I have a box in my storage closet labeled "Missing and Broken Parts." It contains knobs, handles, and various other household items that may (or may not) be fixed, reattached or salvaged in the elusive "someday"... when I have the time.
I had forgotten all about the "Missing and Broken" box, until last week when the boys "accidentally" steered a remote control helicopter right into the crystal chandelier that hangs in our foyer. The little helicopter dislodged a large crystal, which swiftly plummeted two stories and shattered on the ground below. The crystal splintered off into tiny shards too numerous to count. Unfit for residence in the "Missing and Broken" box, we swept and vacuumed up the remnants.
Lately, quite a lot has gone missing and broken around here. The chandelier was only the latest casualty in a long line of dings, dents, scratches, tears, breaks, holes, and drywall damage that have become commonplace in a house with four rowdy boys. Exhibit A is the leather bench that now has an unsightly, grapefruit-sized milk stain on the seat, after a sippy cup was left overnight with the cap loosened. (Side note: What is the deal with milk and leather not mixing well? I mean, don't they both come from cows?) Composite Exhibit B is not one, but six doors in the house, all of which have come unhinged after the boys spent the last year swinging from the handles like monkeys on a jungle gym. Exhibit C is the minivan, for which I recently paid $200 to remove a glow stick that had been jammed into... well, never mind where. (During this repair, I was informed that it would cost another $300 to replace the sunshade that was ripped in half by my 6-year old. This latter repair will have to wait until we deposit more change into the Raising Boys Insurance Fund.)
And don't get me started on the things that go missing around here. The surest way to lose something of value is to share your home with a band of rogues aged eight years and under. I once spent an hour looking frantically for missing car keys, only to locate them in the bottom compartment of the freezer, right next to the frozen pizza. What must I have been thinking? After all, the freezer is a patently obvious place to store one's car keys... if you're two feet tall.
So, after some contemplation, I realized there are two things I can do about the escalating costs of raising boys in this household. First, I can train the boys to become bandits and recoup the value of the things they break around here. After all, they would make excellent pickpockets. They have a natural ability to create distractions by the whirlwind of energy that accompanies them. They are small and wiry, and can deftly shimmy into crawl spaces before you realize they've disappeared out of your line of sight. And they have a penchant for storing their treasures low near the ground, escaping a grownup's normal range of vision. (After all, didn't the narrator in "The Shawshank Redemption" say: "I mean, seriously, how often do you really look at a man's shoes?" Apparently, the same thing goes for the bottom drawer of the freezer.)
Okay, I'm just kidding. Well, sort of. Before you cry "Fagin!", here's my second idea: I can enroll the boys in courses in basic carpentry, plumbing and maybe even HVAC repair at the local technical college; and then I can start employing them for free instead of hiring licensed professionals to clean up their messes. Last time I checked, the Fair Labor Standards Act is okay with this arrangement: It's not illegal child labor if Mom's the boss.
But, alas, I opted for a third choice. I took my "Missing and Broken" box from the storage closet, took five minutes to say goodbye, and threw its contents away. For the most part, I had completely forgotten all about the little things I had stored up over the years: tassels torn from upholstered chairs by baby fingers; finials broken off ceramic lamps by flying Nerf darts; and pieces of wooden baseboard trim knocked loose by remote control cars. I had been so busy raising my band of highly destructive but happy ragamuffins to remember all those forgotten segments. After all, there really was nothing broken and missing in all the important parts of my life that mattered anyway.