Saturday, February 25, 2012

On Putting Your Teenager in Jail

Come on...admit it. Some of you parents of teens are thinking to yourselves, Hmm, sometimes putting my kid in jail doesn't sound like such a bad idea.

Before you get carried away with fantasies of how to teach your teenager a lesson, you should know that this "jail" I'm referring to was a fundraising ploy, part of the Cancer Relay for Life in which I just participated.

I'd never witnessed this event before, and it was phenomenal. I don't know how many different booths I saw at this 24-hour walking event (because cancer never rests, so why should we?), but each booth represented a different type of cancer and included a variety of clever ways to raise money (apart from the pre-walk pledges and the abundance of baked goods for sale).

One such trick was a cardboard prison, fashioned by a group of teenagers, with bars and all. For a minimum fee of one dollar, you could have anyone you wanted arrested and put in jail. Bail was posted at twice the jailing rate. My friend, Jennifer, liked this idea very much, especially since she had spent the morning locking horns with her 16-year-old daughter over what Jen perceived as adolescent nonsense.

My friend turned her focus across the park to her daughter's team booth. She then turned to the young man/jailer, who knew her daughter, and firmly stated, "Go arrest Britt." Jen placed one dollar on the table and the jailer obeyed.

But Britt would not cooperate. We watched from across the field as the jailer seemed to be explaining what was happening. Britt appeared to be compliant, but when she turned on her heel halfway to the prison booth, the jailer (a strapping, high-school lad) swiftly scooped Britt up and threw her over his shoulder in a fire-rescue stance. Resigned to her punishment, Britt stopped fighting and accepted her fate.

As Jen took a picture of her daughter behind bars and muttered, "Sweet justice," Britt pouted playfully. But when Jen and I proceeded to wave good-bye and tell Britt we had to continue our walking rounds (it was our shift of the 24-hour relay), Britt tried to escape, and the jailer had to block her with his hulking frame.

"She's not really upset, is she?" I asked Jen, a bit worried for the punishment she would have to tolerate when the relay was over.

Jen raised her eyebrows at me. "She'll get over it."

The good news for Britt was that her incarceration lasted no more than ten minutes. The good news for Jen was that she got the cathartic opportunity to put her daughter in jail for the crime of emotional distress. And there really wasn't any bad news since the cause earned a whopping $3.00 for the whole ordeal.

What catharsis have you experienced lately?


  1. Frustrated with a 20 year-old son (out on his own) who still thinks he knows all the answers to everything, I went on a motorcycle ride this morning to air out the kinks.

    A very windy day, slightly chilly and overcast - it suited my mood. After some thirty minutes and several curves winding through the gears I was cleansed once again! Until my next dad vs son discussion. :-)

    1. I'm almost there with you as my own are 13 and 11. Hang in there and enjoy the ride...of the motorcycle, that is.

    2. There are those who assure me Prof' that at some point, my boys will be returned from whatever alien planet they are on and will likely resemble the boys I remember growing up!

      If they haven't yet, your kids will wake up one day and look at you as if you have NO clue and you will look at them and KNOW they do not! :-)

    3. Adolescence is one of the most complicated stages a person goes through in life. As a parent/guardian, handling a teenager requires a lot of responsibility. You actually did the right thing, Mykuljay. Never make decisions when you’re mad. It’s best to talk with your son when you’re calm. That way, you’ll be able to handle things better and with less frustration.

  2. Teens... *sigh*

    My stepsons are 20 and 16 and there has certainly been struggles. The older one is starting to grow up -- slowly, perhaps, but I'll take it! -- and that is giving me hope for the younger.

    The whole step-parenting thing can be surreal as is, but it is especially tough when dealing with stubborn teens who are resisting authority in their attempt to develop self-identities and gain independence. The most difficult part is when they are the stage of wanting the freedom of an adult, but while maintaining the limited responsibilities of a child. Ugh.

    Anyhow, I was wondering if that was your first experience with the Relay? My mom was a cancer victim, so my family had been involved with it for years. I always thought it was a fantastic way to get the community involved. Lots of creative energy is poured into making the events successful. :)

    1. I was sure I had replied, but it's not here. So here I go again...
      This was my first time with Relay for Life. Two of my dear friends have been directly touched by cancer (one husband and one sister-in-law, who did not survive). It was a great event that I'm sure I'll continue being a part of each year.

  3. “Sweet justice” That was just a sweet punishment! I’m sure Britt knew why she was arrested and she’ll get over it, for sure. I’m sure that you and your daughter both had a wonderful experience in that great event.

  4. I'm sure Britt understood the need for the process. I remember being a teen but I also know what it’s like as a father. Some wise words I’ve heard and now abide by include "you have to give a little control to receive some". As parents, we often forget that teens are just trying to find their own sense of independence.

    Eliseo Weinstein @ JR's Bail Bonds