It Takes A Village


Reflections on Parenting, Day 12

When I was around 8, the median between Milo and Olivia right now, I was caught smoking.

Down the block on McEvoy Street where we lived was Marcos, the only other kid on this commercial street with only two houses. And next door was a giant 30 foot fig tree where we used to hang out under the cool shade of the leaves that were bigger than our heads.

One day, our neighbor Francisco, better known as “Pancho,” who lived behind the tree peered over to discover us puffing like magic dragons on some cigarettes.

It so happened that Pancho, who was about ten years older than me, worked for my father at his furniture factory down the block. Over the next ten years he would become my father’s most trusted employee and his right hand man.

Well, word got back to Pops, who inferred that I had been stealing those smoke sticks from my uncle, who was living with us at the time.

Fearing the worst, my father merely told me I had to apologize to my Tío. I distinctly remember feeling embarrassed and nervous about my admission of guilt and plea for forgiveness. Strangely, it was far more effective than the belt.

In retrospect, I believe it was an important lesson in accountability.

I had mentioned earlier this week in the chronicles of Hacienda Dominguez & Chelenzo Farms that the kids in the little house at the top of the mountain (mine) had taken to pushing buttons. Granted, the kids were just being kids, but this time it was with an agenda - to stir up trouble: and this they did.

Ultimately, they got a severe tongue lashing from their parents.

Fortunately-unfortunately, an elder (and wiser) neighbor took note of Milo’s behavior in particular, as he had pushed the boundaries of bad boy behavior at a recent neighborhood gathering on July 4th.

This wiseman relayed this to Chelsea a couple weeks later on a hike together, when we all had to embarrassingly witness more misbehavior, and asked if he could have a word with Milo at some point.

A week later he invited Milo over his house to pick a petrified wood rock of his choice and immediately, we knew it was a pretense for that pending talk.

As his parents, we immediately felt it prospectively would be a good experience to hear an admonishment from a family friend, and hopefully, a word or two of guidance.

At the same time, I questioned, if only for a mere moment, whether or not we should let a relative stranger pass judgement and berate our child - my answer to myself was a resounding “Yes, we should; yes, we must.” For a few reasons.

First, our children needed to learn to be accountable to other elders other than their all-too-lenient parents. Second, there was my own experience under and after the fig tree; till this day I feel that was the most effective punishment that I ever received as a child. Third, we have been making an effort to be part of our new community and having this experience where we trust a neighbor to look out for our children and their best interests, is not only akin to what Pancho did for my father, but in line with the traditional kind of small and supportive community we were hoping to find and be a part of here in the hills of Cerrillos.

On the drive to the end of Horny Toad Road I told Milo that along with picking a rock he needed to apologize to Mr. Lemonade about what he did at the party and during our hike. Milo quietly conceded by shyly shaking his head and I let the admission of culpability set before him sink in a little - in silence, as we drove down the bumpy road.

When we arrived, Mr. Lemonade greeted us with a smile, we exchanged a few niceties and he invited us to come inside. Prior to showing Milo the rocks he had set in the light by the window, I said to him “Milo has something to tell you.”

Mr. Lemonade nodded and Milo timidly said, “I’m sorry.” Our host seemed pleased and replied, “Well, alright than, I’m glad we got that out of the way. I want to cultivate this boy, because in about seven years, I expect he’ll be a strong young man who might be able to help me around here.”

Milo likewise seemed pleased of the prospect and glad to get his guilty plea out of the way.

We all sat down for a few minutes to look at and talk about the rocks.

Milo, ultimately left them behind, not only because we already have our own little Petrified Forest at home at Rainbows End, but also because he knew he had already gotten what we had truly come for.