Wednesday, April 13, 2011
The Penguin Thief
She does this thing where she gives the kids what she calls "H money." When they're good, they earn a certain amount of "H dollars." Then, at the beginning of each new month, she opens up the "H store," where they can spend their H dollars on toys.
So when Dylan came home last Friday with a stuffed penguin and told me he bought it with his H money, I was like, cool. I knew the drill; I knew this is what she does at the first of every month. I went downstairs to throw in some laundry and clean my room a little bit.
An hour later, Dylan came down.
"Mom," he said, "I need to talk to you."
"What is it, buddy?"
"I stole that stuffed penguin from the H store."
"I took it and didn't pay the H money for it."
"Did you not have enough H money for it?"
"I did - I had 11 H dollars, and the penguin was only 5 H dollars."
"So what's the problem?"
"I wanted to save my H dollars for something else next month, but I still wanted that penguin."
I was blown away. My son stole. That's major to me. I never stole anything. Ben had kind of a hard teenagerhood, but he has always said he never stole anything, even during his troubled times.
But I was very, very grateful that Dylan came forward, that he felt guilty and wanted to make it right. I told him we had to talk to Ben about his punishment. I told him he still needed to be punished for stealing in the first place, but that his punishment would have been worse if we had found out about it later on.
Dylan desperately wanted to catch Mrs. H before she left school for the day, but the school was long since closed and locked up by this time.
Ben came home and we all talked about it. Dyl was grounded to his room all weekend. Usually, when he's in his room for time-outs, all he does is yell out the door, "CAN I COME OUT NOW??" Over and over and over again. But he didn't push it at all, all weekend. He came out to pee and to eat, and he had his toys and his book in there with him. It was nice not having him ask to play on the computer a billion times per day.
Then Ben took him to school fifteen minutes early on Monday to talk to the teacher. Ben found out that there had been a substitute teacher that day. Sheesh. I don't know what it is about substitute teachers - kids are so naughty. When I taught school, I hardly ever, ever, ever missed work, because there was always a huge fallout if I did. Something major would happen when the sub was there, and I'd have to clean everything up. An example of this is "The Penning of '04." I was gone one day, and one kid stabbed another kid in his hand with a pen. The stabee told his parents, who then wanted to sue the penn-er... It was a huge mess, which I eventually smoothed over, but seriously. Subs spell disaster.
Anyways, the substitute teacher noticed what had happened after all the kids had left that Friday, and she left Mrs. H a note, so Dylan would have been busted, for sure. She was glad Dylan came in to confess. He gave her the penguin back, plus all of his H dollars.
Then, we had him go in and talk to the bishop on Tuesday. He's not eight yet, so he's not officially accountable; however, we wanted to make this a learning opportunity for him. We wanted him to understand the steps of repentance. We wanted him to recognize the bishop as someone who can help you when you're seeking forgiveness for something you've done wrong. And we wanted to reinforce the gravity of stealing - it's not a small-time thing. The bishop was sweet to talk to him; I think they had a good talk - I didn't go into the bishop's office with Dylan, but they talked in there for a good long while.
All along, we've told him that, if we had found out from his teacher what he had done, instead of from him, we would have probably grounded him to his room for an entire week, plus restitution to his teacher and visiting the bishop. We wanted him to know that, though he was still punished for what he did, it was less of a punishment than he would have gotten if he had kept it a secret.
Something my friend Carrie said on her blog keeps repeating itself in my mind. It's one of the most poignant things about child-rearing I've ever heard, and it is exactly how I feel about Dylan. She was saying this of her son: "He's going to be an exceptional adult, but it is going to take every skill I have to get him there." That is soooooo Dylan. He's a toughie, but hopefully with a lot of guidance and love, and sticking to our guns no matter what, we'll get him to happy, well-adjusted adulthood. Hopefully. :)