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If I had a blog shortly before Father’s Day, 2001

I would have written this post:

Father’s Day is getting a little too close and I don’t have much for hubby yet. I thought I would check out the book selection at Family Christian to see if anything jumped out at me. I settled on The Screwtape Letters. Nothing says “I love you, daddy!” like a collection of demonic correspondence. I think he will enjoy it, make him think, and provide hours of conversational material.

Of course, the whole time we were in the store, I had to keep dragging the kids away from the VeggieTales display. Even Sam managed to get to the display, and he was strapped in the umbrella stroller the entire time. When not hugging plush Bobs and Larrys or begging for Silly Songs, Ryley cruised the aisles and Aidan hovered by the candy display in front of the registers. All I could think about was getting home and putting my pregnant feet, my pregnant legs, my pregnant self on the couch and resting.

I paid for the book and herded the kids toward the van and home, sweet home.

As I drove, I heard crunch! crunch! slurp! My diabolically keen sense of smell picked up wafting artificial grape. The light ahead turned red, giving me the chance to stop and investigate. I turned around. Aidan had a large purple heart-shaped lollipop, which she was thoroughly enjoying. White lettering on the lollipop reminded me “Jesus Loves You!”

“Aidan, where did you get that?” I asked.

“From the store.” she shrugged.

“Where did you put it?”

“In my pocket!”

The light was green. I made a right turn to go back to the store.

“Hey, why aren’t we going home?” she asked.

Because. Because even though you are three, practically four, I can’t let you take something that doesn’t belong to you. Because. I want to just go home. I am tired. I am embarrassed. I am surprised you didn’t know better. Because, because, because, I thought, but couldn’t say. I was angry, not necessarily at the thought of my little daughter stealing but at my inconvenience. Honestly, that is what I was most upset about at that moment and I am not proud of it.

We arrived back at the store. I had to get the stroller out and wake up a sleeping Sammy. I had to wrestle Ryley out of the van mere minutes after I wrestled him into the van. And I had to give Aidan the words she would need to say—probably the most grown-up words she’s ever said.

“We are going back into the store because taking something without paying is stealing, and it’s wrong. You are going to tell them you took a lollipop. You are going to say you are sorry. Then I will pay for the lollipop and it will go in the trash.”

“I don’t want to…!” she cried.

Neither do I.

She approached the register. After reassuring her, she told the clerk what happened. The clerk nodded and said thank you for coming back. I paid the 72 cents and we left.

I lectured her all the way home. I adjusted the mirror to watch her reaction. She stared out the window, her lips pursed. I talked and talked and scolded and talked some more. I told her daddy wouldn’t be happy. Once home we went inside. Shoes flew off and all of us collapsed under weight.

We had done the right thing, ultimately, yet I couldn’t shake something was missing. I thought about my first reaction when I saw her savoring the lollipop. A little laugh? Surprise? Noticing the irony of stealing a Jesus Loves You lollipop from the Christian bookstore? Jesus Loves You, sugared, made to taste sweet and of grapes. Jesus Loves You, now in a trashcan along with rejected receipts and the employee’s discarded Diet Coke Can, only 95% empty. Jesus Loves You, left behind.

I knew what was missing. I told Aidan to come sit with me on the couch. I told her I loved her and was proud of her for being brave and doing the right thing. I knew she was sorry. She was forgiven.

And so was I.

4 comments to If I had a blog shortly before Father’s Day, 2001

  • I went through the same thing with my mom once. We were grocery shopping and I was riding on the bottom part of the cart. She was in the produce isle. I was dining on the bulk peanuts below the lettuce and tomatos. My mom caught me, gave me a harsh lecture about stealing (Did she pay for them???? I don’t remember)and we went on with our shopping. That is such a vivid memory and I have always known stealing is bad. Every since that moment. I can’t even take a pen from a doctor’s office countertop on accident without returning it. If someone gives me too much change, you bet I’ll take it back. It was a good lesson for which I am grateful. Wonderful post!

  • Julana

    Our son picks things up in stores and carries them out, in his wheelchair, sometimes. We have to traipse back in and pay for something, once in awhile.
    These store displays are made to tempt people, so it’s no wonder children respond to them that way.

  • “Nothing says “I love you, daddy!” like a collection of demonic correspondence. ”

    You crack me up.

    We have had a few of these experiences too. Sometimes it can be so inconvenient to do the right thing. Have you asked her what she remembers about that day?

  • goslyn

    This post brought to mind the one childhood sin that still weighs heaviest on my concience. When I was about seven, I lifted a tube of bright red lipstick from the cosmetics asile in the grocery store. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but I wanted to see if I could get away with it. And I did. My mother never knew – never suspected – that she had a budding kleptomaniac for a daughter.

    But that lipstick turned into the tell-tale heart. There it sat, in the top left-hand drawer of my vanity, whispering “theif! liar! cheat!” I eventually gave it away to one of my friends to try and stop the guilt.

    Wonder what would have happened if my mom had caught me and turned around and taken me back to the store? Would I know I was forgiven too?

    The good news is that is the one and only thing I have ever stolen. In fact, I once made my dad go back to the grocery store to pay for the 20lb bag of cat food that the checker had missed because it was under the cart. I think he was a little peeved at me, but I threatened to tell mom if he didn’t. Ah, the power of momma.

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