When you have kids, you spend a lot of time teaching them not to tattle. You hafta be careful with this, because you want to keep them safe, but you also do not want to hear their complaints all the livelong day. You want them to shut up and learn to work out their own conflicts.
Early on, you teach them, “If it’s not hurting anyone, you’re tattling.”
You also say things like, “Don’t play with matches,” and “Don’t put anything metal in the toaster,” but with less frequency than you say, “Stop tattling.”
Sometimes kids are conflicted though, so they come home and they say somethin like, “Um, no one is hurt yet, and I’m not sure this is tattling, buuuuuut, Ginny is playin with matches…and um, I think that…um…”
And you are out the door! Gone to hunt Ginny down! You’re gonna have a chat to Ginny about Smokey the Bear!
The twist comes when you reach nine-year-old Ginny, who tells you her mother said it was okay for her to play with matches.
On a military installation.
In the summer.
On grass as dry and brittle as my patience for other people’s children.
You are suspicious of Ginny, and you ask her, “Why would it be okay?”
Ginny’s mom said it was okay, because she was only playing with matches outside.
Gee, thanks Ginny’s Mom. So long as she doesn’t burn your house down, it’s fine. Never mind the rest of us, livin here in the middle of the PINE FOREST!
Now you hafta go talk to Ginny’s mom. This could go either way. Ginny’s probably lyin, and her mom will probably freak out, too. But you know, in the back of your head, that Ginny’s mom could be a real piece of work. She could end up yellin at you, tellin you it’s none of your business, and to mind your own kids.
Then you’ll hafta call the MP’s because it really is not okay for kids to play with matches, anywhere…and, and…
This is really more parenting than you planned to do today! And oh my God, it’s soooo hot outside! Why Ginny lives so far? Why I gotta live in Georgia?!?
As it turns out, Ginny’s mom is a freaker-outter, too. Aren’t you relieved?