Saturday, February 23, 2008

In Which Responsibility Doesn't Matter

Bub got a brand new bike for Christmas. Nearly every day since, he has been on that bike. Each afternoon, from the moment his homework is finished until dinnertime, he is either out riding his bike or harassing me to go riding. He lives for the freedom found in those two wheels.

One day, Bub came in from bike riding and had been at home for some time waiting to eat dinner. When I went outside to store the bike for the night, I realized it wasn't in our yard. I asked him about it, he said he'd left his bike laying on the sidewalk at the very end of our street in the cul-de-sac where he and his friend Ramsey practice curb-hopping. Together we walked to the cul-de-sac and home again, and Bub got an earful there and back about how we take care of our things; how we keep them safe; how we don't leave them lying about in the neighborhood, but rather put them on our porch right by the front door until we're ready for them to go into the garage once again. I warned him that even leaving a bike laying out in the yard could tempt someone who wanted to take it (though our cul-de-sac street is daily littered with bikes and scooters far more expensive than the ones our children own).

Amazingly, Bub took my words to heart. Every day, he'd ride his bike, and when he was done, he'd park it on our porch so close to the front door that it often tripped me as I went out to put it away. Since that day in the cul-de-sac, Bub has been very responsible, and his bike has been perfectly safe.

Today, I spent all morning working on homework. Though I generally try to not work on homework over the weekend, I had to complete a project with a deadline. Because of the program I was required to work in, I was bound to the computer in our game room (as opposed to my laptop). I believe the kids noticed my predicament (of a deadline and a spacial limitation) because they thought it would be great to play post office six feet from my body. They wrote and delivered "letter" after "letter" after "letter" to me, waiting until I read every word and commented on their good spelling, improved handwriting, thoughtful content, and so on, each and every time. Then, some of their stuffed animal recipients became hard of hearing, so they played in their loudest possible voices. It was really fun, which is why I made them stop playing their fun game and go outside for some sunshine and bike riding. I'm mean and cruel like that.

After a brief time in the out of doors, they were ready to come back in. They'd been wind-whipped and needed some lunch. As they came in the door, I counted two bikes at our porch. Gracie's was nearly against the door, and Bub's was just behind hers: front wheel on the porch, back wheel on our walkway. They were inside for less than an hour when we decided to run some errands as a family. We stepped out to put the bikes back in the garage, but discovered only Gracie's remained. Someone walked into our yard and up to our porch to steal Bub's bike. Can you believe it? Here are a couple more things that make the situation even more ridiculous:

1.) Neither of our children's bikes are very expensive. They're great bikes, and the kids just love them, but they're a couple of average-priced models from Wal-Mart. When we discovered Bub's bike to be missing, we drove up and down our street to be certain one of the neighbor kids didn't "borrow" it, and at house after house, there were really pricey bikes laying on the sidewalk or in the street. Bub's average-priced bike was up next to our house, and this theft very risky for a less valuable product.

2.) Bub's was the lesser attractive of the two bikes on our porch. From the beginning, Gracie's bike was so much cuter than Bub's. His was a fine bike, but her bike is as cute as can be. Additionally, Gracie creeps around on her bike, and hasn't launched it off of anything. Bub has already ridden the wheels practically off his bike. His tubes have been patched, he's broken a foot pedal, and already dirt has found a permanent home in every crevice. Again, just compared to the other bike on our porch, Bub's bike (as one obviously well-loved by a busy little boy) was a less valuable product.

These two facts really puzzled me all day, but as I thought about them, I came to this conclusion: in an effort to prevent getting caught, a bike thief probably wants to steal something that blends, that doesn't stand out. In all probability, it's that reason that Bub's bike was chosen out of all the ones on our street, and even among the ones on our porch. Now we have to decide what to do for Bub. There's not really a lesson to be learned here that should delay us in purchasing a new bike for him. Surprisingly, he wasn't careless with his belongings and did precisely what we told him to do to keep his bike safe. In this situation, his responsibility didn't matter. We'll probably wait a few days to make sure it doesn't turn up somewhere, but by next weekend, it will have to be replaced. That will give us ample time to devise some new ground rules.


  • The Dukes Family

    That's so sad because you're right - he was being so diligent and responsible, doing exactly what you had asked him to do. Definitely not one of those things that's begging for a consequence, but rather a sad life lesson.

  • Someone Being Me

    That is sad. And odd. Most kids stealing a bike wouldn't stop to think which bike was going to blend best, they would just go for the one they liked the best. Plus most thefts are a crime of opportunity not well thought out. It seems more personal to me than that especially given that they were bold enough to go up to your front door. I hope Bub wasn't too heart broken. My husband had his bike stolen as a kid and has never gotten over it. I think the main reason was that he saw another kid with his bike and my father in law didn't believe it was my husband's bike so he let the kid keep it. I would definitely carve his name or initials in the next one. It won't help it from being stolen but may help him get it back if it is. Most police departments have events where they will mark them for you.

  • Christy

    James still mourns for his yellow BMX bike that was stolen out of the backseat of his car at Sunchase apartments where we lived after Chelsea was born. You feel so violated and even to this day when we see a yellow BMX we wonder "Is that the one?"

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