Monday, October 29, 2007

A brush with the law

Let me tell you a little story...

Once upon a time, when I was four years old, I shoplifted. I remember it as clearly as if it had happened yesterday. I was at K-Mart with my mom and little sister and somehow pocketed a small, plastic cow. I remember it looking something like this. I don't know why I needed the cow or if I knew I'd be in trouble, but I know that the cow found a new home that day. Maybe I thought I was being noble and rescuing it from certain damaged-goods-death at K-Mart. After all, the poor cow was all alone. Whatever set he had come from, whatever tag had once been placed on him, he was forgotten and lonely. I can make this sound as flowery as I want, but the bottom line is: I stole the cow.

I vividly remember pulling that cow out at lunch time while my sister and I sat in the booth in the kitchen waiting for mom to make us lunch. (Yes, we had a BOOTH in our kitchen. How cool is that?!) As soon as my mom saw it, the jig was up. She knew it didn't belong to me and figured out that I'd utilized the good ol' five finger discount. Here's the part of the story that's most clear to me - she took me straight back to K-Mart and had me apologize to the clerk at the customer service desk for taking that cow. I remember being embarrassed and taking to heart that it was the WRONG thing to do. I've thought back on that many times since then and admire what my mom did.

Okay. Fast forward roughly 26 years. You guessed it. Emma shoplifted today. She'll be four next Monday. Oh, the irony! We were at Hobby Lobby today and she asked if she could have this cheap little $.99 tape measure that was calling to her in the checkout.
I said no, and asked her to put it back. I watched her put it back, but in the busyness of checking out, she was able to go get it and quietly put it in her pocket without me noticing. A couple of errands later, I heard a click-click-click-click-SNAP! from the backseat. I turned around to see her playing with the stupid tape measure! I was furious. Not only had I told her no, she TOOK it. As soon as we got home Gary and I had a little chat with her. We didn't want to scare her, but we let her know that when some people steal things, they go to jail. She asked, "Do I get to go to jail?" So the scare tactic didn't work. I left Addie with Gary and off we went, back to Hobby Lobby.

Before we left, she announced that she was tired and wanted to take a nap. Folks, this is the first time in her short little life she's admitted to being tired. Coincidence? I think not.

We got in the car and took a silent drive to Hobby Lobby. On the way, I called my mom for a little reinforcement, which only brought me to tears. After I got off the phone, all Emma said was, "But Mommy I need this tape measure."

We stood in a very long line at Hobby Lobby, and I could see her wheels turning during our whole wait. She told me she only wanted to talk to a girl, which was too bad since we were in a "boy's" line. She pointed out where she got it and said she could just put it back and "that will be okay, Mommy." I said "no" as I tried to imagine how she'd look like in black and white stripes.

Eventually we got to the front of the line. I admit that I'm disappointed that the clerk was a teenage boy who really didn't get the gist of what I was doing and the lesson I was trying to teach her. I told him we'd been in earlier and that Emma had taken the tape measure, and that we had come back so that Emma could make things right. Emma promptly handed over her treasure and said, "I'm sorry I took this." He hardly looked at her, but looked at me with a clueless look and said, "Um, okay." I guess I was hoping for a sweet old lady who would deal with Emma with just the right amount of correction and gentleness. Oh well.

We were barely out the door, Emma skipping and be-bopping by my side, when she looked up at me with sparkling eyes and said, "Mommy! I'm not tired anymore!" Oh! Imagine that!

When we got back to the car, I looked straight into her eyes and thanked her for apologizing to the man at the store. I told her that was the right thing to do and that God would be proud of her for doing the right thing after making a bad decision like that. My frustration is that she just took the whole thing so lightly. She spent some time in her room when we got home, but I think the whole incident was long forgotten by then. I really need to be seeking out answers and ways I can teach my kids the difference between right and wrong, and how to make them more sensitive and remorseful when they choose wrong.

In the meantime, I guess I'll start saving up for when we'll be posting bail.

And okay, yes. I took a picture of the tape measure. And yes, my first thought when I realized what she'd done was, "Oh, this will be a great story for my blog!" Is that wrong? :)


  1. It was a great story, and if it's wrong that you want to exploit your child's stolen goods in a blog post, I am 100% certain we can figure out a way to justify it (oh, is that wrong too?).

    I've always loved the cow story and I think that although the lesson may not have had the initial profound, life-altering affect you had wished, you are modeling the way for Emma to be a strong woman of integrity. These lessons don't come easy, and certainly aren't learned in one sitting. You are doing what's right and one day she'll thank you for that and all the lessons you've helped her learn.

    Plus, it will be YEARS before she reads this post and realizes mommy took a picture of her stolen goods for the sake of a great story. ;)

  2. I cannot even tell you in words how hard I'm laughing right now.

    Mostly because I also have a shoplifting incident in my past. I believe I was also four or five years in age. I stole a sucker after my Mom told me we couldn't get it -- and then tried to eat it on the way home from the market by hanging my head out the window.

    Right. That's not obvious.

    My Mom handled it exactly as your Mom (and now you) did.

    And if it's any consolation, my kids also rarely seem to take things like this seriously. But I'll often discover days (or weeks) later that something sunk in.

    You never know what's going to stick. That's why consistency is so important.

  3. Oh sweet Emma! I was laughing SO hard reading this post!! She is just too much sometimes. I admire your parenting- that took courage on your part too, to take her back to the store. I KNOW it sunk in that you made her do the right thing...she hears everything! I bet if you watch her, she'll be mimiking your actions with Addie one of these days! She's smart and knows right from wrong- and listens to you even when you think she doesn't! Way to be a good mom!! You get a gold star for that day!! Love ya!

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this! LOL@taking the pic... I'd have done the same thing :)

    I bet that even though Emma might seem unphased by this now... she, like you did, will remember this lesson in days to come.

    Isn't it interesting the way Emma was exhausted by the ordeal. I wonder how often my own fatigue is the result of fighting God in something... knowing the right thing to do but going against it... and then the sweet peace and rest that flood my soul when I finally turn to Him, confess my sin, move through the steps of repentance and restoration and move on.

    Great lesson here, Angie... thank you!

  5. Love this story and the comments you've already received. I can so empathize with wanting visible repentance in your child. Only God can bring that. You did really well sticking to your guns and not letting her sidetrack you.

    Emma reminds me of my oldest, too smart for their own good. I feel like I am often up against a will that is stronger than mine. I keep praying that God will help me be strong.

    My mom says she always prayed that we would be caught whenever we lied or stole, that way we wouldn't think we could get away with things and ultimately get caught by a bigger authority (the law or God).

    Emma is so adorable she would look great even in a orange jumpsuit, though I don't think we should test it out.

    Love to your family.

  6. I can totally hear her saying, "Do I get to go to jail?" Oh Emma, I bet she'll remember it just like you did and way to go for doing the right thing like your mom stuck with you, it will stick with her and maybe some day she'll be calling you on the way to some store with reinforcement when her child does the same thing. You are such an awesome mom, and yeah, it did make for a great blog post and picture!

  7. This is a great story indeed! I think you did a great job and I am sure she will remember and it won't happen again. Clearly I don't "know" her but she seems smart and your stories relay that.

  8. I love that kid! I didn't know you when you were little, but I just get the distinct feeling that she is a carbon copy of you.

    I think you did a great job handling that - she got it, even though she won't let you in on the fact that she did.

  9. Good blog material, indeed!

    I was also a little shoplifter when I was 4 yrs old. I stole Tic Tacs. When we got home, I brilliantly dangled them under my brother's nose, and he promptly asked why HE didn't get tic tacs. That's when I was busted. (In more ways than one, if you KWIM.) After I got my spanking, my dad took me back up to the store, and I had to go to the manager's office, admit my crime, and apologize. I STILL remember it.

    A couple of months ago, Philip & G went to a convenience store. After they left, G showed Philip a pack of gum and said, "Look Daddy!" Philip had NOT gotten him gum. So back they went, and G had to apologize to the clerk (who was the owner) as he gave it back. We didn't spank him because we were pretty sure he didn't know what he'd done when he done we gave him the same talk you gave Emma. About stealing, what that is, why we don't do it, and how God feels about it. He took it about as seriously as Emma did. So, don't feel bad.

    I think we both did the right thing—believe it or not, there are LOTS of parents who wouldn't have done anything. Who would've laughed about it, but never made them take it back. I believe that how we both handled it is the best thing we could've done for them, even if they didn't seem to "get it" like we think they should've. God will use it to shape their character, along with many other lessons we teach them along the way.

    I love you Jeepy! :)


Thanks for visiting! And thanks a bunch for commenting!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...