Chapter 4 – Broken Stuff

Note to reader:  My hyper son, Charlie, who is featured in my book, is now grown and has a PhD… and three active children of his own.

“So then, who is Tommy?” you might be wondering. Well, you can meet the real Tommy in Chapter One—but maybe you already know a “Tommy.”

Maybe you have a Tommy, or a Tomi. Children like Tommy are everywhere.

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Chapter 4 – Broken Stuff

“Crash!” My mind flashed back to that sound of tinkling glass, and I exclaimed, “Hey Charlie!” My thirteen-year-old son turned to listen. (Wow! I had his attention.)

“Do you remember that time you broke our sunroom window a few years ago? What were you playing?”

“I didn’t break that window,” he corrected in self-defense. “Joy broke it when she kicked her dress-up shoes across the sunroom.”

Oh yes, that rang a bell—a dramatic fling of high heels in a moment of make-believe. Charlie continued his explanation (staking out truth in his own defense).

“I broke the window in the living room door when I threw a football in the house….”

“And the storm door window on the side of the house when I slammed the door too hard….”

“And the back bedroom window practicing baseball outside….”

“And the other bedroom window kicking a soccer ball….”

“But I didn’t break the sunroom window!”

Silly me, assuming that Charlie had broken every window that had ever been broken. But can you see why I thought that? He was our most usual source of breakage, and more than a few items had received damage with Charlie in the house. Energy has to be absorbed somewhere, and the items in our house often absorbed Charlie’s, which meant his parents absorbed the cost (and pain) from damage control. Ouch. Charlie’s mere existence blessed us with windows to replace, toys to repair, pages to tape, clothes to mend, and never-ending messes to clean. And, of course, damage never comes at a convenient time.

Charlie helped repair damages when he was old enough and helped pay costs when he acquired the means. But ultimate responsibility for damages by a minor falls on the parents, so we as parents had to absorb the costs of raising a high-energy kid—costs in both money and time.

If you have a high-energy child, you’ve probably already dealt with the cost countless times. In all children muscle development takes time (years), so young kids don’t have complete control of their movements. Also, young children haven’t yet developed good judgment or sound reasoning, which leads to bad choices and results in unintended damage. Then when you combine the high energy of a hyperactive child with that normal lack of muscle control and lack of good judgment, it’s a recipe for disaster. And who pays the cost?


It takes money to buy new stuff, money that you may not actually have. And it takes time to repair things or clean up. I feel your pain. For example, another crash that cost me time…

This time, rather than working on his homework, eight-year-old Charlie had decided to run around our dining table while his sisters colored pictures. Typical of his usual haste and impulsiveness, Charlie didn’t control his swinging arms.

“Crash!” I was in the kitchen cooking when the sound of falling glass and metal pierced my ears. As I turned and raced to the rescue, I heard Charlie yell.

“Don’t worry, Mom! Nothing is unbroken!”

Nothing is un-broken? Technically that meant everything was wrecked. Rounding the corner, I found a decorative mirror and multiple trinkets scattered all over the floor. But thankfully, this time nothing was actually broken. Charlie had just misspoken, really meaning to say, “Nothing is broken.” Nevertheless, I faced the cost of taking time for picking up scattered trinkets and motivating a young, hyperactive boy to help. And in retrospect, “nothing is unbroken” felt like a good description of life with a high-spirited kid.

Are you living in that world of nothing-is-unbroken? Do you feel you’re losing time cleaning your messy child—over and over again? Has your bank account taken a hit? The reality of loss leads to feelings of frustration, for sure. And any kind of loss can result in grief, so don’t be surprised when you feel blue over lost time and broken stuff. Sadness might linger even after you’ve chosen to forgive the immaturity of your little growing human. Grief is also sometimes felt as the emotion of anger, so don’t be surprised if you feel angry when stuff gets ruined and budgets are busted. Please don’t act out that anger on your child, but instead, turn your madness to sadness. It is okay to mourn your losses.

Before I was a mom, I once saw a friend’s six-year-old boy knock over a large mirror propped against a wall, and it promptly shattered (yes, into a thousand pieces). Her son panicked, but my friend quickly said, “That’s okay, it was going to burn anyway.” This was her way of expressing the truth that nothing lasts forever.  Her big-picture mentality produced a steady temper in a crisis situation. She valued the child more than the mirror. Her words served me well as I raised my own children. Staying mindful of eternal values was a big help during times of “broken.”

What is truly important? Yes, it’s costly to raise a child who scatters and breaks stuff. But your investment in teaching and training that child during a crisis is more valuable than anything lost. Keep the big picture in mind to keep you from breaking the child’s spirit (or the child!). A window can be replaced—or taped or boarded. A child’s spirit is irreplaceable. Have patience. Show some love. And remember that childish destructiveness does not last forever. As the child grows, next year might actually get better.

Let’s support one another, mamas, and give each other some sympathy when our worlds get broken. Here’s my sympathy to you!


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More free chapter excerpts:

Look Inside – Intro, Chapter 1, Chapter 2

Chapter 4 – Broken Stuff

Chapter 9 – Every Child Has a Gift

Chapter 13 – Fearing the Worst

Chapter 27 – Routine Expectations

Chapter 33 – A Letter From Charlie