Joop and I are two very different people, and we remember situations differently. This week Joop’s dad was reading an advanced reader copy of the book and had a question about the very first anecdote in the book in chapter one, which is about teenagers lying. I only grounded Joop once his stay here and this story is about what caused me to ground him.
Here’s the story from my point of view: I grounded Joop because he lied to me. From Joop’s POV, I grounded him because he was driving around in a car with a girl.
A basic run down: I got a call from Joop’s school one afternoon saying that he hadn’t shown up to school! I was panicked. Last time I saw him, he was off to school. It was now after 4, when he was normally home and he wasn’t and he hadn’t called me. I called Anastasia, my best friend, and she talked me down.
“He’s probably just being a stupid kid and skipped school. He’s not laying facedown in a ditch,” Anastasia said. “Try texting him again.”
Throughout the year, one of the main points of arguments with us (and worry for me) is that Joop wouldn’t keep me informed about his plan changes. And his phone would die. And it would be 6, dinner time, and I would have no idea what happened to him. I didn’t care much what he did, most of the time, as long as he kept me appraised of his plans so I could adjust the entire family schedule. However, I had never received a phone call from his school saying his was absent.
After I hung up with Anastasia, I texted him again, and this time he answered.
“I’m at drama club. I’ll have someone give me a ride after it’s done.”
A-okay! Maybe it was just a fluke the school called me. It was an automated message, maybe some wires got crossed. I was about to call Anastasia back, but she called me before I could.
“I just saw Joop driving around on Cedar Shoals Road.”
“He just told me he was at school…”
“Well, Joop and his red hair are pretty easy to spot. He was driving around town…I mean, he wasn’t driving – the other girl was, but he certainly wasn’t at school.”
I text Joop back. No drama today. I’m coming to pick you up.”
He attempted to get out of me picking him up. I was insistent and gave him a couple opportunities in the texting to let me know what was happening. I had no problem with him hanging out with friends after school. In fact, he did it most days, so I was having a hard time understanding why he would keep lying to me. My mom’s voice rang in the back of my head, “Teenagers all lie. They lie for no reason. They lie for good reasons. They lie for bad reasons. The good ones, the bad ones, the braindead ones. They all lie.”
And that was the point of the chapter and that anecdote: Joop was your average teenager and he lied.
I gave him a couple more opportunities to tell me the truth, but he never did. So I called him out and then grounded him from riding around with that girl for two weeks. He’d have to take the bus to and from school.
When Joop’s dad read the story, he didn’t understand why Anastasia had called me. After Joop explained things to his dad and Dutch friends, the general consensus was she was a snitch. As far as Joop was concerned, Anastasia was calling me to snitch that he was in a car with a girl. Just randomly.
From my point of view, Anastasia called me back to inform me that my missing child was not face down in a ditch.
For about two days because of our differing POV’s on the story, I thought he Dutch didn’t care about their children being missing, and the Dutch thought American parents would text each other every time they saw someone else’s kids. The Dutch didn’t care at all what their kids did, and didn’t want to know what they did unless they were swinging from trees doing crack and shooting off guns. American parents on the other hand, stalked their kids and had their friends stalk their kids.
Sunday, I finally realized what was going on. Joop kept saying that Dutch families let their children make mistakes because you learn from mistakes. Well, so do American parents, I’d say, but we try to shield our kids from life changing mistakes. He kept saying that riding in a car with a girl was not a mistake that was life changing.
But, riding in cars with girls was not the point of the story, and it was most certainly not why Anastasia had called me.
So, I texted Joop’s dad, Christiaan, on Sunday afternoon and said, you know, American parents don’t go around snitching on each other’s kids. Anastasia called me because she was calling me back…because I was panicked thinking my kid was missing.
And apparently, Dutch parents would have responded similarly. It suddenly made sense to Christiaan. “We had no idea Joop was missing.”
Joop and I experienced this situation differently. I was a panicked parent, and he was an annoyed teenager.
In the end, Joop was never missing, so he didn’t understand what was going on from my point of view. Plus he’s not a mother, so he doesn’t understand that pit in your stomach every time the kid takes the keys… Joop was only late for school; he stopped to have Waffle House for breakfast, and the first period teacher responsible for taking attendance didn’t update Joop from absent to tardy.
However, I didn’t know that. Anastasia didn’t know that.
If he had just told me he was going out with friends after school, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. He did it all the time. His lie was completely pointless.
What I thought originally was a cultural misunderstanding, ended up being a difference in point of view, in how Joop and I experienced this situation.
Honestly, this happens a lot in life. You hear about when police interview witnesses to a crime. Each of them tells the cop something different. It’s not that these differing stories are untrue, or true even, but that these people are relaying their personal experience.
So if you ask Joop something, he’s likely to recount a different story than me. If you ask him, or me, to explain something to you, and it sounds too outrageous – whether good or bad – to be true, then it might just be our own personal understanding, or misunderstanding, of the transpired events.
And this, is why talking to people with different backgrounds, experiences, and beliefs is so important. If we don’t talk openly about even small issues – such as a story about a teenager getting grounded, we start making wild assumptions about cultures or people that are different from us.
In this instance, the wild belief was the Dutch are nutso amoral pseudo parents who don’t care if their kids are missing, and on the flipside Americans are nutso holier-than-thou stalkers who helicopter parent their kids into submission.
Sure, Dutch parents are typically more lenient that American parents…but parents everywhere would be concerned if their child was missing.
Have you ever had an experience like this before? How did you handle it? How long did it take before you realized that their experience was different than yours and coloring their response differently than yours?
I live in Athens, Georgia, with my son, my husband, and an ever-revolving list of exchange students, who are a never-ending source of entertainment and writing material.