My best friend, "Pov", called me last night. "We have a crisis on our hands," he announced.
Our friends, "Jim and Arlene", have four kids. For a farm family out of the 1900s, this would be a manageable brood, but in today's age it's rather overwhelming when neither parent has made it past high school.
Jim and Arlene are very kindly people but with little common sense and a lack of ambition. Recently two of their boys, "Romeo" (age 16) and "Howie" (age 14), were picked up for shoplifting. Jim called Pov in a panic to ask for advice, and Pov and I discussed the various options with them.
Pov and I came up with a few suggestions. Immediate punishment was of great importance: Both boys were to be grounded and have everything taken away from them. But Jim and Arlene are great at asking for advice, and then not taking it. We weren't too sure about how well they would handle the situation.
However, shoplifting turned out to be minor in comparison to the next revelation. It was at this point that Romeo also confessed to his parents that he was having a sexual relationship with Juliet, a 15 year old girl.
Sex between teens is, sadly, not uncommon. But there is a line drawn by the court system between 15 and 16 year olds. It is possible for a 16 year old to be thrown in jail if he's caught having sex with a child who is 15 or younger. Furthermore, it is something that can become a permanent part of his record.
I warned Jim and Arlene about this. "Well, what should we do?" asked Jim. Pov and I agreed that it was a tough call. If I were Juliet's mother, I would want to know. I would be furious if I found out that another parent knew and hadn't told me. On the other hand, being honorable and approaching the other parents could land Romeo in jail.
Jim and Arlene decided to tell Romeo to cool it, and call it off with Juliet for now. Since Juliet's father is on the S.W.A.T. team, Pov and I agreed that it was probably the smartest option that Romeo could choose.
Everyone held their breath, crossed their fingers, and hoped it had all blown over. We hadn't heard another word about it until yesterday, when Juliet texted Arlene with the news that she might be pregnant.
Arlene immediately went into a panic, and was ready to go charging out the door with a pregnancy test, until Jim pointed out that this would certainly send up red flags with Juliet's parents. "It's only been a day," Jim pointed out. Then he called Pov, who in turn called me.
Everyone agreed that it still was best to simply leave it alone: The last thing that Jim and Arlene should do would be anything which might make Juliet's parents suspicious. "Give it a couple more days," I counseled them. "Wait and see. You'll know soon enough!"
I finished up the call by asking Jim if he'd really grounded Romeo and Howie, and was following through on everything that we had all agreed upon.
"Oh yes," Jim replied. "They're grounded all right! I don't know what more we can do!"
In half an hour, Jim called me again. "Well," he said breezily, "I guess it's been taken care of."
"Already?" I said, surprised. "How is that?"
"Well, I guess Juliet's been going around at school, telling all of her little friends that she might be pregnant. Romeo had warned her to keep quiet about it, and he was so angry about it that he decided to get back at her by texting her mom with the news."
"WHAT?" I gasped.
"Yup," said Jim, "But at least it's all out in the open now."
"Er, yeah, you could say that," I agreed. "But what about jail for Romeo?"
"Oh, we think it probably won't happen," Jim said breezily. "Besides, Arlene feels so much better now that everyone knows."
"Uh, OK," I said hesitantly. "Well, good luck with that."
My grandmother had a saying for such silly behavior. She called it "cutting off your nose to spite your face."
Perhaps jail will smarten Romeo up a bit. And if Juliet's pregnant, he will have eighteen years of child support to teach him a permanent lesson.
But the apple doesn't fall far from the tree: None of that family has much sense. No one has stopped to think: If Romeo was truly grounded... how was he able to text Juliet's mom?