A Rainbow Mystery


“This parenting stuff is for the birds!”  I’ve muttered this more than once in the last few days.  Sometimes I just feel completely inadequate for the job, and I really hope other parents feel the same way.  Recently, my husband and I found ourselves in a parenting quagmire and were still dumfounded by what happened.  I also feel some regret for how we handled it.  I’m going to share it, because I’d appreciate feedback and opinions on how others might have dealt with the situation.

My husband and I were out on a “date.”  It wasn’t late, approximately 8:30, when my phone rang.  It was our drama queen (age nine) and she was hysterical.  I felt that punch in my stomach, immediately fearing the worst.  I really should know better by now, but I still go dark immediately.

I frantically asked, “Who’s hurt?”

“Nobody,” she answered through gasps.

I continued, “Is the house on fire?”

“Nooooo!”  She emphatically replied.

“What broke?”

“Nothing!”  She’d started to sound irritated.

With tested patience, I continued.  “Audrey, what happened?”

She told me that someone had spilled her rainbow loom, and that the case and all the rubber bands and beads were scattered on the floor.   Apparently everything had been on the bed in our room, and when she walked in, she found everything all over the bed and the floor.  She went on, with new tears, to explain that it was a disaster and it would be impossible to fix.

Then my husband’s phone rang.  It was Hunter, who was “in charge.”  Hunter seemed unaware of the disaster and only wanted to debrief with his dad about the Chargers and Colts game.  Oh, it was time to go home.  I assured Audrey that we’d get to the bottom of it and that I’d help her clean it up.  She just needed to calm down.

When we got home, our drama queen was leisurely sitting in the chair in my bedroom, watching TV with her feet propped up.  My youngest guy was lying on the bed, next to a scattered pile of rainbow bands.  No one was crying, and no one was cleaning.  I assessed the “disaster,” which didn’t appear to be that bad.   There was rainbow shrapnel on the bed and some on the floor.  I was a little irked that our evening was cut short, especially since Audrey didn’t seem to be the least bit phased by the situation anymore, nor did I appreciate the fact that she hadn’t started the cleanup process.


I rallied the troops and Daddy, Aud, Cammy and I started separating the colors and putting them back into the individual compartments.   Something wasn’t right, because it took only a few minutes.   There were maybe only a hundred bands and perhaps 20 beads on the bed.  There was even less on the floor.  Where’d the rest go?

I looked under the bed, carpet, covers and pillows – nothing.  Folks, we were missing about 1000 rubber bands here.  We asked Audrey and Camden, who both replied, “I don’t know.”  We called Hunter into the room and he claimed, “I have no idea.”  Next was Barrett, but as you can imagine – he wasn’t offering up any clues.

As parents, we were thinking, what the hell?  Where did ALL the rubber bands and beads go?  And why was no one talking?  This gang loves to rat each other out, so the silence was weird!  We were upset, because it was such a ridiculous situation.  Obviously someone had to be lying, because the rainbow paraphernalia didn’t just vanish.  And we weren’t talking about gold coins here.  So what do the three siblings of a brother with autism do?  Yep – they blamed it on Barrett.  Well Barrett has neither the patience nor the fine motor skills to pick up so many tiny things.  Also, conveniently (or not), he doesn’t have the communication skills to defend himself.  Case closed, or so they thought.

In retrospect I admit that our reaction was a little over the top.  We yelled and sent everyone to their room, and weren’t nice about it.  Oh the hysteria from the younger two, and the look of betrayal from Hunter.  Barrett couldn’t have cared less and seemed happy to have to go to his room with Hunter.

Our first thought was that someone didn’t want to take the time and care to clean it up properly, so they’d decided it would be easier to throw it all away.  We checked all the trash cans and drawers and cabinets in our bedroom and bathroom.  It was at this point that another theory developed.  The toilet?  We have septic, so we weren’t looking forward to any problems there, let me tell you.  I kept saying “no way,” and my husband kept suggesting it was possible.  Then he proposed that Barrett may have mistakenly swallowed them.  1000 pieces?  Again, no way – but it was a good angle to use for information gathering purposes.

We called everyone out of their rooms for another interrogation.  Two were still crying.  We explained our “theory” that Barrett may have swallowed the rubber bands, in which case he could get very, very sick and we’d need to get him to the emergency room.  Before I loaded him in the car and had to spend the night in the ER, we’d appreciate it if whoever did whatever to the rainbow loom would come clean to save us the trip, time, aggravation and a co-pay.

We got nothing.

***At this point in the story, I am changing the names of the children involved, so that those of you who know them, will give unbiased opinions.

We were feeling defeated when “Lane” offered his/her two cents. “I think it’s obvious that someone flushed it all down the toilet.”

Oh really?  So I inquired, “And why do you think it’s so obvious?”

Lane explained that there was a “trail” of bands leading to the toilet in the master bath.  Interesting, considering we didn’t see a trail.  Their dad pounced, and demanded Lane admit that he/she did it.  He/she insisted that he/she didn’t.

There was more loud family back and forth, with one child jumping, flapping his hands and laughing.  We were getting nowhere, so we sent them all back into their rooms.

We were both really upset that no one was talking, but my husband was pretty certain that they’d been flushed and went outside to the septic tank to investigate (you have to know and love my guy to comprehend how this was a reasonable option – he’s my Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor when not working at his desk in the Bat Cave).

While he executed his mission, I decided to perform my own personal one-on-one interviews with the kids.  After questioning one of the children, “Pat”, I’m convinced that he/she was not involved.  Ditto for “Alex,” as he/she is not good at lying and typically easy to “break.”  With “Jamie” I attempted to recreate the crime.  My preliminary conclusion was that he/she did not perpetrate said crime.  Not saying that it wasn’t plausible, just not probable.  With “Lane” I tried manipulate the situation with guilt, and he/she wasn’t buying it.

Evidence in the septic tank amounted to a few rubber bands, but there were nowhere near the phantom 1000.

Mom and Dad went to bed – peeved.

In the dawn of a new day, the original crime did not seem to be a big deal.  At that point, it was obvious that Barrett hadn’t swallowed them.  Not saying he wouldn’t try one, but his tastes are discriminating and I’m confident that rubber isn’t on the list.  The thing that still stung was the lying!  A part of me was impressed that they were sticking together – as I often urge them to do.  A part of me worried, though.  Was it possible that three of the children didn’t know what happened and if that were the case, three people were being unjustly punished?

For the sake of consistency (and to not look like Jackasses), we did not change our minds about the punishment that we’d handed down.  All the kids were sentenced to incarceration in their rooms, until the mystery was solved.  We showed some leniency with the one who wouldn’t stay put all day, but he was not allowed access to anything electronic.

Signs were posted on some of the bedroom doors, such as this:

Aud Mysterysign    Hunter mystery sign

Oh, it was blissfully quiet.  Around noon, Dad came to my office to talk.  He was considering the possibility of a white flag, because what if Barrett did do it?  It’s possible, but I don’t think he has the ability to plan like that.  He probably made the mess, but I assure you, Barrett has no problem walking away from his messes!  If he did orchestrate the flushing, it had to take a long time, and someone would have seen him do it.  Yes?  It was hard to comprehend that with them being isolated in their rooms, we couldn’t get anyone to come forward.  Our kids rarely hang out in their rooms (no screens in the bedrooms), which would indicate a lone assailant – and three innocent victims.  Could we actually be raising a child who didn’t care that others, siblings no less, were being punished for their crime?

An hour or so passed before even mean ole Mom was wavering.  One child had something important going on that I didn’t want him/her to miss, and I honestly believed that he/she was not guilty.

What would you do?  I felt so damned confused.  And dumb.  I didn’t want to mess up and forever be taken advantage of by the kids.

With Dad’s blessing, I called everyone out and said that I was very disappointed that someone was willing to sacrifice their siblings.  I conceded that it appeared they weren’t going to tell us the TRUTH, which hurt.  They were going to be released on parole – still no electronics, but they’d able to go outside.  I indicated that the silent treatment would probably stay in effect.   I also cautioned them that I’d never forget this moment and that sometime in the future they may need me (or dad) to have their back, whether it was with another child, someone else’s parents, or the school and I wouldn’t be able to vouch for them.  This was a trust issue.  While I was on my soapbox, I got very emotional and started to cry, which made some of them cry.

We still don’t have an answer and I still have deep apprehension that we didn’t handle it right.  I feel as though this all should have resulted in a valuable life lesson.  I think we screwed up on a couple levels.  It’s been over a week and the rubber bands never have shown up.  In fact, I found the loom case completely empty the next day.  It was stripped of everything.  I’m not sure what to make of it, nor did I ever acknowledge that I discovered it that way.  I just threw the case out and no one has mentioned it again.

 Empty loom case

Parenting is so hard, isn’t it?  I’ve been a mom for thirteen years.  I was child once.  I’ve read more than a few parenting books.  I have friends who are parenting role models.  I’ve even taken two parenting classes.  Yet I was utterly unprepared and unqualified, in my opinion, to handle the situation.  The deeper we got into it, the less confidence I had.  Now I’m rattled and fearful of how I’ll handle the next parenting battle – and that’s not cool

Please share your thoughts.  Did we mishandle the original incident?  Did we overreact?  How do you know if your child is lying?  How do you get to the bottom of household mysteries?  Should we have kept them in their rooms until someone cracked?  And what if it was Barrett?  Do you have any opinions as to the culprit?  What would you have done?  Have you had a similar experience?  Help!

29 thoughts on “A Rainbow Mystery”

  1. Wow! That’s a hard one. I can’t believe that the mystery remains unsolved! I know everyone’s kids are so different (which is part of what makes this whole parenting this so, so hard!!!) but I know mine would have cracked by now and I’m guessing that your’s would have too… Perhaps they are telling the truth? That said, I always try to avoid (but always succeed) second guessing parenting decisions. I know all I can do is go with my gut which is what you guys did. Brava for handling such a sticky situation so well.

    1. Thank you for saying we handled it so well, because I’m not so sure! Yikes…I can’t seem to let it go. Maybe the fact that no one has cracked would indicate that it had indeed been Barrett. I hope so, because I shiver at the thought that one of the others could carry the burden of a lie!

  2. That was so well written I couldn’t wait to get to the end to find out “who dunnit”!!! I am so disappointed!! :-)

    I think you did great! I also think it’s very cool that you let it go. In the end, it really doesn’t matter. How many times did we all do something during our childhood or teenage years that we didn’t fess up to when we should have? I bet everyone has… I doesn’t make them bad kids, in fact — it makes them normal human beings who sometimes do the “wrong thing”. In your case, as a parent you did the “right thing” by letting go.

    Good job Momma (and Dad)!! Love you guys!

    1. What an interesting perspective. I hadn’t considered that perhaps letting it go was the right thing to do. Maybe it was, since we weren’t going to get our answer and the fact that in the end, no harm was done. I hope it was Bear and not a lie from one of the other kiddos. I had another thought – perhaps the fact that the rest of the loom “disappeared” could indicate that someone thought they no longer deserved the toy? Self punishment, perhaps?

  3. Al, I am not gonna LIE that I laughed and enjoyed this story so much! I guess the lesson you learned is NEVER EVER buy a toy that makes such a mess. lol. Someday, in about twenty years one your children are going to say, “So mom do you really want to know what happened to the rainbow bands?” lol I would also just let it go and know that many times siblings will have each others backs while other times rat them out in a heart beat. Do you remember when Larry flipped his car on Immokalee Rd? Well I didn’t tell my mom when she asked where he was since I promised him I wouldn’t. Not to say that I wouldn’t want to wring my daughter’s neck for not telling me but sibling loyalty is huge. Some day you will have to tell us all the ending to this story. BTW, you are doing an amazing job!

      1. She asked me after she found out if I knew and I did tell her the truth. Needless to say she wasn’t happy with me. I have never been a good liar. lol

    1. I didn’t – excellent idea! I can’t believe I didn’t think of that! Although, I’d like to point out that I have never seen my children vacuum. I bet they don’t even know where it is, lol.

        1. I got excited about the vacuum theory – especially when I couldn’t find the vacuum! It was not in it’s proper place, AND I found it in the basement, close to the kids’ play room. Bam! Mystery solved. But alas, no. No rubber bands inside.

  4. Allie, I was in suspense the whole time reading this blog! Now I need to know what happened to the bands! I think that you handled it the best way you knew how to while in the moment. Looking back, we will all wish we had reacted differently in certain situations. What I’ve learned is that regret only creates feelings of sadness and defeat. You have to just know that you are doing the best that you can and you can always “change things up” the next time something happens. We are constantly striving for perfection but what matters most at the end of the day is that our kids know that we love them and we are trying our best. Done and done. You and Rich are doing a great job and I admire you both! Regarding the bands, did you ask Audrey if the bands were missing when she discovered the mess? It sounds like whoever made the mess is likely the one who disposed of them. I actually don’t think that you handled the situation poorly at all. I would have eventually let up the punishment too. Knowing my kids, someone would have come up with a theory on their own just to get a “jail break”. It sounds like your kids may be telling the truth and you may never have an answer. Do you think that the kids would be relaxing and chilling out when you returned from dinner if they thought they were going to be in trouble? I hope that you and Rich get to enjoy a peaceful night out soon… drama free!

    1. I’m so sorry for the suspense, but I am glad that Rich and I aren’t the only ones going crazy wondering what in the world happened!!!! And honestly, I rarely strive for perfection, I’m usually ok with half-assed. I just felt that this was a major parenting fail, but the comments are making me feel better. I’m also grateful for the different insights. You’re right, I can’t see them chilling out so causally AT THE SCENE of the CRIME, if they’d committed one. I’m telling you, it does takes a village. Still…where in the hell are the rubber bands?

  5. Ugh–I NEED to know who did it! I do!

    Now onto the main issue, I DO think you handled it perfectly. It’s good for the kids to know you’re a person with feelings, hopes, and disappointments–some of which are triggered for better or worse by THEM.

    Loved the signs on the rooms!

  6. Parenting involves a great deal of forgiveness of our family and ourselves – and second-guessing our actions. A few years ago, a new friend looked at me apologetically as his 2-year-old was having a small tantrum and said,” We haven’t figured out the best discipline methods yet.” I laughed and told him that our daughter was 18 and we still weren’t close to figuring it out. We all get it wrong sometimes, but the fact that you and Rich came together and gave serious consideration to your reactions and the best course forward shows conscious parenting. I humbly submit that you learn from it, surrender it and move on. And be thankful that no blood was involved in the alleged “incident”.

  7. Ditto what Tracy said. This made me think back to a childhood incident at my house. I have 10 siblings and like Tracy said sometimes we had each others backs to the end and other times we couldn’t wait to turn them in.

    When I was in 8th grade I accidently hit and cracked one of the panes in a 3 pane picture window in the dining room. I never said a word about it and when my mom saw the crack she did the interrogations just as you did. I never did come clean, but I sure beat myself up inside for not telling on myself.

    Many, many, many years later I did tell my mom that I was the one that cracked the window and she of course did not even remember the incident by then.

    I think you and Rich handled things well and I totally agree that you two sticking together through these things is a life lesson to the kids. One thing my kids know is that I hate lying (even though I have done my share) it is the one thing that can really drive you crazy. You just have to let go and hope they have all learned a valuable lesson from all of this.

    You and your family are in my daily prayers. I enjoy following tidbits of your life. Love you and God Bless!

  8. Hi Allie, very well written! I loved the story and all the comments. You and Rich are wonderful parents. My one thought is: Who was left in charge? If Hunter was in charge was he being paid? If that was the case, responsibilities come with being the baby sitter. He should know, if he is in charge, what to do in an emergency. He should also be aware that Audrey was in tears calling you at dinner with an incident; not totally engaged in the game. And, Hunter should be responsible to give you the answers. If he doesn’t, I would think twice about leaving him “in charge” again. Does Hunter get any “perks” for being “in charge” that we would loose? Finally, if you have truely lost the trust, with Rich’s help and technical skills, perhaps a Nanny cam would ease your stress next time you go out.

    1. Thanks Barb. Yes, Hunter was in charge, and no, not usually paid. The next time we went out, we did get a sitter, to prove a point (and embarrass Hunter, who feels he’s too old for one). The trust issue isn’t so much that something happened, because that is par for the course. The trust issue is about the lying. As for the Audrey and Hunter dynamic – I think you are familiar with it. Usually Hunter is in charge of the house and the boys, and has the ultimate say. He will follow our rules, explicitly. Audrey is our wild card and we usually make sure she’s “occupied.” She was give computer time in the office. She left her rainbow loom unattended, and her crying was all about dramatics (and trying to present herself as the wronged party). If she had tried that on Hunter, he would have called us, and she wouldn’t have been able to put her own “spin” on the events. After weeks of contemplation, I think Rich’s anger (very atypical for him, I’m usually the one yelling) scared the kids, and that is why we never got the full story. If I had it to do over again, I would have handled it much differently.

  9. Allie, I think you handled it pretty well. I am not sure I would have been as nice or understanding, if my current parenting skills is anything to go by :)

    Now I’m dying to know what really happened!

    1. I know, I feel like I let me readers down. A girlfriend of mine called me today from Florida, to see if we found our culprit! I have a feeling I won’t know for a few years, after the statue of limitations runs out!

  10. while I am a firm believer that the most obvious scenario is usually the truth, we had a situation once that made me accuse Sonja of lying and punish her at the age of about 3 or 4 only to find out I was wrong and she had been not only innocent but completely oblivious to the situation. I felt horrible and always remember that I never would have dreamed of the truth in the situation. so just because we can’t think of it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen some other way. That being said, I think you handled it fine. My one question is, when you found the empty case from the bands, where were the bands that time? clearly someone has a way of disposing things of which you are not aware. Perhaps you could ask if she wants to work with her loom today or comment that you haven’t seen her with it lately and see how she responds. Perhaps enough time has passed that guilt might be eating away or the secret burden is getting hard to carry. And yes I want to know what happened.

  11. Woah, you take things like this far too seriously!! You’re punishing the kids for a few 1000 RUBBER BANDS lost!!! I mean, come on!
    So basically there were about 1000 rubber bands lost. You couldn’t find them anywhere. Big deal! That’s less than $2 lost!
    I get you trying to find out who actually cause the mess, but isolating them in their rooms because of rainbow loom is a bit over-reactive.
    I don’t believe that the kids should be punished any further and that maybe you should just not let them have anything to do with rainbow loom at home, and the issue (that has been very badly handled) will be forgotten until Thanksgiving dinner in 20 years.
    As a mother of three, I suggest getting all the kids in front of you separately and asking them about the situation. Find out the person that differs from the others. Once you find out just let them off with, lets say, no iPod for a week or something. Don’t go to all that trouble for less than $2 and only rubber bands lost.

    1. Thanks for your comment. In retrospect (it has been 7 months), I do believe we over-reacted. However, I’d like to clarify that it wasn’t the rubber bands that upset us, it was the fact that somebody was lying – and went to great extremes to cover it up. It was a question of trust. Sending them to their rooms seems quite harmless to me, but we all have our own parenting styles. I used some dramatic adjectives (such as isolated) for narrative, I assure you:). And yes, I agree with you, this will probably be brought up at a future family gathering! I just hope by then, they tell us what really happened.

      By the way, we did talk to the children separately, but gathered nothing concrete. The whole thing remains a mystery.

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