Everyone in my old neighborhood will tell you it’s true. I was a total helmet nazi. Helmets were required by law for children under the age of 18 – roller blades, skateboards, bicycles = REQUIRED. The boys will attest that when our first neighbor became driving age and pulled out of the cul de sac, I stopped him and asked where his helmet was. I designated myself (to every neighbor’s annoyance) as the local helmet officer.

Fast forward to Alex being 17 and Anders being 14. Both boys were ticketed within two weeks of each other. No helmets on the way to school. I was NOT happy. In anticipation of our court date, the boys had to do their annual raking of the cabin pine needles (that they and I ALL detested). This year, there was $$ attached to it. $10 per hour. To be completed to cover the cost of their ticket (which was in the fine print on the back of each of their respective tickets). I believe to the tune of $100 each.

The day of court – we arrive in Pleasanton, through the security check, pockets emptied, putting ourselves in the individual wooden bucket seats of the court room.

As I look around, two rows in front of us was the kid, Ralphie, (and his mom) who I had a run in with three years prior, when her son held my first born on the ground with a pellet gun to his head on the sidewalk in front of our home during a friendly round of shooting pellet guns in his friend’s backyard. If you didn’t know it before, know this, any gun – pellet, BB, paintball – it prohibited in City limits. If you didn’t know it before, know this, direct aim of any of these guns is considered assault with a deadly weapon.

When I phoned Ralphie’s mother about the altercation and she proceeded to defend her felon-bound child, I had to pause her with an apology.

Me: I owe you a sincere apology.

Ralphie’s Mom: (slight pause) Excuse me?

Me: I should have called you three years ago.

Ralphie’s Mom: DEAD SILENCE.

Me: I should have called you three years ago, when your Ralphie first started bullying my son. Three years ago, when it started, and I told my son to “suck it up”, “avoid him”, “stay away from him”. My son did all of those things and Ralphie continued to torture him. I should have called you three years ago to tell you that your son was mean and a bully.

Ralphie’s Mom: I’ll talk with Ralphie. Thank you for your call.

Back to the wooden bucket seats in the courthouse with Ralphie two rows up. I leaned over to Alex.

Me: Can you believe that you have reduced yourself to being in the same court room with Ralphie, the juvenile delinquent?

Alex: Rolled eyeballs.

My boys are both called at the same time, up front to address the judge. They looked like such nice, wholesome children.

Judge: (shifting through paper work)…Says here you both were cited for not wearing helmets.

Boys: Yes, Sir.

Judge: (shifting through more notes)…Which one of you is Anders?

Anders: Me, Sir.

Judge: So you were on a Trek Mountain bike?

Anders: Yes, Sir.

Judge: (more paper sifting)…Alex….You were on a…..what kind of bike?

Alex: A Costco bike.

Judge: Oh… So Anders got the nice bike and you got the knock off bike? (Looking over his reader glasses) Why’d you get a knock off when he got a Trek?

Alex: Yes, Sir. I don’t know, Sir.

Me: (in my head) OMG. O M G. Did the judge REALLY just say that?

Judge: (looking to both boys) As this is your first offense, I am waiving the fine, but if I see you back again I will impose the fine and there will be consequences.

Boys: Thank you, Sir.

The three of us file quietly out of the court room, passing Ralphie and his mom. We climb into the car and Alex turns to me.

Alex: I want my $100 back.

Me: Really? Let’s do the math here. You did $100 worth of work. I have had to take three hours out of my work day to drive you and your brother to and from the court house and sit throughout your court visit. I bill and average of $150 an hour, multiply $150 times 3 hours is $450, minus $200 (both children’s hours worked/paid). You owe me, collectively $250.

Alex/Anders: NOT ONE WORD.

Me: Did you really think your bike was a knock off bike?

Alex: Yes. I hated it.

Me: We did the best we could. We didn’t know much about bikes at the time. It seemed like a good bike.

Alex: silence.

Fast forward two months to October for Alex’s b-day wherein I bit the bullet and we bought him ROCKBAND which had JUST been released.

Alex: (upon opening gift) OH MY GOD. THIS IS AMAZING.

Me: Great. Get over the knock off bike. We’re even.

Fast forward the next month when we are all out for ice cream.

Anders: How come I only got one scoop?

Me: You got the bike.

Avoiding adult therapy from childhood trauma one day at a time.

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