It was bound to happen.
The only thing that surprised me was that it took almost 9 years to occur.
Since we’ve moved out of our rental and got our security deposit back (because priorities!) I can now tell you about that time my son broke a window in our house. It was what happened AFTER the window broke that has me wondering who learned more from this situation: him or me?
How did my son break the window?
With a ball, of course.
He threw a ball in his bedroom and with either extreme accuracy or supremely bad luck he launched that ball through a window.
Now, in his defense, this house had really old single pane windows. It doesn’t take much to break one of those. He did not break the storm window that was on the outside of the single pane window.
Yes, he had been warned about the danger of playing with balls in the house. There are certain balls that are safer for indoor play than others. This was not one of those.
It’s all fun and games until someone breaks a window. In our case, that’s an actual true story.
To my son’s credit, he immediately came and told me what he had done. I’m proud of him for owning up to his mistake and I know he didn’t intentionally break the window.
It’s hard to be mad when your child is so remorseful, isn’t it? Those sad eyes get me every time.
Nevertheless, I still had to decide what to do about this situation. I wanted this broken window to be the last one I ever had to deal with, so I needed to be strong when it came to the sad eyes.
The broken window was an accident, but in our house you still have to take responsibility for your actions.
He told me he was going to get rid of the ball, which he had spent his own birthday money to purchase. I thought relegating the ball to the pile of outside toys would probably be sufficient rather than throwing or giving it away, but I didn’t mention that at the time.
Beyond that, I decided that he’d have to tell his dad what happened. That, in and of itself, can be a hard thing to do. Although, he didn’t know that I warned his dad what had happened. There are just some things you don’t need to be caught off guard by at the end of a long work day. It’s part of the marriage code.
Instead of punishing my son with timeout or taking away a privilege, I decided the ‘punishment’ would be better utilized as a learning opportunity. To that end, he would have to pay to fix the window and help out with the repairs.
This sounds reasonable, right? Firm, but fair.
Only one 8×8-inch square of glass, not the entire window, needed to be replaced, so it was a small project. After some Googling I ended up calling Ace Hardware to see if they could help and, thankfully, they could.
After school the next day my son and I measured the pane that needed to be replaced and then traipsed into our local Ace Hardware to get the replacement glass. I didn’t know how much it would cost to fix the window. First timer here! I was thinking maybe 20 bucks, which is just enough to be painful to an 8-year-old.
So far, so good.
This kid was not going to be caught unprepared though so he had $50 of his savings burning a hole in his pocket. He tried to give the money to me to hold, but, again, this was his responsibility. I was just hoping he didn’t drop the bill in aisle 2.
After getting someone to help with our glass cutting needs, my son gave the Ace Hardware employee the dimensions, which I confirmed. I then asked the employee if he would explain what he was doing so my son could learn how glass is cut. Instead of that the employee took the experience to a whole different level and let my son do the glass slicing. It’s just a knob that slides the blade down and cuts the glass. Don’t worry, it’s not dangerous like a power tool and no fingers can get close to the blade.
Honestly, cutting the glass looked like fun. And that’s when I started to wonder if this “punishment” (aka learning opportunity) was really a punishment. It’s not supposed to be fun!
The gentleman next helped us pick out the window glazing that we’d need and explained the different types of glazing. Since I wasn’t certain that we could remove the entire window to make the repair, we went with the tub of putty instead of a tube that goes in a caulking gun.
We headed to the register to ring up our purchases and the lady working the register asked my son if he wanted a free PEZ candy dispenser that was shaped like an Ace Hardware truck.
Uh? Free candy?
You don’t have to ask an 8-year-old twice.
So, to recap. My son breaks a window. I decided to punish him by making him pay for the new glass. He gets to run a cool glass cutting machine and he gets free candy.
If I didn’t know better, I would think this punishment had started to go off the rails.
I wanted there to be a little pain involved in this process. Just enough to be a solid reminder that you should think twice next time about playing with a ball in the house. Break a window and get free candy was not what I was going for.
The purchase totaled around $8, which is nowhere near the $20 I anticipated or the $50 my son brought to the store. After paying he looked at me and said, “That wasn’t so bad, mom!”
But have you learned your lesson yet? That’s what I wanted to know.
It was a little anticlimactic getting home with our purchases because I wasn’t going to attempt this installation without Handy Husband’s assistance. I didn’t want to take all the “fun.” I think that’s another marriage code thing.
In addition, we had to wait for the right weather conditions because the window glazing can’t be used when it is too cold outside.
Our goal is to always leave a home better than we found it, so replacing a window pane is a job for adults. It needed to be done correctly, so there wasn’t a ton my son could do. He did help hold the glass, he warmed up the pieces of glazing and he helped with cleanup. The most painful part of the process for him was probably sitting and waiting there the entire time for the window to be fixed. He wanted to jump up and play while Mom and Dad fixed the window, but that’s not how this punishment works. We’re all suffering through this together.
The window was finally fixed. No one was the wiser. Time to move on.
Well…I had been so focused on “don’t throw a ball through a window” that I felt a little gobsmacked when I realized something bigger was at play.
The Ace Hardware employees knew why we were there. I’m sure I wasn’t the first parent to come in needing glass for a broken window. I expected them to be kind and professional, but not any more so than any other retail experience.
To my surprise, they all talked to my son with the utmost respect and without judgment. They engaged him in the learning process. They demonstrated extreme generosity even when it perhaps wasn’t deserved.
This probably was routine and a non-event for their staff. For me, and perhaps this reflects how jaded I’ve become, it wasn’t your everyday customer service experience. This was next level. This was the better angels of the hardware world showing me and my child how awesome people can be.
As a parent, it can often feel like we are fighting a rising tide of immorality when it comes to teaching our children how to behave and how to treat others. Kids can never have too many examples of people being awesome to other people.
I’m not happy my son broke a window, but this serendipitous encounter at the hardware store was definitely the silver lining to this cloud.
P.S. This is not an ad for Ace. They don’t know me. I don’t normally shop at Ace Hardware, so I don’t know if what happened was unique to this one store or if this is the norm for the entire organization. Either way, my mind is still blown.
P.P.S. If you need to replace glass on a single pane window we found this tutorial to be helpful.
If you’ve experienced something similar, I’d love to hear about it! In the meantime, here are some other posts you might enjoy.