You see it all too often these days. Kids running around stores and restaurants, practically unsupervised. Kid wants something, parent says no, kid screams, cries, makes ruckus, and parent gives in. Now, I’m not saying that good parents don’t have an off day and just give in to save themselves from the building migraine. But all too often, as a teacher, I’ve seen situations not as blatant, but basically the same as the mother that at a team meeting for her son, told us “but Zach doesn’t like being disciplined at home.”
Yesterday I was at the counter at the Chevron when this father and his 6 year old son came up to the counter. The son has a big pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in his hand, kind of clutching them to his chest. Dad tells him to hand them to me and to apologize for taking them without paying for them. The boy hands them to me, and in a very tepid little voice says “I’m sorry”. I’m sure I seemed a little out of it as I thanked him and his father for returning it, since I was a bit busy having a little flashback to 1967.
I was 6 or 7 when my dad caught me with a Matchbox car I had stolen from the local 5 & Dime. I hadn’t even had the chance to get it out of the package, so my dad immediately packed me into the car, drove me back down there and made me go in, return it and apologize for taking it. This little lesson has stuck with me, well, it’s still with me. I’d like to say that I’ve never stolen anything since then, but as we all know the teen years can overcome the best of parenting. But even during my most narcissistic adolescent phase, I still had this big knot in the pit of my stomach anytime I took something that wasn’t mine. It didn’t stop me, but I still had a physical reaction. Which probably explains why my larceny was kept to a minimum, and can say that I have never been arrested for any kind of theft.
After they left, I wondered if I had handled the situation as best I could. Was I too nice, should I have said something more? But remembering back on my experience, I really have no idea what the man at the counter said, or exactly what my father had said for that matter. I vividly remember walking in that door, looking down the counter, on the right, to where the cashier was, and standing there in front of him. I remember being embarrassed as hell that I got caught, and more importantly, that I was being held responsible for my actions.