Last night as we sat around the table, Steven was thinking about the conversation he had just had, moments before, with my sister.
A person from my husband's past had sent Sarah with a message for my husband.
The message was, "No hard feelings....?" along with the sentiment that he thought that Steven was a really great guy-despite their history. He was, after all, just doing his job.
Apparently the conversation with my sister fueled Steven's need to take the opportunity to "share" (ahem) with our children.
As he turned on his storytelling voice, the kids' ears perked up, sure that this would be worth every ounce of their attention.
They weren't wrong.
"Kids, I have a story to tell you."
"You know how on the Dukes of Hazzard... (OK. I am pressing the "pause" button now. Before I continue I would like to say that I think that every half-way decent parent knows that general parenting guidelines, or life lessons, are probably NOT found on The Dukes of Hazzard. Or are they? Anyway. Rewind.)
You know how on the Dukes of Hazzard the Duke boys are always running from the cops? Well, one time, I ran from the cops too."
The kids eyes were wide and L's held a twinkle that made me think that she was admiring her father even more and B's mind was racing wondering if somehow, someway, this would trickle down and go on his record.
Steven continued on....
"You see, once when I was 16 or 17..."
I cleared my throat, looked at the kids and dryly gave them the facts... "He was 21 or 22."
"Oh, OK. So once when I was 21 or 22 I was riding my four-wheeler from my house where I lived with my parents, to your Mi Mi and Pa Pa's house where your mama lived. We were dating and it was only about 2 miles away so I rode my four-wheeler down to see her. I did it all the time...."
B said, "yeah...cause it's in the country!".
Steven looked at him and laughed and said, "Exactly. It's the country. And I rode my four-wheeler all the time. It's just what I did."
At that moment I felt the need to interject the fact that, ".....but it WAS, and is, against the law..."
Steven looked at me and said, "yes. It was against the law. But I always rode my four wheeler on the highway. However, just the week before I had rode it to a conservation area and was confronted by another cop-like person who rattled off all the tickets that he could give me. He didn't, but he said if I was caught again, it was inevitable.
Soooo.....when I was heading to you see your mama and I met a Highway Patrolman and he hit his lights, I got spooked. I decided that I would gun it. Admittedly, not the smartest thing I could have chose to do. But I did. And once you commit, there is no backing down."
I cleared my throat again, making my entrance back into the conversation known, as I stated, "Kids. You can ALWAYS back down if it means doing the right thing...."
Steven hesitated not wanting to have his children "weaken" once they had committed....even if it was committing to running from the law.
Meeting my gaze he caved to the moral obligation of parenting and conceded, "Yeah, I should've just stopped. I felt I had gone too far...." However, the twinkle was still in his eyes.
"You see kids, my plan was to take off and go down beside Pa Pa's barn and follow the road down to the river, through the woods and on my way....without a cop on my trail. However......Pa Pa had shut the gate and although I might've had time to unlock it, my body had adrenaline racing through it and all I could think was, 'I've gone this far......'"
"Right there, I decided to bail off the four wheeler and take off running- for the woods. The patrolman came, searched the barns and woods looking for me, (I swear Steven's chest swelled when he then said:) but he couldn't find me. He then left a card with your Mi Mi and mama saying that I'd better call in 30 minutes or I would be in even bigger trouble."
"Your Mi Mi was mad...your aunt Sissy (age 9) told the cop a replay of how I had slid into the driveway because I was going 'sooo fast' and your mama was embarrassed."
"So, I went back home and called him. He wrote me a lot of tickets but when I went to pay for them the court clerk threw many of them out because they were all so closely related."
He looked at me and smiled sheepishly. "I bet my parents were proud." Honestly, I couldn't help laughing. Years had a way of taking away some of the embarrassment and admittedly, a little admiration had taken it's place.
Not that I condone breaking the law.
We all know I am a rule follower.
But the ability to throw caution to the wind? Wow. I think it's safe to say that is a trait I will NEVER develop, but have learned to admire.
The kids were taking it all in and then L stated, as if realizing for the first time, "we still ride on the highway" to which B replied, "Yeah....because we live in the country." To him it was a no-brainer. Law or no law.
I spent several minutes with the kids schooling them on the importance of laws and law enforcement. I tried to steer clear of explaining why it was OK for us to break that law, and not others... No parenting award for me but I was hoping to somewhat redeem myself as a parent with all the talk of lessons learned and mistakes made.
Knowing the part of him that was a father always took precedent over the part of him that would most likely "run" again, given the opportunity, Steven even encouraged them to always do the right thing and not follow in his footsteps.
I was hoping that just maybe a lesson had been taught and that giving the kids this glimpse of their father at 21 would end up being a learning experience where Steven could honestly say, "Been there. Done that. Kids, learn from my mistakes."
I began to rise to clear the table, believeing that maybe I had been successful in turning 'storytime' into an opportunity to drive home the point that no matter what the situation, you always can 'turn around' and do the right thing. Changing your course is always an option. Steven himself was proof of that.
However, I hadn't even grabbed my first plate when Steven matter-of-factly stated,
"However, if sometime you do decide to run, ditch your vehicle and then call the cops and report it stolen."
I think I have my work cut out for me.