Why Didn’t You Take Something Good?

We had a parenting ‘first’ this weekend. I’m not going to name names (it starts with ‘L’ and ends with ‘eo’) but someone stole something.

There had been a birthday party at a classmate’s house. I dropped off nameless kid and then went to take another of our kids to her friend’s birthday party. The classmate’s Father, who is deployed, collects swords. They are handsomely displayed on the walls of his study. Apparently, at some point during the party, the boys in attendance noticed the room and were, of course, fascinated. They must have spent a few unattended minutes in the room before joining the rest of the kids outside. The parents also collect letter openers (which look like small swords) from their travels abroad but have them tucked away in a drawer.

After being home from the party for an hour or so, nameless kid comes into our bedroom to show Garrett and me these little miniature “swords”. “Aren’t these cool? They look like tiny swords. I found them in the playroom. I wonder where they’re from?” he asked with amazing conviction. We have other kids in and out of our house constantly. It wasn’t out of the realm of possibilities that another kid brought the letter openers over and forgotten them. Also, Garrett’s grandmother passed away a couple of years ago and the family recently held an estate sale. Our kids were given some of her knick knacks- I considered that maybe they came from there. I held them and commented on how they DID look like tiny swords but for him to please put them on the island in the kitchen so that the little kids didn’t stab themselves for gouge out one of the dog’s eyes. He complied.

An hour or so later, our oldest daughter was in the kitchen, noticed the letter openers and said “Hey, Mom, Leo stole these from that birthday party.” “I’m sorry, what?”, I said. “Yeah- he showed them to me a little while ago and asked me not to tell you.” “Well, I’m glad you told me. Will you please go find him and ask him to meet me in our room?”, I asked.

After talking to him for a few minutes about it being wrong to steal, that he had to pray 3 Hail Mary’s as penance and that he was going to return the swords to the house, look at Mrs. J’s face when apologized AND write her an note, he started crying. I held him close and explained that we love him and there’s nothing that he could ever do that could take away our love for him. That we all make mistakes but that it’s important to confess and ask for forgiveness. That he’s not a bad boy, he just made a bad choice. He stopped crying and calmed down a bit. I wanted him to know that it’s common for kids to steal stuff at his age. I shared a story of my own experience with thievery at the age of 6.

“Hey- you know what? When I was your age, there was a shiny pink wallet at Kmart and I asked Grammy to buy it for me but she said ‘No’. I felt like that wallet wanted to come home with me so I stuck it under my shirt. When we got out to the car I showed Grammy that I’d taken it. I thought that she’d be glad because I got the wallet and she didn’t have to pay for it but instead she made me walk back into the store and tell them I was sorry and give the wallet back. I just want you to know that you’re not the only kid who’s ever stolen anything.”

Feeling proud of my awesome parenting skills, I gave him one more squeeze and told him he could go play. He reached the door then turned back to me and said “Two questions: why did you show Grammy what you stoled and why didn’t you take something good like a Nintendo DS or an iPod?”

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