It started well enough.
Last night as we were about to leave to collect my two year old from daycare the Bombshell asked if we were going to stop and buy a fresh, hot Turkish bread from the shop around the corner. As we are occasionally known to do.
‘We can if you like,’ I said.
‘Yay,’ she squealed. ‘I’m going to get some money.’
‘You don’t have to pay for the bread honey, I am happy to buy it.’
She looked at me seriously, sensing my surprise. ‘I want to Mum. I want to pay for the bread.’
Fine by me, I thought. So she skipped off to her room and she soon returned with a purse with $6 in it and a big smile. She was so proud.
‘The bread is only $4,’ I told her, knowing she already knew this.
‘We might need to buy something else,’ she said.
My heart was singing that she was so generous and thoughtful. I let her and the Mop go into the shop, order and pay for the bread by themselves. They looked so small and proud. As usual, the guys behind the counter turned to me and gave me the thumbs up through the window.
It was all so happy and gorgeous.
This morning as I was picking up discarded undies and socks from the floor I came across the Mop’s money box on the floor. I picked it up. It was empty.
The Mop can’t reach her money box.
The penny dropped and with it my heart.
I approached the Bombshell with the empty money box behind my back.
‘Where did you get the money to pay for the bread last night?’ I asked as calmly as I could.
You know that look you see on the cartoons when the character realises they have just accidentally taken the pin out of a grenade and they are about to explode in two seconds?
That look. Mixed with a whole lot of guilt.
But no words. Her mouth just hung open as she madly searched for a reasonable explanation.
‘Don’t lie,’ I said plainly. ‘Just tell me the truth.’
She had the decency to hang her head. ‘From the Mop’s money box,’ she said quietly.
‘And yet you told me you were going to use your money?’ I asked.
I was shocked. But what was more upsetting? Pinching money from her little sister? Pretending to be generous with someone else’s money? The lie?
It got worse…
‘So if you only put $6 in your purse, where is the rest of the money? The money box is now empty,’ I asked her.
She reached for the purse and pulled out the extra $2 and held it out to me.
‘No, the rest of the money. She had at least $10 or $15 in there,’ I said.
She stared blankly at me again. I could see her trying to remain calm, knowing she had been caught, wondering what was going to happen.
‘Under my books on my bookshelf,’ she finally admitted.
‘So not only did you take your sister’s money for the bread and pretend it was yours, but you took all the money she had and hid it?’
It was at this point I really began wondering where I had gone wrong. How my newly turned seven year old would even think of doing this. Taking the $4 I could understand. Trying to get credit for being generous, I could understand. Taking every cent and hiding it under a pile of books. That’s just mean. And she’s not a mean kid.
I was a LOT older before I began pinching money (sorry Dad) and I never would have been so stupid or bold as to empty an entire money bank. Was I upset that she blatantly left the empty money box on the floor, as though she wanted to be found out? Or did she think I was too dumb to figure it out. Would I have been more upset if she had been sneaky enough to put it back, so I probably never would have realised.
I made her return all the money, then asked her to give the Mop $8 from her own money bank. I could hear the words coming out of my mouth ‘disappointed’ ‘sad’ ‘surprised’. There was a lot of head shaking. I was guilt-tripping her. It was automatic, and at the time my head was reeling trying to figure out the best way to deal with it. Even now I’m not quite sure what else to do.
This evening as she skipped along to her room after her shower she stopped me in the hall in a fierce hug.
‘I’m sorry about this morning Mum. About the money and not telling you.’
‘I’m sorry too…’ I floundered.
She looked up at me. ‘I’m glad it’s all over now,’ she said with finality in her voice. ‘And I promise it will never happen again.’
With that she flounced off. I think I believe her. She has probably been dwelling on it all day. So do I just leave it now? Did I over or under-react? What would you do?