As a parent, public humiliation at the hand of your own child is basically the worst. Fine, most people understand or have “been there, done that” but, let’s be real, it’s still no fun when the world sees that you are clearly not winning at this parenting gig.
Several years ago, we were heading home one Saturday morning from youth basketball when we decided to stop off at the grocery store for a few things. After paying for milk and bread, something spurred us to pop into the adjacent dime store. In hindsight, I’m sure we were wasting time until we could lay the boys down for naps and catch some shut eye ourselves.
On the way out to the van, I noticed something on Dagen’s cheek. Wait…was that chocolate? I asked Dallas if he had given Dagen anything to which he replied no. We asked Dagen what was on his face to which he replied “nothing.” And then we obviously did a full body search and came up with an empty chocolate gold coin candy wrapper.
In that moment, we realized that our 6-year-old son had just committed his first crime by stealing a piece of chocolate and then attempted a cover up. Obviously, it seems a little humorous now but, OH, it was not then.
Dallas immediately marched him into that dime store, walked him to the counter and made him explain to the blue-haired lady, in between sobs, what he had done. She was extremely gracious and told him that it was okay, while not-so-quietly whispering to Dallas that it happens all the time. While we were genuinely grateful for her understanding, PLEASE don’t tell the child who just stole a piece of candy that it happens all the time. I mean, hello? We’re not looking to repeat this walk of shame, Agnes.
On the way home, Dallas explained to Dagen that the apology to the dime store owner was not his only consequence and that there would be more once we reached the house.
As soon as we walked in, Dallas and Dagen marched upstairs to “have consequences.” Dallas told Dagen that he was going to spank him and asked him to remove his coat.
Dagen: “No thank you.”
Dallas: “Son, take your coat off.”
Dagen: “No thank you. I’ll leave it on.”
Dallas: “Why? Are you hiding something in your coat?”
As he proceeded to take off his coat, a package of Hostess chocolate donuts fell out of his pocket and rolled across the floor.
Y’all. I thought Dallas was going to lose his mind. He came flying down the stairs and told me about this second round of shoplifting.
We quickly decided that we had no choice but to take him back to the grocery store, return the donuts and offer (another) sincere apology.
When Dallas and Dagen walked through the automatic doors, a lady with a stern look started towards them. Kneeling down, she asked Dagen if he had something to return. Shaking and scared, he nodded yes, handed her the donuts and offered (another) apology. She then explained to him that there is a very scary place reserved for little boys who break the law and that, if he ever did this again, she would make sure he went to that place where Mommy and Daddy would not be able to help him. And then she walked away. Mic drop.
Now, if you know my son at all, you know that it takes a lot to scare him. Mind you, he is now 12 years old but, even then, he was not easily shaken. This, however, had him petrified.
On their way back from the store, I got a call from Dallas. Interesting, too, since we lived exactly four minutes from the store. I mean, did he really have to call me?!
“Dawn, you’re not going to believe this. They must have had him on camera stealing the donuts because the manager came right at him, threatened him with a scary place and walked away. I honestly thought she was going to call the cops.”
“Oh good. All worked out.”
Either that store had some great security cameras or my husband had one smart wife.
OBVIOUSLY THE LATTER.
I must fully disclose. While they were headed to return the stolen merchandise, I called the store, explained the situation and asked the manager to put the fear of God into my son. And she did.
This was definitely a mortifying moment in our roles as Mom and Dad. I’m not sure what a parenting book would have said about how we handled the situation. Maybe we were supposed to explain the moral implications with his actions. Perhaps we should have laughed it off and moved on. However, to this day (well, to our knowledge anyway), Dagen hasn’t stolen anything else. Or, if he has, he’s gotten much better with that pathetic excuse for a cover up.
It’s funny to reflect back on this story because, while horrifying in the moment, it’s pretty normal, right? Because I’ve always wanted to be normal. Don’t most parents go through these teachable moments with their children? Or is it just us? PLEASE SAY IT’S NOT JUST US.
Either way, let this story of our own personal parental shame be an encouragement to you out there who are aware of their kleptomaniacal kids. Know that you are not alone. We, too, have thieving children. We, too, worry that they are headed for life in an orange jumpsuit.
We, too, wonder who the heck is going to take care of us in our old age one day and if they’re going to be feeding us stolen donuts for breakfast.