"Mommy, weren't you afraid you might go to jail for trespassing?" Bella inquired last night as I drove her to dance class.
Obviously, the topic continued to weigh heavily on her mind because the trespassing incident had happened about a week earlier.
She, Landon and I had just returned home after a long bike ride around our neighborhood. Landon had been complaining about how tired he was yet Bella and I still had plenty of energy to burn.
"Hey Bella," I called out to her as she begrudgingly walked her bike up to the garage. "Wanna go back out again? Maybe take a different route than our usual one?"
Her face lit up with excitement and wonder. "Yes! Where are we gonna go?"
"Let's see if we can get up on the levy," I suggested.
With a look of confusion, she asked, "You mean the one behind our house? Are we allowed up there?"
I shrugged my shoulders, "I've seen tons of people up there riding their bikes, walking their dogs...it must be okay if they're doing it, right?"
And with that, we were off again...pedaling as fast as we could on the route that would take us to the entrance of the levy.
During those few minutes, we were both fired up about peering into everyone's backyards...what would we see? Did our neighbors have glamorous pools with cascading waterfalls, luscious vegetable gardens or maybe even sprawling landscapes covered in greenery? We had to find out...our curiosity urged us on.
When we finally made it to the entrance of the levy, we encountered a huge barricade of gates with a large sign that read "Do Not Trespass". To say we were seriously disappointed is understating it.
"Oh man, what a bummer! Well, how do all those other people get up here then?" I wondered aloud.
Bella seemed lost in thought for a few moments and then answered, "There's probably another entrance somewhere, maybe at the other end."
"I don't know where the other end is, though. It's probably miles away. Let's just see if we can get our bikes through the gate," I suggested, hoisting my bike in the air.
Her eyes wide with fear, Bella shook her head. "But, Mommy, the sign says not to trespass."
I chuckled to myself at her seriousness. "Bella, I see people up here ALL. THE. TIME. I'm sure it's okay, especially if we're just using the levy as a means of transportation. We're not harming anyone or anything by being up here."
"Besides, this isn't private property, it's city property. And we, my little friend, live in this city so WE should be allowed up here," I added.
Her hesitancy seemed to wane and she begin to walk her bike over to the gate which I had already bypassed.
"Come on, let me help you get your bike over the gate. This is gonna be so much fun!"
As I lowered her bike on the other side of the gate, Bella asked, "What could happen to us if we get caught? Isn't trespassing against the law? I don't want to go to jail."
"Okay, first of all," I began. "We are not going to jail for being up here on the levy. Secondly, yes, trespassing is against the law but somehow I don't get the feeling that this is something the police would take THAT seriously. Really...how many times do we see people walking behind our house up here?"
She challenged, "Well, they're breaking the law, too. And we could too go to jail because it's against the law, Mommy. Did you used to trespass when you were my age?"
Shit. How was I supposed to answer that question? Tell her the truth and let her think her mother was a complete asshole as a young rebel child or tell her a little innocent white lie for the sake of what should have been a fun bike ride...
Turning my bike around, I said, "Okay, well...obviously, this really bothers you so let's turn around and we'll find another new route to take. One that doesn't involve trespassing."
Bella seemed happy with my decision. "Just because everyone else is doing it doesn't mean we should, you know. Even if we don't get caught."
I couldn't help but smile at her wisdom and maturity. "You are right, Bella," I remarked. "You always do the right thing and, for that, I'm very proud of you."
We ended up taking our usual route, nonetheless, and as we rode around our neighborhood, I became overwhelmed with a sense of guilt. Here I was...a mother who should abide the law no matter how silly it may seem, a mother who should be encouraging her kids to follow the rules, not break them.
I halfway expected God to strike me down with lightening at that very moment.
Upon our return home, I told Tim how the levy entrance had been blocked and that Bella felt very strongly about not trespassing. He began to say, "But I see people up there all the time...." and I held up my hand, silently suggesting that he discontinue before Bella lectured him as she did me.
Fast forward to the other night, while she and I were in the car on our way to dance class, and the topic of trespassing came up again.
"You never did tell me if you used to trespass when you were my age," she demanded.
With a sigh, I answered, "If you must know, yes I did. I did lots of stupid things when I was younger."
"Did your mother know that you trespassed?"
"Uh, no, I don't think so. It's not like I was breaking into people's houses or anything, Bella. My friends and I would sometimes walk on people's property as a shortcut to school...you know, that kind of stuff," I explained.
"Well, she'd probably be mad if she knew. But she didn't and now you know that trespassing is against the law. Let's never discuss this again, okay."
I glanced at her in the rear-view mirror and thought, "Who's the mother and who's the child here?"
"You got it, baby girl. No more breaking the law for me," I said.
She smiled back at me in triumph.
Oh, and in case you're wondering, lightening hasn't me struck me....yet. So long as I continue to walk the straight and narrow...trust me, my daughter will see to that.
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