Why Anything That Can Go Wrong, Will Go Wrong With Kids

by Lisa Sugarman
Lisa writes the nationally syndicated column "It Is What It Is" and is the author of Untying Parent Anxiety.

There are certain crazy, seemingly impossible things that happen to us every day — stuff that, even if we tried really hard to make up, we couldn’t.

Add some kids into the mix and you’ve just elevated the list of outrageous things that can happen to a whole new level.

For example, one steamy Thursday night in July, my 16-year-old daughter asked if we could go for ice cream, which is a totally appropriate request, right? What could possibly go wrong? Yeah, well…

So, of course, being the stellar mom that I am, we went. And for the first eleven seconds that we were in the ice cream shop, everything was peachy, and then the wheels came off the bus.


A muffled, “Oh God,” was all I heard as I was just about to order, quickly followed by, “That did not just happen to me.”

So, right away I know that whatever just happened three inches behind me was not good. These were not words you want to hear out of your kid at 9:15 p.m. when all you want to do is peacefully lick on your soft serve and go home to bed.

As a parent of a teenage daughter, I won’t lie — I was heavily inclined to just keep facing forward and pretend she wasn’t my kid. But genetics are strong little things. Needless to say, I turned. What I found was almost too ridiculous to believe.

Courtesy of Lisa Sugarman

There she was, standing against the counter, hunched over, and staring down into the three-quarter-inch space between the counter and the ice cream freezer (you know, the giant-size kind that holds like twelve containers of ice cream and weighs around two thousand pounds). Wanna guess what somehow magically slid out of her hand and fell directly, perfectly, almost comically down that little black hole? Yep. Her brand spankin’ new iPhone. Oh yeah. Gone. Gonzo. Bye-bye. Ciao.

Also, wanna know what can make every ounce of color and fluid drain out of a 16-year-old girl’s face faster than anything else? Watch them watch their entire digital world slide into the abyss.


I mean, if you had been there seeing the size of this teeny, tiny little crevice, you would’ve just started laugh-crying, which is more or less what I did, after the initial shock wore off.

It was literally, physically impossible that that phone fit into that space without a carefully orchestrated move on her part. But the fact is, it was an accident. A complete fluke. A one in a million. Even though my daughter knew I knew that, the vein in her forehead still started bulging.

Of course, she immediately assumed she was S-O-L and her phone was gone for good. Typical kid move. And although I tried to assure her that we had options, she wasn’t hearing me. She had blocked all forms of rational thought.

As far as I was concerned, all we needed to do was move the seven-ton freezer back far enough to reach an arm down and grab it. Which would’ve been potentially doable if the owner was there and if there were more than two people working and if they weren’t closing soon.


Fortunately for her, I’m a problem solver. And I’m a frugal mom who was not about to lose a crazy-expensive smartphone to some oversized, antiquated freezer unit. Not on my watch. This was going to involve some creative thinking, resourcefulness, and expert hand-eye coordination. Totally my wheelhouse.

So, in my head I was formulating a plan. This plan was either going to fail miserably or elevate me to an urban legend in my tiny little town. (And I’ve always wanted to be a legend, so.…)

Courtesy of Lisa Sugarman

I needed to be systematic about The Plan. I needed to ditch the kid, whose bulging head vein and bloodshot eyes were acting as a distraction, and go get the right tool for the job — that tool being a long steel rod of some kind with a perfectly placed little hook-thingy on the end. It just so happened we had that exact thing back at the house. It was the tool we used once a year to crank our ski carrier up to the ceiling in the garage, of course. It was just the thing and I knew it would work. (I was doing a lot of positive visualization to avoid getting too pissed at the situation.)

Fifteen minutes later, I walked back into the ice cream shop with my steel rod, a fireplace poker, and my putter over my shoulder. (I needed options just in case.) Ninety seconds after that I had done the impossible. I had fished out her phone—fully intact and buzzing with two hundred new Snapchat notifications. Boom! Who’s the urban legend now, baby?


So, here’s the takeaway: Life is actually one long comedy. It really is most of the time. Ridiculous situations are everywhere, and we just need to expect that stupid, seemingly impossible things are going to happen every day. We just need to do our best to laugh them off, wherever they come from, and learn to deal.

And may I suggest keeping a four-foot-long metal rod in the trunk just in case.

For more from Lisa Sugarman, visit and Twitter and click here for an exclusive offer to pre-order her upcoming book Untying Parent Anxiety.