It was bound to happen. Anyone who takes a small child into a store knows the risk involved. We talk about paying for things and what honesty means, but deep down, I kind of knew my 2.5 year old just wasn’t there yet.
I remember the first time I stole something. I must have been about four. My mother and I were in some sort of fabric store and there was this really awesome patch that I had to have for my tiny jeans. I don’t remember asking for it and I don’t remember taking it. I do remember my mother marching me back in the store to return the contraband and to make sure the ladies behind the counter knew she was taking care of the situation.
When I saw the avocado my son had stealthily removed from the checker’s shelf, I had immediate flashbacks to my own brush with the law. I pictured blue lights surrounding our Honda Fit in the parking lot, “Put down the avocado and no one gets hurt!” I imagined my son’s face as they cuffed him and put him in the back of the paddy wagon with the other wayward toddlers.
To save him from what would obviously be a very slippery slope towards a life of crime, I simply went back in and paid for the avocado. We talked about what it means to steal and I told him I was sad he had done that. He seemed to be processing as he looked up at the ever-cloudy sky, the pensive look of a man who knows what he has done. He turned to me as I awaited the lightbulb moment, “Mama? Can I have gum now?”
And that, my friends, is what I continue to learn every day about having a toddler.