In a recent post, Piggy Piggy, I exposed my illustrious criminal past. I’d like to tell you my early stealing experiences led me to become a cat burglar or international jewel thief or something equally dramatic and screenplay-worthy.
Unfortunately, I can’t yet report any prison time, foreign currency escapades or Swiss bank accounts. My only suspenseful international drama involved catching a train in Rome to evade the Italian authorities.
While I don’t have many strong memories of my childhood, the details of my four-year-old thievery (retold countless times over the years by my family members) are clear in my memory.
Some of my readers asked me to describe what happened next when my mom discovered me in the closet. This is for you…
As my mom slid the closet door open, I froze, terrified, and slowly dragged the two piggy banks deeper into the shadows between my pudgy legs. “If I don’t look at her, she won’t see me,” I thought. And then I peaked. Slowly. When our eyes met, I knew. She saw me; she knew me.
“Mary Lynn, what the hell are you doing?” My mom never swears, but in my memory, she’s a bit wilder with her words.
“Nothing,” I said.
“Nothing? You’re taking your sister’s money! You’re being sneaky and naughty. Come out of there.”
Still clutching the piggy banks, I scooted my body through the closet door dragging coins under my fuzzy pink behind.
My mom explained that it was wrong to steal and helped me redistribute the money into our respective banks.
I don’t remember any spanking or yelling; I do remember feeling scared and ashamed. Even at that young age, I knew what I was doing was wrong and somehow had gotten the message that I had to be sneaky to get something I wanted. The sibling rivalry I felt went unnamed.
Writing about this incident started me thinking about how I would handle a similar situation with one of my daughters. I asked some Facebook friends what they would do.
Advice from Facebook Friends
Jeanine Olson Chiappano I’d say she is going to make one strong business woman. Ha!
Joe Balice I would ask her if she was a democrat.
Xavier Christopher David FitzSimons I would ask her if she was a republican.
Alyson Probst Higgins I’m sure I would fly off the handle, rant & rave and judiciously hand out irrelevant punishments. And then take note of how much cash these kids have just in case the delivery guy shows up & I happen to be short. My kids used to pool their money to count it & then fight like mad trying to separate it again.
Debra Lynn I’d have the little pocket thief take some of her own money and donate it to charity, after the lecture of what is right to do in the world. As an elementary principal, I see lots of kids try this and I usually try to make the consequence a natural one that fits the crime. 😉
Brian Dietmeyer Natural consequences are great…pay it back with interest!!! We made our teenager volunteer at a soup kitchen as a result of some bad decisions.
Stephanie Jones In my book, it’s about creating a higher consciousness in helping the child to understand how her negative actions affect her sibling and in turn affect her in the end. We’re big on karma in my house. If you believe ‘what goes around comes around’, I believe it helps children to arrive at a higher state and to be more reflective on what outcome they want for themselves. Not altogether altruistic, but I’ve seen it work beautifully with my 13 and 14 year olds since they were small. It’s a simple concept that small children can grasp since they are ‘me’ oriented. As they grow older, it becomes less about self and more about kindness and care for others and the world around them.
Kathy Churay I would enroll her in a gifted math program. Clearly she’s destined for Wall Street.
Clearly, my friends are
I also asked Ava, my eight year old, what she would say to her daughter in the same situation.
Advice from Ava
It looks like you want to make some money. Let’s think of some ways you could do that.
I love that kid.
Back to Me
When I spoke with my mom about this memory recently, she asked if I thought she had handled it okay all those years ago and if I thought there was a better way. Her willingness to learn, even after all her children are grown, is one of the things I admire most about my mom.
While I have no idea the best or “right” way to handle these situations, after some thought, I am clear of what I would like to tell my four-year-old self, a redo of sorts:
“Little one, what’s going on? Why are you hiding? Come on out of there, honey. You look like you feel scared and lonely. Let’s put the banks aside and cuddle for a minute. Would you like that? I know I would.
When I was your age I was jealous of my sister and felt like she got everything. I never believed there would be enough love or attention for me. I told myself my sister got everything and I didn’t think it was fair. I wanted what my sister had. Do you ever feel that way?
I was hurting inside and I needed a friend, someone I could talk to about how sad and lonely I was. Do you ever wish you had someone to talk with?
You don’t have to be ashamed of wanting more, honey. It’s okay to want more. It’s not okay to take things that aren’t yours. Next time you want more, come tell me and we’ll figure it out together. Ok?
Now, it seems to me you’d like to earn some more money. Am I right? Let’s think of some ways you could do that …
Is this an effective parenting strategy? I have no idea. I do know it is the amends I want to make to myself all these years later.
Thanks for reading.