Monday, March 18, 2013

Dumpster Diving? Yes, I did!

I received one of the worst calls a parent can get last week. I glanced at the phone and saw that it was the Junior High. I assumed it was a robo-call. Alas, it was not to be so.

"Mrs. Brown?"
"Yes."
"I'm very sorry to tell you this, but..."

Now, friends, let me just pause here for one second and tell you that what goes through your mind in that moment is absolutely a worst case scenario. It just is. You can't help it! I expected them to tell me that she had been lost in a tragic dodge ball accident and they needed me to come identify the body.

As it turns out, it may have been just slightly worse than the death of my little angel.

"...your daughter threw away her retainer at lunch and didn't tell anyone until all of the lunch trash from all four grades had been collected and taken out. You're going to have to come and dig through the trash with her to find it."

I quite sensibly replied, "She should do it herself since she is the one who threw it away." The secretary informed me that she didn't think my daughter would do it by herself. I believe she was most likely right.

I must admit that the human being in me let a curse word slip out after I hung up the phone.

Don't ask me why, but for some reason, I thought we would be going through the trash indoors. When I arrived, the secretary informed me that we would have to have the janitor get the trash out of the dumpster outside and we would have to sort through it out there on the ground... in the freezing cold. I was not pleased. I also didn't have an extra $300 for a replacement retainer, so there was really no option.

The only upside? They had rubber gloves we could wear. I put them on over my winter gloves and said, "Let's get to this, kid!"

As it turns out, junior high trash is pretty much... ummmm, slop. Pigs would have loved my job that day. I did not love my job that day. It was one of those days when you regret your choice to become a parent. "I wouldn't be out back by the dumpster digging through trash if I didn't have kids," I mused. Then I looked at my poor sweet kid who was nearly in tears and banished the thought.

She loves that retainer. It's really a bite plate which keeps her bottom teeth from hitting the roof of her mouth and cutting it, but it essentially looks like a retainer, so that's what we all call it. She wanted braces so badly, but her 12 year molars weren't in yet, plus we couldn't afford braces for her after just shelling out $5,000 for her sister's, so we decided the bite plate would at least address her most pressing problem. She is only required to wear it at night, but she's so happy to have anything resembling braces that she wears it day and night. She'd only had it a few weeks.

"Mom, I didn't mean to throw it away," she choked with watery eyes.

"I know you wouldn't throw it away on purpose, honey. We just have to find it, that's all."

I knew her poor stomach had probably been in knots, wondering how much trouble she would be in with mom and dad. As I stood there contemplating the possibility that the people at the nearby Aldi's were likely wondering if we were homeless and foraging for food, I decided to give my daughter a pass on this one. I didn't yell. I didn't complain. I minimized my displeasure to mild facial display and frequent sighs of exasperation.


The janitor had a broad idea of which of the nine bags of rejected lunch might contain the buried treasure. The first bag out had broken and sploshed all over the ground. It was a mishmash of chocolate milk, salad, orange slices, and cheeseburgers with soggy buns from the chocolate milk. It was truly disgusting, but we knew we had to find the thing. He pulled out two bags and I was able to wrangle the third from the outside of the dumpster. We started digging and putting all slop into new trash bags in cans the janitor brought out.

It seemed like days, but I think we were out there a little over an hour. These were LARGE bags.

One bag down. Take a deep breath. Two bags down. My daughter found the rest of her lunch, but no retainer. I was already working on bag three and bag four... well, I was going to have to actually get down in the dumpster for that bag and I really didn't want to do that. ARGH! Are you kidding?

"Okay," I said, "we've got to be close, so let's just keep digging. Hey, let's sing a song to Jesus and see if he'll help us find it." Truly, it was not with great faith that I suggested this. It was more out of boredom and for entertainment. "Ohhhh, Lorrrrrd, please help us to find this retainer in the garbage, pleeeease help us Jeeeeesus." It was awful - horribly out of tune and ridiculous sounding.

I looked down and couldn't believe my eyes. There it was.

"Oh my God! Here it is! Thank you, thank you, thank you! I prayed we would find it and we did. Let's clean up this mess and go!"

My daughter's response melted my heart. She said, "Mom, I prayed all day too. But I didn't pray that we'd find it, I prayed that you wouldn't be mad at me."

I could barely choke back the tears. In that moment, I realized that this wasn't about a material thing. It was about love, anger, and grace toward those we love. She is a good kid and a joy in my life and in that moment, I knew I made the right decision not to be mad about the situation, but to show her what a mother's love was really made of - the willingness to dig through sloppy trash for her daughter's mistake - and be kind about it.

I had to pick up the food on the ground so the school wouldn't be plagued by ravenous critters and my plastic gloves scraped the ground and tore at the fingertips. I couldn't even feel my fingers anymore, so I had no idea that my winter gloves underneath were soaked with slop liquids. I threw them in the trash on the way out and had no qualms about taking a loss on the $1.50 Walmart gloves. That, I could afford!

What would you have done? Grace? Punishment? Bought the new retainer? We thoroughly bleached and scrubbed that puppy, let me tell you. I swear, it's cleaner than brand new. And I love my daughter no less than before the dumpster diving. She's totally worth it.

48 comments:

  1. Oh no, that poor child, she must have been terrified. I am very impressed at not only your ability to keep your temper but your strong stomach at digging through slop. Vast amounts of parental gold stars must be awarded!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Cindy, How funny! And as a parent who raised three children I can certainly empathize with you here. Also, I just realized that women and men would deal with dumpster diving in exactly the oposite way that they'd view shopping. You dealt with what you were diving for and the obstacles, but I'd bet your husband would've told us about all the other neat stuff he would've found, and all the neat ways they might be used. A man might get sidetracked in a dumpster in a way similar to how a woman might be in a mall. My wife went to the mall to buy shoes. I'm sure she tried on many pairs, but she came home with two blouses and a pair of slacks. The photo made me laugh. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  3. It's amazing the situations you find yourself in as a parent. You certainly turned a negative into a positive and connected with your daughter. I love moments like that as a mom. A funny story you'll both refer to for years. Funny retainer story...my sister was in the ocean and a big wave came and she screamed and her retainer popped out of her mouth...never to be seen again.

    ReplyDelete
  4. You're a good mama. Great story. I'm glad all ended well!

    ReplyDelete
  5. For me, I tend to yell more when I'm frustrated because I feel like they don't care. But when they are truly upset and sorry, me adding to their misery is just such an un-mommy thing to do.


    I'm with you on this one.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Well done, Mom! Sounds like you have a neat kid to boot.

    ReplyDelete
  7. KCLAnderson (Karen)March 21, 2013 at 12:52 PM

    Will you be my mommy? ;-) Just kidding...mostly. I'm pretty good at being my own mommy these days. Thanks for being you and writing about it so well!

    ReplyDelete
  8. OMG that picture is so funny! You are a good mom, I would have done the same! My hubs used to have to take a shot via needle before meals to control diabetes. He used this contraption (kinda looked like a pen) to inject the tiny needle. Might I add it was an expensive contraption, and would take days to replace, days that the hubs couldn't afford to go without his meds. Soooo, when we discovered that we accidentally threw away the contraption when we were in a local fast food restaurant - your's truly went through the dumpster. Ah the things we do for the ones we love!!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Beautiful sentiment! Good Mommy! Now take a long shower...

    ReplyDelete
  10. SHISH... Ughhh!!! That is quite a story. What I have done? Probably the very same thing you did. It will certainly be something your daughter will never ever forget. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  11. This is such a great story and a great example of parenting. KUDOS to you!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I love this story! Your daughter sounds like such a great kid and you are an awesome mom. Have to remember this when my daughter is older.

    ReplyDelete
  13. You're such a good mom, Cindy. I'm glad you found it. Your daughter better be really sweet to you after you dumpster dived for her. :)

    ReplyDelete
  14. That's one way to find faith and religion but whatever works? LOL

    ReplyDelete
  15. I'm sitting here, all "I would've let that puppy go," but in reality? I would've been dumpster diving, too.


    Can't blame your daughter, but have a strong suspicion she is NOT gonna repeat that activity with you, like, ever. So glad you found it.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I did the same thing when I was a kid, but I had to look through the trash by myself. Good job, Mom!

    ReplyDelete
  17. I remember losing my retainer all the time when I was a teenager, but never to this degree!

    ReplyDelete
  18. I have never had to dig in trash quite like that. It was definitely a blog post moment!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Thanks. Being a mom is such a glamorous job, isn't it?

    ReplyDelete
  20. This time, she got a pass. Next time, I will kill her. Dead. Or at least be really mad.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Who knew? On the flipside of that coin, I have tested the singing prayer theory with mushroom hunting and it does not work. Mushrooms are found purely by luck and good eyesight.

    ReplyDelete
  22. She was very grateful that I didn't dispose of her body in that dumpster, yes.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Thank you! She is a good kid. I would not have been as lenient with my other daughter. She pushes my buttons very well. But this particular child is as sweet as the day is long. I knew that her worrying about it would be punishment enough.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Why, thank you. It isn't always that easy to give my kids a pass, but this time it was the right thing to do.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I hope she remembers that I am the best mother ever, that's all. :0)

    ReplyDelete
  26. I changed clothes immediately when I got home. Ick!

    ReplyDelete
  27. I'm sure she will in time... LOL! That's how it usually works. :D

    ReplyDelete
  28. Well, glad I'm not the only one to do such things. That picture is not my butt, but if I was dressed in those clothes, I would look exactly like that, so I thought it was perfect for the post!

    ReplyDelete
  29. Thank you, Karen! I'm not a perfect mom, by any means, but I have my moments of awesomeness :)

    ReplyDelete
  30. She has an awesome personality. It gets her out of trouble frequently. Being sweet has its perks.

    ReplyDelete
  31. I would have been yelling at the other daughter, most likely. Totally different personalities and she very seldom shows that she cares. If makes a difference, doesn't it?

    ReplyDelete
  32. Some shark is probably swimming around with really straight teeth, though.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Van, it was so cold, I couldn't even focus on what else was in there, but I did think about the neat stuff I could find if it had been warmer - and cleaner.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Oh, this brought tears to my eyes. In the old days -- before I was smart enough to designate a place for the car keys -- I lost my keys all the time. It took years to learn to pray for help before I started looking. I think I wasted lots of time learning that I should pray about everything.

    ReplyDelete
  35. It sure did help this time - for me to be calm and to find a needle in a haystack (of lettuce). :0)

    ReplyDelete
  36. I lost mine around the same age and my parents and I hunted through. We found it in the last bag. This was 30 years ago and I never did it again! I would totally do it again to save the cash.

    ReplyDelete
  37. You can masterbation lube find dried butter beans, organic anasazi beans, and a couple of times and learned he loved Golden Showers". DuQuette, L M. Based on the photos, an investigator wrote:" Jodi was lying about not masterbation lube seeing Travis since April of 2008.
    Where I travel with work a lot Day 5: Adventure in the city!
    Too Many Condoms Were Used than NeededPrior to popular belief, you can't use a yahoo email addy. Regis Philbin, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

    Review my website - http://slaphappyreview.com

    ReplyDelete
  38. Funny, sweet post. Love the metaphor, too. We do have to sort through a lot of garbage in our treasured relationships but it's often worth it. I found my sister's retainer, circa 1979, in my bed. Why it was there, I have no idea???

    ReplyDelete
  39. This post really seemed to resonate with people! Hmmm, your sister was either goofing off in your bed or it was a laundry mishap, one of the two. That's my Nancy Drew take on it anyway ;0)

    ReplyDelete
  40. I bet my daughter won't do it again either!

    ReplyDelete
  41. Oh you! This is beautiful. I got tears in my eyes. Grace totally wins, hands down, every time.

    ReplyDelete
  42. You're a good mom! I think I would have offered to hold my daughter upside down by the ankles over the dumpster. Although she outweighs me and is taller than I am. And I'd probably have dropped her. But. Well, it was her retainer after all. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  43. DiatribesAndOvationsAugust 30, 2013 at 3:19 PM

    What a wonderful lesson for the both of you! Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  44. It was one of those moments I won't forget ;)

    ReplyDelete
  45. Oh, surely some thoughts like that crossed my mind! I just tried to make them go far, far away... ha ha!

    ReplyDelete
  46. Sometimes it takes digging through trash to find that grace, but it's worth it!

    ReplyDelete