As I write this, I am torn between anger and laughter. My 15-year-old son “Josh” is on the small side – short and slim. His best friend “Charles”, who is also 15, could politely be described as “husky”; although seriously obese would be a better way of putting it. Recently, the two of them discovered my husband’s old Saturday Night Live alum DVDs – a collection of movies starring Chris Farley, Dana Carvey, Adam Sandler and other comedians from when he was about my son’s age.
Last week, after watching Tommy Boy, Charles thought it would be funny to re-enact the “fat guy in a little coat” scene. With my husband taping it on his iPhone, Charles put on Josh’s Sunday sport coat and started dancing around, singing “fat guy in a little coat”, much to my son’s amusement, until things mirrored the events in the movie with my son’s sport coat tearing in half along the back seams. The sport coat is completely ruined, and will have to be replaced.
As humorous as the video is, and it is obvious that no malice was meant, the fact remains that my son’s sport coat is ruined and must be replaced. Charles has repeatedly apologized for ruining the coat, but has not offered to pay for a replacement. At 15, I do not think it has occurred to him that this would be the appropriate course of action, nor do I think he would have the money to pay for it out of his own pocket. I would like to approach Charles’ mother about paying for a new sport coat for Josh, but she is a single mother on a tight budget and I am not certain she could afford the expense. However, not asking her on the basis of her obvious financial distress seems insulting, and I know if I were in her place I would at least want to offer something towards a replacement sport coat.
My husband says that the destruction of the sport coat was an accident, that it happened in good fun, and that no harm was intended. He insists that I should just let it go as a case of boys being boys, and that we can easily afford to replace the sport coat. I agree with all that he is saying, but I feel that this course of action would teach the boys that bad behavior has no consequences. What do you suggest, Tazi-Kat? Should I follow my instincts and approach Charles’ mother or those of my husband and just leave things as they are?
I, too, had to laugh at the memory of the late, “husky” Chris Farley wearing the slender David Spade’s sport coat; so I can see how your son, his friend, and your husband would all see this movie scene worthy of both a reenactment and a taping for posterity. The fact that your son’s sport coat ended up being collateral damage is unfortunate, but can also be chalked up to a case of “boys being boys” (and I am including your husband in with the “boys” on this one!). However, I also have to agree with you that bad behavior – even if it was unintended – must have consequences, lest you give your son and his friend the impression that destruction of property will be tolerated.
Considering that leaf-raking season is here, I will suggest a compromise; one that will teach all of the “boys” involved an important lesson. Rather than approach Charles’ mother – who had no part in these shenanigans – about paying to replace your son’s sport coat, speak to her about Charles repaying his share of the cost in “work equity”. Inform your son and Charles (with his mother’s O.K.) that they will be covering the cost of replacing the sport coat by raking the leaves in your yard over the course of one weekend. I strongly suggest that your husband lead by example and include himself in this activity, since he also played a part in the loss of your son's sport coat.
This activity will serve many purposes: It will allow you to use the money you would otherwise pay a landscaper to replace your son’s sport coat; it will teach these young men (and your husband) to be more careful the next time they are horsing around; it will provide an opportunity for the three of them to bond; and it will instill a sense of team-work and responsibility in all of them. It is also a fair way to spread the cost of replacing the sport coat evenly among those responsible for its destruction.
P.S. The holidays are approaching, and I can only hope that their next reenactment selection will not be Chris Farley as "Matt Foley, Motivational Santa" or anything from the movie Jingle All The Way, in which the late SNL alum Phil Hartman had a supporting role!