We met with the Mother and the boys today. We had a wonderful visit. The first of many to come I hope. I was shocked to learn they have lived there 9 years. I thought it had only been a couple. I am ashamed I did not make an effort to get to know this family. The children are charming, they are good people. I have cheated myself out of some good times with them. Attached is a letter written by the Mother; Laura.
Thank you for reminding us about our letters of apology. We, too, have been frustrated by the frequently missing mail, but that was not the case here.
I am very sorry and embarrassed about the fire our two youngest sons (then aged 11 and 12) started on your property. I knew from the beginning that you knew the cause of the fire, as the investigator asked if it was alright with me for him to talk to you about it (since they are minors). We have been doing our best to work through the situation with the boys, but my husband and I couldn’t agree on the best approach where you were concerned, so we did nothing, and for that I am sorry, too.
Thankfully, as you said, the damage was minimal and no one was hurt, but rest assured, we took the situation very seriously as the potential was great for a very different outcome. As a result of this incident, the boys were not allowed to go to camp this summer, are now in counseling, confined to a small section of the property while playing outside (which can be seen from the house) for the entire summer, have had several fire professionals at church talk to them, are expecting to attend a class for junior fire setters, and have about 8 cords of firewood to move to keep them occupied while outdoors. We have gone over, in great detail, all of the possible ramifications if the fire had… A) burned them. B) burned anyone else. C) burned our barn. D) burned your horse trailer. E) burned the neighbors greenhouse. F) burned the other neighbors bird pen. G) harmed my elderly in-laws who were trying to keep it under control until the firefighters arrived. H) And of course, how dangerous fire is not only to the firefighters, but the potential risks to everyone in their proximity as they speed to the scene of any emergency.
You are correct in saying that children must be held accountable for their actions if they are to have any chance of growing up to be responsible adults. I think it’s vital that they “own” every bit of the situation they created. To this end, I let them explain when anyone asks what happened in that field. I honestly believe that they have learned some invaluable lessons and are quite done playing with fire.
After extensive discussion, it has been decided that in addition to this, and the boys’ letters, they will be spending their lunch break (we homeschool) for the foreseeable future cleaning up what they can of the fire damaged area. We’ll start on Monday, August 18, 2014 at 12:30 P.M., if you’d care to come speak with us/them. I suggested they might work on it for 2 weeks, but to give you an idea of what good kids they are and the depth of their contrition, my younger boy said he thought they should go until it’s done, and the older one suggested that since your property was damaged, you should be the one to decide when they might be allowed to quit. They are very empathetic, and still tear up often when the subject arises, so I greatly appreciate your willingness to let the matter drop with leniency.
Again, I am very sorry about this whole situation including our lack of communication.
Thank you, Mary, for your amazing grace and generosity. I had been a little worried how our meeting would go (if you came to talk to us) but both you and Ron left us relieved and delighted, with friendly conversation rather than accusations and condemnation. When Ron said you were baking cookies for the boys and bringing them bottles of cold water, I just about lost it! Thank you again, lovely lady.