Recently, my daughters were playing in the neighborhood when they came across some older boys they had never met. The boys were playing a game that involved cursing. My older daughter asked them to stop. It wasn't because she had never been exposed to the words before, but she had her little sister with her, and felt like the language was without a doubt not for young ears. Some words were exchanged, and my daughters and their friend finally headed home.
In my opinion, this interaction was nothing unusual for young people testing their independence and pushing the boundaries of childhood when they are out of the watchful gaze of their parents. However, what happened next cannot be described from the same coming-of-age perspective.
The boys followed my daughters to their playhouse, waited until they left, tracked mud throughout the house, and then threw our "Private Property" sign into the nearby creek. No real damage was done, but it was the thought that boys would follow little girls and then try to mess up their personal property that really got me steamed.
They were afraid to tell me at first for fear of what I might do. And they were right to be scared. Once I found out one of the boys' names and where he lived, I went right to the house and knocked on the door.
After my daughter told her story to the boy's father, he called his son out and asked him if he had in fact done this. The boy admitted to it. The father was appropriately disappointed, and assured me he would take it seriously.
Part of me expected a boys-will-be-boys argument in return for my concerns, but instead, what I got was a caring, involved parent who expected better behavior from his son. He followed up with me the next day about his further discussions with his son, and connected me with the parents of the other boy who was involved. They were equally concerned and told me their son had been grounded for his actions and would be available to clean up the playhouse if necessary.
I was not only relieved, but pleasantly surprised by the parents' response in a culture where we constantly see examples of parents excusing and enabling bad behavior from their children.
It was reassuring to know that even in this crazy chaotic, fast-moving world that parents still expect their children to take responsibility for their actions, and that can make all the difference.
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including one on motherhoold called "Smotherhood." Find her here every Monday.