When I was 7 or 8 I stole a packet of erasers from Mace’s Supermarket in Connersville, Indiana. I knew it was wrong, but I did it anyway. I got caught. I do not recall the exact chain of events that thereby transpired, but I got hollered at by my mom, went to my dad’s workplace and got hollered at by him, was returned to Mace’s where I got hollered at by the store manager. I do not recall if the police were called, but I do remember that the threat was there. I learned a lesson.
Today, my son took two packets of Tic-Tacs from Giant Eagle. When I discovered this, I felt trifurcated; like I was that little boy again, and like my mom must have felt dealing with that little boy’s malfeasance, and also as myself, at 35, being both of those at the same time. We returned to the store, and I made him go to the service desk and ask to speak to the manager, and I made him fess up to the manager when he arrived. He got a lecture that I very much remember getting.
His punishment was losing all of his Halloween candy — if he feels the need to steal candy, he doesn’t deserve candy that was given to him. He was super upset about that and felt more than a bit of remorse — although it took him awhile to get there.
At one point he said that he knows he has “good deep down inside me” and I told him that it doesn’t need to be deep down inside, he should let that good fill him and flow out of him, so that he can be a good person to everyone.
We’ll see how it goes. Parenting is full of surprises — and déjà vu, too.