Usually when things go missing in your home, there’s a simple and prosaic explanation: Socks coming out of the dryer cling to larger articles of clothing, car keys get pushed or fall behind larger objects, and the television remote becomes wedged between couch cushions, or if you happen to live in Milwaukee, rolls of fat. Even if it might take a while to locate these missing items, you don’t exactly need Sherlock Holmes to figure out why they disappeared in the first place. But from time to time some things go missing for which there is no rational explanation. For instance, I had a case of beer in my fridge last Friday, and I woke up at noon the next day, they were gone. I asked my neighbors if they might know where they had gone, but they were mad at me for some unknown reason, or maybe they were just preoccupied trying to paint over the giant “Led Zeppelin Rules!” someone had spray painted on the side of their house in 15 foot letters. The point I’m trying to make is that my neighbors need to lighten the fuck up. If I find any of those beers, maybe I’ll offer them a couple.
Another item that has been disappearing from my house with shocking regularity is spoons. Regular, every day spoons, the kind that Oprah uses to eat Nutella straight from the 50 gallon drum (although mine aren’t gold-plated like hers probably are). And it’s not like I live next door to Uri Geller or anything. There is no logical reason why spoons would one day just start disappearing and continue to do so for over ten years in two different houses.
One of my 13 year old daughter’s chores (other than sarcasm and furious eye rolling) is to do the dishes after dinner. I was helping her the other day when I brought the subject up. “We’re low on spoons again. What is the deal with that? Do you know where the spoons disappear to?”
“We don’t lose forks, we don’t lose knives, we just lose spoons. And it’s been going on for the longest time, too. It’s really strange.”
“How long has it been going on for?”
“About ten years. They started disappearing… right around the time… when you got tall enough to open drawers… All right, missy, where are all the spoons?”
Of course my daughter feigns innocence when confronted with this fact. She feigns innocence when confronted with anything. She’s really stubborn, and will not admit that she’s been lying about something well past the point of sanity. This is an almost verbatim conversation I used to have with her, back when she was under the impression that homework was only for serfs and derelicts, and not Royalty such as herself.
Me: Are you caught up on all of your homework?
Daughter: (watching TV, texting, listening to god awful pop music). Uh-huh.
Me: Really? Because when I checked last night, you had five different assignments marked as missing.
Daughter: I got them all done. GOD, WHY DON’T YOU EVER BELIEVE ME?!?!?
Me: Ok, I’m going to go online again, and if there are any assignments that are marked as missing, I’m grounding you until you’re 35. Unless you’d like to take this opportunity to tell me something?
Daughter: NO, DAD! I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE GOING TO ACTUALLY CHECK ON MY HOMEWORK LIKE I’M SOME KIND OF LIAR OR SOMETHING! I’M YOUR OWN DAUGHTER! GEEZ! (eye-rolling so furious that I’m pretty sure she’s getting a good look at the back of her brain)
And of course, I’d go online and discover that not only had she not done any of those assignments, but there were three more that hadn’t been turned in as well. But she would be so stubborn that she would insist that she had turned all of those assignments in. And then she’d get even more upset that I didn’t believe her. “Ok, look, I admit that I lied to you all those other times, but this time I’m being serious: I turned all eight of those assignments in. The teacher has it in for me! They forgot to update the system! I forgot to put my name on them! WHY DON’T YOU EVER BELIEVE ME? GOD!!!”
So I know that the odds of my daughter fessing up to the missing spoons is approximately the same as Miley Cyrus winning the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. And as a parent, it’s my job to realize that in the grand scheme of things, a few missing spoons are not exactly the end of the world, so I have to drop the subject but come up with subtle ways to use it to my advantage, to use the situation to teach some sort of life lesson that my daughter can benefit from as she inevitably goes out into the world.
You spend a lot of time doing this sort of thing when you’re a parent, always on the lookout for a teaching opportunity, like the one that presented itself a couple of days later as we were eating a late lunch at the Paradise Bakery. A woman who was buying food about ten feet away from us looked at the cashier and said, “Excuse me. You gave me too much change.”
“Did you see that, honey? The cashier gave that lady too much change, and she brought it to her attention and gave it back.”
“She gave the money back?” My daughter asked, incredulously. I don’t doubt for a minute that mu daughter, in the same situation, would succumb to the temptation we all feel in the same circumstance. Money, after all, is hard to come by when you’re 13.
“Yes, she did. She obviously knows that there are some things that are worth more than money. And you can’t buy these things in the store. You can only come by them by being moral. By doing the right thing. By telling the truth.”
We were leaving as I was saying this, and my daughter stopped me just before I walked out the door. “Hey! Did you throw out the plastic basket along with your trash?”
I hesitated a second before I answered, unsure of what I had just done. “Ummm, I don’t know…”
“AND WAS THERE A SPOON IN THAT BASKET?”
“Yes! Yes there was!!!“
“NO!!! GOD, WHY DON’T YOU EVER BELIEVE ME?” I said, as I rolled my eyes. Some lessons you have to teach your kids the hard way, like how God is some sort of fucking wise guy.