It was a few weeks ago in Florida that the gang crept into the house.
They entered the new, vacant home and, according to the Associated Press, splashed and smeared motor oil on the white walls, beige carpeting and kitchen appliances.
"Most of the light fixtures were broken, as well as a toilet tank top," the AP reported.
Damage estimates differed. One placed the damage at $10,000, another said it ranged from $2,000 to $4,500.
Fortunately in this day and age when police seem to spend more time writing reports for insurance companies than catching criminals, the cops did nab the perpetrators.
The arresting officer rounded them up on a Sunday night and read them their Miranda rights. He told them they could go to jail for a long time. All confessed. And then began crying.
That's because the oldest member of the gang is 6. And the youngest is 4.
And at least one of the parents of these boys is outraged. Not by her children's behavior, but by the behavior of the policeman who caught them.
This is from the mother of one of the 4-year-olds and one of the 6-year-olds: "He [the policemen] kept telling them over and over they could go to jail for 40 years. They were screaming and crying and carrying on. My 4-year-old said he didn't think he would ever see me again. He asked me how many minutes are in 40 years."
Personally, I would have answered that question honestly and frankly. I would have told the kid that 40 years is 21,024,000 minutes and he would be older than Santa Claus before he ever saw the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on TV again.
The mother saw things differently however. According to the AP, the mother said "her boys didn't know they were doing anything wrong, believing they could use the neighborhood home as their club house and decorate it."
Sure. Right. Don't doubt it for a second. Smashing lights and spreading motor oil on walls and carpets is simply creative expression, the normal desire for youngsters to individualize their own space.
The boys will not, of course, be prosecuted. The mother said she would help pay the damages. And I do not criticize this woman for her attitude.
I only give her fair warning for the years ahead: If you teach your children that you will always protect them no matter what they do, you will always have to protect them no matter what they do.
The signs are everywhere. There was a best-selling book about this called "The Peter Pan Syndrome." And a few months ago, I read an article in The Sun by A. M. Chaplin about adults in their 20s who really don't see the point of living in the real world.
One woman said her friends didn't like it in the real world "because they just don't want to have to worry about BG&E or United Cable."
A 27-year-old woman said: "Society places so many demands, you're just scared to get out there and really take a chance sometimes."
A 26-year-old man said: "I'd love to just go back to school and just stay there. This real world is no fun. I have to take everything so seriously now."
My heart goes out to these people. They are no longer children. But they don't want to grow up either.
And who can blame them?
Who likes electric bills? Who likes waiting all day for the cable person to come and then finding out he isn't coming because he doesn't like real life either and he is at home hiding under his mother's couch?
In a number of homes throughout the country you can find something called a "mother-in-law" apartment. It is a room, often in the basement, with a bath, sometimes a kitchen, and a separate entrance. It was imagined once upon a time that a widowed mother-in-law would move move down there so she could be with her children, but still lead an independent life.
Well, all I can say to the mothers-in-law of America is I hope you all hit the lottery, because you know who is living in your apartment today? Your grandchild, that's who.
Three of them were just on the TV show "20/20." They were men in the 20s, all with jobs, who live with their parents. They like it at home. They get free meals, free rent, free laundry, free everything. One of these guys is a dentist! But his mother said he can't afford to leave home because life is so expensive for a new dentist.
But I think the price of drills and gold fillings has nothing to do with it. I think these kids have learned that home is where they can get the best deal in the world.
When I graduated from high school and went to college, I wanted to leave home. Home is where they made you do chores for a small (or no) allowance. Home is where you were expected to obey unreasonable rules like coming home at certain hours and not smoking and not having members of the opposite sex in your bedroom.
None of this is true in some homes today, however. Home is where there is no criticism, no rules, and nothing but free support.
Home is where you never, ever have to wait for the cable guy to come and where your mother will always tell the policeman it was not your fault.
But don't get me wrong. I am not criticizing this.
In fact, I am going to track down that lady with the son who is the dentist, the woman who is providing everything for him from free six-course dinners to freshly laundered undies.
And I am not going to tell this woman how to run her life.
4( I'm going to see if she'll adopt me.