Culprit

I uncover it as I pick up the coffee can to put it away, and my mouth gapes. It’s scrawled exuberant in pencil at the back edge of the kitchen counter: “Jesus loves you!”

Graffiti has not been something we’ve had problems with, but even the Jesus-themed variety shocks me and has me imagining a future where covert graffiti is unearthed all over the house.  I gather the six youngest kids from their lessons to stand before the scrawl.

They all look dumbfounded, innocent.  All deny. 

One of the most frustrating parts of parenting many is the difficulty of finding a culprit.  Sometimes I just want to know WHO did whatever-it-is.  Not to punish, just to know.

I tell them they can stand there til the truth comes out.  “There’s no punishment.  I just want the truth. No problem if it takes all day, ” I say, cheery on the surface but stern inside as I walk away. I’m on shaky ground– who knows if I’ll get a confession.  But I’ve got my gumption up and I WILL, bygolly, know who has chosen to scrawl on my countertop like a train-tagger with a spray can.

Hopefully standing staring at each other as minutes tick by will cause the guilty party to confess.

John is just as irritated.  But he’s brain-storming.  He offers the kids a face-saving option: “Did anyone do it and forget?” No. He asks if we’ve had company.  No.

Then he heads upstairs and returns with our 16 year old son.  The one who I didn’t think to include in the inquisition because of course a 16 year old would never write on the counter.

But the 16 year old is looking sheepish.  “You?” I say in shock, laughing, my frustration draining away.  The younger kids’ faces are all relief, and dad tells big brother to apologize to the falsely accused younger ones.  As he goes to scrub the counter suddenly everyone in the room is laughing and accepting his apology and heading back to finish their school.

And mom is once again reminded how this parenting gig keeps ya on your toes, serving as a daily reminder that you don’t know as much as you think you do.  And how you’re always better off remembering to laugh.

{ 22 Comments }

  1. One of my daughters and my son each went through a graffiti stage (short-lived). The thing is, they signed their own names. I said, please, if you’re going to be silly enough to draw on a wall, at least be smart enough to sign your sister’s name – not your own!! 😉

  2. Whoa. I never would have dreamed it would have been your 16 year old! What a crack up! So unlike him! 🙂

  3. Made me laugh today! Oh the joys of parenting many children.

  4. I wish my parents would have done what you did. Sadly in our house it was line us all up and ask for a confession, if no confession came daddy beat us all with a belt till someone confessed. Then when we confessed we were given more spanks because we ‘lied’ and we were guilty.
    As the oldest in a group of 5 I can tell you I got my share of beatings for things I did not do and knew nothing about. That never mattered to my dad.
    I am so happy to read about parents who raise their children with love and guide them in the right direction with good motives.

  5. I signed my name in the bathroom cupboard … and then my sister signed hers right below mine. Only hers was visible. *sigh* I’ve had other sisters write their names on furniture, as well. My desk caught its share of graffiti, but it was *my* desk, and therefore I was allowed to do whatever I wanted to it. Or at least I never got in any trouble!

  6. Such a real look at life, especially with bio and adopted kids and expectations and attachment and normal “kid” stuff. Good to laugh when you get it wrong. And boy, do I sometimes get it wrong!

  7. We just recently found pre-school scrawl on our bedroom door. Our four year old was very proud of his work as he sternly told his siblings that he had written, “This is mom and dad’s room…KEEP OUT!”. He was tired of being the only one who understood the rule (we finally got the message across to the fifth child)and took matters into his own hands. It was impossible to discipline his good intentions but I have been more careful to provide plenty of paper for him to write on!

  8. I have to smile, I love how you handled that! I love reading all the responses also! I did have a place I could write freely on, it was an old fashioned school desk that my Great Grandfather had saved for me from a one room school-house fire (he lived in a rural area that still had one roomed schools) All the previous children in the world, ok..only that school, had written or carved their names into the top of this desk..so I could write whatever I wanted…BUT instead my friends and I decided to write on the wall inside my closet and to even leave lipstick kiss prints..I forgot all about it and many years later visited the home after it had new owners. They had remodelled my room, and in front of my husband asked me who’s lips were left in the closet! I turned very red and admitted to it. 🙂 Hubby teased me for months!

  9. Gotta watch those bored artist types. Pretty soon they’re painting on the church ceilings if you’re not careful. 😀

  10. When you only have one – it is funny when they deny it – At Easter one year he found the candy and came downstairs with chocolate all over his face – I said Mitchell did you eat any candy that wasn’t yours- “No mama – in the sweetest voice – I did laugh and then told him it isn’t like Grandma who had all of us to figure out who was guilty – he know gets it – better to just take your lumps and don’t blame the dog 🙂

  11. Ha! Didn’t see that one coming either! 😉

  12. 😀 That’s awesome. 😀 Pencil is totally washable on the countertops anyway. 😀

  13. A few years ago my mom called and accused me of writing on the underside of the dining room table (she found it while cleaning). I scoffed and asked how she knew it was me. “Because you signed your name”. And apparently not just my name, but also my age!

    For reasons which I do not remember, the rest of what I wrote was “This table is and always will be my family”.

    So guess who mom is trying to pawn off this old…errr…vintage table to???

  14. Weren’t you glad to be reminded of the fact that Jesus loves you? Even though your children can be a trial at times 🙂

    😉

  15. When my oldest was 5 he wrote his name on the kitchen table with a sharpie. Yes a sharpie. When we asked him who did this (he was an only child at the time), he said it wasn’t him. Luckily dad was able to remove it. We still laugh about it.

  16. We usually find those “writings” when we move furniture! All three kids have written their names or drawn pictures throughout the house: on the wall behind the desk, under the desk, under the coffee table, under the kitchen table, on the wall at the basement stairs…and on and on.