Wednesday, February 6, 2008


When I called Jacob at lunchtime, I knew by the tone of his voice that something was drastically wrong.

Unfortunately, I was still in my corporate office, writing instructions and battling unknown powers to get the security key and connection software I need to load on my home computer so I can connect to the corporate servers and work from home in the mornings. Because requests must now go through the company intranet, I don’t even have a phone number to call to expedite this process or to complain about their non-response to my request. I faxed my request again today. However, I’m still working at the office in the daytime – but Jacob is at home. Alone. Still. And my husband is away. Still.

And that is not good, not good at all.

Jacob is supposed to be homeschooling himself, so to speak. He doesn’t need me to give him specific instructions or to lecture him on a subject. All the materials he needs to complete his schoolwork are right there at home, right on the dining room table, which has been taken over by books and papers and pencils. I thought I was giving him the right amount of work – something from Biology, Global History, a vocabulary exercise, a chapter of the book to read, CBS questions, reading aloud (something he has to learn to do with feeling), piano… Then there would be the Geometry class in the afternoon and Spanish after that with Nita. I thought he wouldn’t have time to goof off. But a teenager home alone? I should have known better.

When I called to tell him what time Nita would pick him up to take him to the homeschooling center, his voice gave him away.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. “What is it?”

He came right out with it. “I broke your computer.”

“What do you mean you ‘broke’ it? What did you do?”

He sheepishly told me that he had gotten on the Internet to download a patch to a screensaver that was on the computer – a fancy screensaver that I had told him to remove from my computer. MY computer. Yes, I’m possessive; he has his own computer. It’s just that my computer is newer, faster, has a flat-panel screen, and is pretty cool. His computer is old. Frumpy. He built it himself, but of old parts.

But MY computer is supposed to be used for work. Downloading ANYTHING to my computer was verboten. Strictly off limits. Not allowed without my permission. Ever. There are viruses out there!! But when I warned Jacob of viruses in the past, he dismissed my warnings as the hysterical paranoia of a middle-aged mom. Why, there’s cool stuff out there! And he knows the sites where to get it. But when he found his little patch to “fix” the screensaver that was not supposed to be on my computer in the first place, he downloaded a virus right along with his little “patch.” A virus that simply froze up my system. A virus or spyware or something that didn’t allow him to do anything at all on my computer – the computer he wasn’t allowed to use while I was away, wasn’t to touch at all while homeschooling himself, wasn’t to download anything to, and wasn’t to have that screensaver on.

And then he spent another hour and a half trying to fix his error – all while he was supposed to be doing Global History or English! Obviously I hadn’t given him enough work, put enough pressure on him, or put the fear of God in him.

Jacob knew, because he was with me when we were setting up the computer, that we hadn’t loaded any virus protection software on the computer yet. I was supposed to do that yesterday, but, hey, with working full-time, correcting assignments, and developing the next day’s curriculum schedule, it had slipped my mind. I had a large note on the kitchen cabinet reminding me to do that tonight.

So when I heard that Jacob had trashed the system with a virus, I was angry. Very, very angry. But the anger had more to do with the breach of trust than with a broken computer. I really believed that Jacob would stay away from my computer as I’d asked him to do. I didn’t password protect it or lock the door to my home office. And both ideas had occurred to me. No, I thought, I’ve raised this young man in a Christian home with Christian values. I believe in him. I trust that he’ll do the right thing, that he’ll be obedient. But he did something that I specifically and explicitly forbade him to do. Any parent knows how much that hurts. The computer can be fixed or replaced; the broken trust cannot be easily repaired.

So I left my uneaten lunch in my office, drove home through the freezing rain, and took my computer to a computer repair shop.

I just wish I could repair the broken trust as easily.


Susan <> said...

Oh I do know what you mean about the trust issue. And I certainly do not wish to make light of it at all (hey, we have 6 members in this family and we have 6 computers!) but at least it was over an issue at home- within the home.

I know that 'today it was in the home who knows what or where tomorrow?' and while it may be true at least it was with an issue like this and not something worse- or osmething that could be more damaging to his adult life or his soul.

While we feel hurt and betrayed, we haev to remember that we can use these times to teach and instruct and we can be thankful taht at least we found out about it and are able to address the root issue.

Hope you get your pc back soon!

The Reluctant Homeschooler said...

I do know that Jacob learned a lesson - and so did I. I have password protected my laptop, and will also password protect the new Dell when I get it back. Jacob even requested to be removed as a user from the Dell computer. That is fine with me.

On a happier note, I finally got the Secure ID and one of the two software programs that I need so I can work from home - after I hiked around the corporate headquarters and located building and floor, and then after asking around, even the desk of the person who was to give them to me! However, I still don't have a computer to install them on...

What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”
— Albert Pike, Scottish Rite Freemason (1809-1891)