming the keys of my keyboard at this point? At the beginning of the season, Will had gone skiing with Mark. When Will couldn’t get the locker open, he shared the combination with his dad, hoping his dad would be able to get the lock to cooperate. That was an innocent move that any child would make — even a child who is beginning to grasp the rule about not sharing your locker combination, pin number, or social security number.
Over the course of my ‘relationship’ with Mark, I have seen many instances where Mark has not followed rules. It wasn’t so much that he fudged a little, or that he was in a hurry, or that he figured he could bend a rule just this one time, he firmly believes that rules don’t apply to him. Just because a sign says “No Parking”, that doesn’t mean he can’t park there. You would think there would even be some fine print on the bottom of the sign that read, “But it’s okay for you, Mark.”
Several months ago, Mark had to write a check for something pertaining to the kids. When he handed me the check, I noticed that his social security number was on the check, under his name and address. I’m not making this up. I asked him if he understood the consequences of having his social security number on his checks. Why would I care? Sometimes I think that I am still so dumbfounded by the things he does, that I have to dig deeper, just to understand why he does those things. I still don’t know if his check includes that private number because he figures nothing could ever happen to him; he’s too stupid to understand the security issues; or maybe he thinks he’s so fabulous that he ought to be sharing that number along with his name and address. I have no idea what he’s thinking. I never do.
There’s plenty of things that you say to kids that seem crazy. “No, Honey, kitties don’t need pajamas.” “Don’t sit on your pizza.” “Please don’t kick your sister in the head with the pointy part of your cowboy boot.” “Yes, we do change underwear everyday.” You just don’t think you have to explain the basic stuff to a grown up. And yet, I called Mark to explain the locker combination rule. I told him that it was completely inappropriate for him to give our locker combination away. He responded with, “Well, Will gave it to me.” WHAT? Once again, I have to ask, just who is the responsible adult here?
After the dust settled on this whole fiasco, Will came up to me and apologized for giving his dad the combination. I explained that he did what any kid would do. He needed help getting his locker opened, and he turned to his dad for assistance. It was his dad’s responsibility to act like an adult, and not share that number with anyone else. Will then said, “Well, if dad doesn’t act like an adult, I have to.”