Yesterday morning, Mike and I were handed a reminder of our parental duty via sledge hammer. After noticing a large, new container of candy in Riley’s pocket on Friday night, Mike asked both her and me where it came from. I knew nothing about it and though no direct response came from the suspect, somehow the idea surfaced that a neighbor had given it to her. She had just been in a couple of their houses that evening so it didn’t even dawn on us that it wasn’t a plausible answer.
The next morning, Logan, who had only overheard the previous night’s conversation, saw the candy in question sitting on the counter. She said, “Is that the candy you were talking about, Mom? I recognize where that’s from!”
“You do?” I cringed.
“Yep. It’s from Justice (a store). Riley was holding it and must have put it in her pocket when we were there last night!”
Yuck. I immediately don’t want to have this discussion, but know it needs to be done and Mike is at the gym. Mostly I don’t want to do it because Riley is tough – she quickly becomes very embarrassed when she is in trouble, rolls into a ball and doesn’t want to make eye contact. Even more reason for the conversation, I know. So I dive in.
I told her all the reasons why this was wrong: illegal, we have to pay for things in stores, it’s not right to take something that belongs to someone else, illegal, she asked me and I said, “no”, she could go to jail, illegal. For the most part, she listened intently. Then I dropped the bomb that really hit home for my get-it-over-with-like-band-aid-removal child. Since this was such a big deal, two more things were required: when Daddy got home, she would need to tell him everything, especially that she lied to him when asked about the candy. Also, she and I would go to the store when it opened and return the candy, and she would be telling the person there what had happened.
Riley does not like to feel foolish, be the center of a joke or feel embarrassed in any way. I feel bad for her and hope to help her get over these strong feelings; it’s almost painful to watch. I'm fairly certain this little hang up trickled down to her directly from me - I can relate. It’s not that she cries, she literally just can’t stand it. (Once again, I can relate!) To have to come clean, twice, was going to be a challenge.
Before Mike came home, Riley asked, “Mom, what’s jail like?” It was as if she was weighing her options between dealing with Daddy and returning the candy, or just taking her rightful punishment! Happy to have an ‘in’, I quickly made jail sound as terrible as I could (for a 4 year old). The words “like a cage” and “you can never come home while you have to stay there” seemed to make impact.
We struggled through Mike’s arrival and she, with much prodding and assistance, finally told him. All the while we reassured her that the truth is something she should always share with us and that nothing she could ever say or do would change how much we love her. She apologized, but it was clear that she wanted this whole line of business to be over with as soon as possible.
We went to the store to bring the candy back and the girl we returned it to exuded utter pity for my poor child – she might as well have said, “I’m so sorry your mean ogre mommy actually made you do this you cutie pie!” But she didn’t, she just let loose a big, “AWWWWWWWWWwwww!” further confusing the child. And I, a little uncomfortable myself, chuckled a bit through whatever I said to the clerk and on the way out, Riley was upset because I laughed at her. I explained that I wasn’t laughing at her, but I don’t even know if she heard or cared. Instead of responding, she said “Now can we buy those Nerds Mommy?”
“No!” I shouted back, shocked. This prompted another lecture about not being rewarded for poor choices and actions having consequences. And I really would have rather been laughing at her for asking!
I’ve got to admit, the whole thing left me feeling like a teenager trying to manage a situation that I was not quite ready for and later, I found out that Mike felt the same. When it’s Finn’s turn, we’ll be ready, but likely it will be some entirely new and outrageous stunt he’ll pull.
In the past I read that once you stop learning, you might as well stop living. When it comes to this job, it’s certain I’ll live forever!