Kent Kraning is a good friend and this is a great story about a conflict he had with his dad. His dad needed to apologize. Sometimes that’s exactly what we need to do as parents. This story is an excerpt from his brand-new book, Dirt Grenades and Other Explosive Parenting Moments. It was released on April 6th. You can get your copy here.
In the 1980s, my parents were asked to produce a video series on parenting called “Roots to Grow, Wings to Fly.” I still have the tapes packaged in vinyl on a shelf somewhere. When these were produced, my brother and I each received a copy. Now, mind you, we were not involved in the production nor were we even consulted, but my parents had “arrived” on VHS and we were excited to celebrate their premier. Sometime after we had received our copy, my wife Robin and I decided to unwrap the gift. We inserted the tape, pressed play and waited in anticipation as my father began.
He is an excellent storyteller and this opening tale would be no exception. We listened as he shared a scene from my childhood that I relived in my mind as he spoke. We were living in Van Nuys, California at the time and I was maybe in the fifth grade. One sunny afternoon there was a knock at the door from a woman we did not know. Standing on our front porch, she told my father that I was one of several mischievous boys who damaged her property. She testified that from the house behind hers, these boys allegedly launched dirt clods over her fence. The kicker was that the bottom of their brand-new swimming pool was now covered with mud.
From my bedroom I can remember hearing the lady say to my father, “Mr. Kraning, your son was one of those boys.” At that moment there had to have been that awful sensation in my gut. You know, the one you get when suffering is coming and there’s no way to avoid it. Then she added, “I don’t want you to punish him, but I just thought you should know.”
I recall thinking at the time, “Hey lady, if you don’t want him to punish me, why are you telling him?” The moments that followed are a little fuzzy to me, as I have managed to block most of them out. I do know that my father punished me in some form and left me in my room whimpering.
Dad’s version resumes later that day when the neighbor lady returned to our house. From our porch once again she addressed my father, but this time with genuine remorse. After further investigation, it was determined that I wasn’t responsible after all. She was obviously sorry for this horrible misunderstanding and any trouble she may have caused.
Now that I am a parent, I can imagine what was running through my father’s mind at this moment. He reentered my room and knelt in front of me. I’m still sniveling as he begins to apologize for having falsely accused and wrongly punished me. In my dad’s retelling on the video he says, “Daddy is so sorry. Why didn’t you say some- thing?” Then, in his best childlike voice, and while sniffing, he imitated my reply, “It just (sniff, sniff) didn’t seem like (sniff, sniff) the time to say anything.”
It was a cute story. Dad went on to discuss the importance of not jumping to conclusions, giving your children the benefit of the doubt and being willing to apologize when you’re wrong. I clearly remember watching the video and reliving this story. My picture from this memory was similar to his, except for one minor deviation. In my version, I am one of those mischievous kids who threw the dirt clods in the pool! I was with that neighbor boy in his backyard. As I recall, we were hurling grenades and watching them detonate. We blasted the enemy into submission. I don’t recall the length of the conflict or how much carnage eventually marred the pool’s gunite, but I know it was a lengthy battle.
Parenting is not for the weak at heart. Playing the role of detective, deciphering all the clues, and figuring out the truth of what happened or didn’t happen can seem impossible at times. What should or shouldn’t I do? Is it punishment or discipline that I’m doling out? What impact will my choices have on our child’s future? Will they end up in psychotherapy or on a television talk show because of me? Let’s face it, it’s complicated. Robin and I have six sons . . . yes, I said SIX— it’s seriously complicated. You might think that with six sons we would have it all figured out after the second or the third, but we didn’t, and we still don’t.
Today our sons are adults on their individual journeys. We have wonderful daughters-in-love and beautiful grandlambs, as we like to call them. Of course, as grandparents, Robin and I have new perspectives, and so do our sons as adults, especially those who are now raising their own children. As grandparents we can smile as our sons wrestle with their own parenting issues. Our journey has been far from perfect as you will see in the pages that follow, but it’s real. It’s our story. It’s a story of joy and laughter and amazing times of grace, forgiveness, tears, and apologies. Like yours, our story is still being written.
Order Dirt Grenades here.