How do you ground an 18-year-old guy in the 21st century? Confine him to his room when he’s home, take away his phone and computer, trust him that he will respect your restrictions, and limit his activities to those which are “edifying.”
I had so many problems with being grounded.
I couldn’t talk to my sister very freely except by sneaking into her room, and I knew there was something wrong with her that was more severe than a concussion.
My best friend (because my sister doesn’t count as a best friend) is prone to rash decisions and had no idea what had happened to her best friend or why.
I love my parents and will do anything to maintain their trust but nothing will convince me that it will be a better idea to tell them what really happened at this point.
All I could do was my homework, read the dictionary, and watch the History channel. And I hate history.
And of the four immediate problems I was facing, I had to determine which one was most important. If I took care of my sister, I would break my parents’ trust because I’m supposed to be in my room (I was permitted to look in on her the night she got back from the hospital, that was all). If I found a way to contact Angie, I’d break my parents’ trust because I’m not allowed a phone or computer or to talk to people except for them. If I told my parents what had really happened so that I could fix the first two problems, all my worst nightmares would come true. If I didn’t distract myself with something, the nightmares would soon be all I would ever see.
But I don’t want to think about the nightmares.
And all this just simply illustrates how good people can make bad decisions for all the right reasons.
But I grew up watching said good people make bad decisions for the right reasons and I’ve always known that there was a better way. At least, it always seemed like a better way to me. None of the other superheroes I grew up admiring had ever tried it, so I wasn’t sure if it was going to work. Worthwhile to give it a go, though, right?
The day after Kerry got released from the hospital, I came home from school and went straight to my room, like I’m supposed to. I’d seen Kerry that morning and she’d been in a very bad mood and looked very sick. Bad moods are uncharacteristic of her even when she’s sick. My parents thought it was aftereffects from the concussion, but my powers told me something else was wrong.
I needed to not be grounded anymore so that I could help fix what I broke. Helping Kerry was really all that mattered at this point. So I steeled my nerves and went down to the kitchen where I new my parents would be.
They didn’t say anything and I didn’t make eye contact as I came in and sat down at the table.
After an uncomfortable silence in which I was trying to find the right words to begin with, my dad asked, “Is there something you’d like to tell us, son?”
I took a deep breath. “No.”
I didn’t need to see my mother purse her lips. I didn’t need to see my dad’s frown deepen. I’d known they were angry as we were driving back from the hospital the day this all started. I hadn’t known what to say, so they were left with the wild assumptions they’d first come up with. I vaguely remember them asking me about drugs, guns, gangs, each new supposition wilder than the one before it—none of which had I denied.
“I wanted to ask you something,” I said.
They didn’t say anything.
“Do you trust me?” I asked.
“We can’t trust you unless you tell us what happened, Robert,” my mother said.
“Why?” I asked, “have I ever given you reason not to trust me before?”
“Your sister’s been hurt,” dad said. “And we know you well enough to know that you think it’s your fault, and you won’t tell us why. How are we supposed to trust you if you won’t take responsibility for your actions?”
“It is my fault, but not in the way you’re thinking,” I said.
I could tell that they didn’t believe me, so I rushed on. “I’ve never been involved in any of those things you mentioned in the car. I’m a science nerd and a superhero geek who’s two best friends are my sister and my sister’s best friend. And you know both of them would never be involved in any of those things either. The only time I’ve missed family game night was when Angie broke her wrist and Kerry and I stayed with her in the ER. I’m on top of all of my classes and I do my chores. You know every love interest I’ve ever had. If there’s anything I can’t tell you now, trust me when I say that I have good reasons for it.”
“And why can’t you tell us?” they asked.
“I can’t tell you that either,” I said, feeling like I was digging myself into a deeper hole. I could see even wilder thoughts flying around both their heads. I’m pretty sure my mother was thinking I’d somehow gotten involved in an international espionage ring centered around the illegal sale of nuclear warheads. She watches a lot of spy movies.
I looked my dad in the eyes. “You’ve always told me that the biggest part about being an adult is taking responsibility for my actions and doing everything I can to fix my own mistakes. I can’t do either of those things while I’m grounded. Please just let me be an adult.”
I watched them as they hesitated.
“You can ground me for a whole six months when it’s all over,” I suggested.
“How will we know when whatever it is is over?” my mother asked.
“I’ll tell you,” I said.
“You’ll probably be off at college by then,” she said.
“I’ll ground myself. Six months. I’ll only go to classes and work, and I’ll stay in my room, and I’ll only do my homework, read the dictionary, and watch the History channel. I promise.”
I could see her start to smile.
“And you know how much I hate the History channel.”
She laughed. Her I had convinced. I looked at my dad. His face was a studied blank. We’d played poker once in family game night and gambled on TV time, snacks, and chore time. Somehow he came away with all the fun things and the rest of us got all the chore time. Even mom.
“Fine,” he said. “But remember, you owe us six months.”
I suppressed a whoop. “Thank you for trusting me,” I said as I hugged them both. I felt like I’d made a small victory for good guys everywhere. “Now I’ve really got to go find Angie,” I said. I grabbed my phone from where it had been in the hallway and dashed out of the house.