By: Meredith Stewart
While waiting to be driven to swim practice by my mother, I was assigned the role of babysitter to my three-year-old brother, Will. I hate the heat; but on this summer day, the sun was beating down relentlessly on the black tar pavement of my driveway. My brother’s grey shirt which read “My Mommy is My Hero” was stained a dark color by the sweat dripping down his back and dropping from his sun-stained hair. I wanted more than anything to be sitting in my air-conditioned TV room drinking ice water, but the humidity didn’t do anything to stop my brother’s enthusiasm for play. He repeatedly tugged at my damp shirt saying, “play lion game” or “you be bad guy and me be police,” but each time I urged him to go cook me something with the plastic beach toys we kept in the garage. Finally, he disappeared behind my mom’s parked Suburban and waddled into the garage.
I heard familiar sounds of rattling, tapping, mixing, and humming so I assumed he was baking me a cake with a sand shovel and some rocks he found in our garden. Aware that this was my opportunity to relax and enjoy the soft coolness of the shade, I moved under a nearby tree and started to scroll through Instagram. It hadn’t been five minutes when I noticed that it was silent. Not completely silent; the leaves gently rustled as cars moved the still air by passing by the street perpendicular to my driveway, birds chirped cheerfully apparently unphased by the soaring temperature, and dogs’ nails made faint clicking noises on the sidewalk as their owners conversed with their walking partners. However, the dropping of rocks into buckets and hollow sounds of fingernails tapping against plastic coming from the garage ceased.
Over the past couple years, I have learned that when a toddler isn’t making any noise, it means they’re getting into trouble; so I felt obligated to check on Willy. I reluctantly walked around my mom’s Suburban and found him squatting in front of its side door, a small white rock in hand. I only managed to begin to ask, “Willy what are you—” before I realized for myself. My mom’s car looked as though it’d been keyed all along it’s left side doors. My brother had scarred it with long streaks and formless scribbles he made with the chalky white rock. I demanded angrily, “why did you do that?” to which he replied, “I drew a picture for you!”
I knew this was my mistake. I shouldn’t have let a three-year-old out of sight for even two minutes. My mom came out of our porch side door ready to drive me to swim practice and place her little vandal in his car seat. I explained that I thought Willy was making me a meal in the garage and never suspected that he was engraving squiggles (which he thought was his name) on her car. Obviously, my mom didn’t think this was a good excuse. “How did you not suspect anything of a silent toddler?,” “This is going to cost thousands of dollars!” “Why weren’t you watching him?” In justifying this whole accident, I tried to reason that maybe if I hadn’t left my brother alone, he wouldn’t have learned that drawing on someone’s property is not acceptable, but this was a far reach. I should have been more attentive. I shouldn’t have sat in the shade oblivious to the activities of my brother, but the truth is people are careless sometimes. All we can do is commit one less careless action a day in hopes of bettering ourselves. Even though what my brother did wasn’t the most terrible thing that could have happened, I still learned a valuable lesson from it to prevent worse things from happening. I’ve learned to be less careless even though sometimes it’s exactly what I want to be.