Parenting when your kid steals

I thought I had already written about this life experience, but since I can’t find it, I guess I only wrote it in my dreams. I was about 4 yrs old and sound asleep in the back of my parent’s Buick. As they later told me, we had been to Amarillo so that mom could look at furniture. I fell asleep on the way back to Pampa and mom and dad (probably mom) wanted to do some more looking at things in the stores on Cuyler St, DOWNTOWN PAMPA back in the day.

Those were times when kidnapping a child just never crossed anyone’s mind. So since I was asleep and causing not problems, they left me in the back seat and went shopping. Back then, if someone had called the police and complained about child neglect or abuse, they would have been laughed at by everybody. Things were different back then.

Well, as you have probably already guessed, I woke up. It was a summer day and I got hot. The windows on the car were rolled down, but I still got hot. Mom and dad were no where to be seen. I didn’t panic and I wasn’t scared in the least. However, I was hungry, as I usually was. I crawled into the front seat and there was a candy bar. I can’t clearly remember whether it was a Snickers, or Milky Way or 3 Musketeers, but being a “summer day” you can guess its condition when I opened it – MELTED MESS. Back in that day there was a little store called the Food Center, not far down on south Cuyler. I exited the car, started walking south down the Cuyler sidewalk, walked under the overpass and down to the store.

I’m not exactly sure how I walked in and nobody noticed my activity. But I walked over to the candy isle, located a brand new, unmelted version of my melted candy bar and made what I thought was a fair trade. I left my melted mess and exited with a my new candy bar. I never thought of it as stealing, just trading stuff for stuff.

By this time, mom and dad had returned to the car and were in a tizzy; checking every store. I made my way down the side walk, under the underpass, back on the side walk (this time heading north), looked up and saw mom and dad halfway down the next block.

Now what I didn’t know was that my dad had already made up his mind that I was getting a big time spanking for running off. Not a 2 swat weenie spanking that is all too common these days, but a real deal spanking. When I got about 20 ft away from dad (according to his remembrance) I yelled out, “Where in the world have ya’ll been. You’ve been lost and I couldn’t find you.” Dad couldn’t help it, he burst out laughing. PTL, laughing pretty much kills spankings. 

After a couple of big time hugs, Dad asked me where I’d been; I told him. That’s when he noticed my candy bar and asked me where I got it. I told him about my super trade, but he was not impressed. What I thought of as a trade, Dad informed me was stealing. So Dad took my hand and we marched back (we did not drive there) to the store. His steps and mine were different sizes, so he marched as I ran by his side. He took me inside, located the owner, told him what I had done and then turned to me and said, “Don’t you have something you want to tell him?” I said that I was sorry and apologized for stealing. Dad paid for the candy bar and we left. (Dad later told me that it was all the store owner could do not to burst out laughing, but he understood that Dad was trying to teach me a lesson.”

I can still remember that day and the lesson my Dad taught me. I wish that more dads were like my Dad. Hey, dads, don’t get so busy laughing at your kid’s mess-ups that you forget to teach the lessons. I don’t really remember any of the laughing from that day, but I can still close my eyes and remember that run back to the store, the apology and the difference between trading and stealing. God bless.

Mike Sublett is a pastor at Hi-Land Christian Church, 1615 N. Banks St., Pampa, Texas 79065. Email him at pawdad@nts-online.net.

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