Christmas, Nintendo, and Free Passes

It was the Christmas of 1986, like a lot of kids, I was anticipating my Nintendo Entertainment System.  My grandparents hadn't “assured” me I was getting one but I knew them well enough to know that they just wanted to keep me guessing (and wanted to keep my behavior good.)  About 4 days before Christmas they told me they had to go to a luncheon and would be gone for about 2 hours. The standard rules applied: don't answer the door for nobody, and don't try to cook any food.

The minute the door closed, I went right to the basement, opened the door to a rarely used pantry, dug around for a minute and then- “Jackpot!” A brand new Nintendo Entertainment System with a few random games. I grabbed the box, took it upstairs, carefully took it out the box, hooked it up, and started playing Super Mario Brothers. I figured I had at least 1 hour of playing time before I would put everything back in the box and back in the pantry. I was having a good ole' time. Smiling, thumbs going to work, volume on full blast, and then I heard the front door open.

It was my grandparents; back 45 minutes sooner than they said. There was absolutely nothing I could do. I was caught. There wasn't enough time to unhook the system, wrap the chords, and put the console back in the box. I was flat-out busted. When my grandfather came into my room – I just lowered my head and got mentally prepared for the belt whopping that awaited me. However, after a good talking to and some fussing – they decided not to punishment me at all. Not spanking, I wasn't grounded – just nothing. They didn't explain why and I didn't ask.

In retrospect I understand it now. I hadn't been a bad kid, I was having a decent school year, and they basically gave me a free pass. As a parent I've learned a “free pass” is something you have to strategically use. It's - “I know what you did, and you know what you did, but I'm won't say nothing this time.” Its when you actually show your son/daughter that you have a compassionate and forgiving side. Its when you show them you aren't a hard-ass allllllll the time And plus you get to bring it back up when they do something else to get in trouble.

Like when a cop pulls you over for going 15 miles over the speed limit and all he says is, “Buckle up and slow down.” When your manager watches you check-in 3 minutes past your start time and casually mentions it 4 hours later with no further reprimand.

I remember almost every single whopping my grandparents gave me and still cringe when I remember the way those belts and switches tore my rear end up. But I also remember those “free passes,” and thinking about those makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

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