Piggy, Piggy Redux

Not the banks in question.

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 high keepers!

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.

I’m linking up with Things I Can’t Say‘s Pour Your Heart Out.

Piggy, Piggy

“Why does she have more than me?” I wondered. “It’s not fair.”

After listening for the whirring noises of my mom’s sewing machine in the basement of our split-level home, I slipped a butter knife from the kitchen and silently marched across the hall into my sister’s bedroom. My fuzzy, footed pajamas felt scratchy on my skin as I dragged my sister’s desk chair over to her tall dresser and hoisted her piggy bank into my arms.

I had spent the better part of the morning comparing the weight of my sister’s bank to my own. The data were consistent and clear. Her bank was heavier. She definitely had more money. It wasn’t fair.

Her bear-shaped bank was beautiful – silver-plated – a majestic figure with a sanguine expression on its face. My bank, shaped like a squat pig, was silver-plated, sure, but ugly and fat with a grimacing countenance. And decidedly lighter.

My heart racing, I carried both banks into my sister’s closet and carefully slid the door closed. Not all the way. It would look more natural that way, in case my mom came looking for me. A sliver of sunlight gleamed across the bear’s peaceful face as I tried to pry off the plastic plug.

“If only my fingers weren’t so stubby,” I told myself. “My mom’s fingers are long and graceful. Why aren’t mine like hers?”

The butter knife made quick work of the plastic cap. I carefully slipped some coins onto the hardwood closet floor. “I want hers and mine,” I thought. “I want all of it.”

Candy. I would buy candy. Reams of delicious, chocolatey goodness. Like Charlie in the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, I’d savor it, slowly and delicately, make the pleasure last forever. I wouldn’t gobble it up like that greedy girl, Veruca, in the movie. No way. And I wouldn’t have to share; wouldn’t have to stop eating until I wanted to.

The pennies would buy Bazooka bubble gum; the nickels, Gold Rush gum – the kind in the little draw-string pouches. I could taste the delicious banana flavor on my tongue as I quietly dug more coins out of the bear’s behind. Laffy Taffy with the dimes; Charleston Chews with the quarters.

“How did my sister get so many quarters?” I wondered. She was swimming in quarters.

“Grandpa? I bet Grandpa slips her quarters,” I thought.  “He doesn’t like me because I don’t want to give him hugs. My sister gives him hugs. I bet she gets quarters.”

I only got dimes. My beautiful, loving Italian grandmother secretly slipped me a dime every time I saw her, with the unspoken message I wasn’t to share, wasn’t to tell. I was her favorite, and she gave me the biggest hugs. She also gave me the biggest slices of her perfectly-delicious almond coffee cake. And those dimes.

I sensed the my mom’s presence moments before a rush of sunlight highlighted her dark features.

“Mary Lynn, what the hell are you doing?”

I am linking up with Yeah Write for Week Two of their Summer Writer’s Series

Are You Fully Utilizing Your Le Creuset Cookware?

Alternate Use for Your Le Creuset!

Today I learned that my indispensable Le Creuset stockpot has myriad uses beyond a batch of Cinco de Mayo-inspired chicken tortilla soup. I also learned that jealousy is as insidious and painful to an eight-year-old as to her middle-aged mom. Ava is struggling with jealousy of her little sister, Rhys. She’s jealous of the attention Rhys gets, jealous of my husband and my tendency to drop everything to minister to Rhys’ needs and whims, jealous of the free pass Rhys gets on some three-year-old behavior that Ava would never get away with at age eight and jealous of the “isn’t she adorable” comments showered on Rhys by nearly everyone, including my husband and me.

Ava has been letting us know that she is feeling angry, hurt and left out. Ugh! Why didn’t I read (or even open) that sibling rivalry book I borrowed from the library umpteen times over the past three years? I could be an expert by now. Instead, after an angry outburst from Ava tonight over the unfairness of having an “annoying” younger sister, I first chose to argue Ava’s reality. I was determined to convince her that she was wrong – Rhys does not get special treatment – what about all the attention Ava gets?! Life isn’t fair, my pretty! (Insert wicked cackle here).

Helpful, right? I love it when someone tries to talk me out of my feelings and denies my experience. It certainly makes me feel better and feel so much closer to the other person. Truly one of my more nuanced child-rearing strategies!

After more than a few deep breaths and a mommy time out, I realized it was time for an apology and a re-do.

I remembered how often my feelings mirror Ava’s (“mirror, mirror on the wall” …). Just tonight during a dinner party I felt jealous of a good friend who I experience lighting up every gathering she attends. Even little children (and squirrels and birds and the occasional singing mouse) flock to her side and call her name (interestingly enough, not Snow White). In comparison (always a death sentence for me), tonight I felt like a nobody, definitely down several notches on some imagined ladder of self-worth. Apparently, Ava and I have a lot in common. Sometimes this “like mother like daughter” stuff isn’t fair sucks!

I decided to come clean with Ava and tell her how much I relate to her experience. I explained how I feel jealous also and tell myself that everyone likes my friend better. Then I feel lousy about myself. Ava and I decided the little voices in our heads that tell us we are less than someone else are lying, at least for tonight. We decided we deserve kinder thoughts and would put those mean thoughts away for the night. Literally. Away. Ava decided our trusty Le Creuset stockpot would make a sturdy receptacle for our nasty thoughts.

Amidst giggles and hugs, we took turns crumpling up those soul-crushing “less than” thoughts and tossing them under the stockpot’s hefty lid. Ava agreed there was no way those buggers were getting out tonight! Ava enjoyed the show I made of struggling to keep our pernicious thoughts in the pot as they tried to gain sanctuary once again in our brains. I enjoyed her. Isn’t that what this parenting thing is all about?

And Le Creuset execs, perhaps you’ll want to promote your products’ uncanny ability to contain green-eyed monsters … and bring a mom and daughter closer.