My kids are good kids. Not to brag but actually, they are great kids. Not because they are mine (well maybe) but because they are ridiculously cute, polite, and most importantly, honest. My kids are so honest that they will tell the truth knowing they will get in trouble. Definitely not something I would have done as a kid but something I’m glad I instilled in them.
A perfect example of this honesty was a few months ago when my son decided to get bathroom paper, wet it, and throw it on the school bathroom walls and ceiling. Over, and over, and over again until the boys bathroom had been turned into a shredded white mess. (“It was the coolest thing!” He’d later say.) He was alone and could have easily gotten away with it until his own guilt consumed him and he quietly went to his teacher and confessed what he had done.
Another time my lovely boy got his pencil and threw it on the classroom ceiling; because he wanted to see if it would stick. Well, it did and when the teacher asked him why he wasn’t doing his classwork, he looked at her and pointed to the roof at what he’d done. He explained he was sorry but he really just wanted to know if it would get stuck up there. Honesty at its best. So when my son was accused of stealing at school and lying about it, I knew they had the wrong kid. And I was going to do everything in my power to prove his innocence.
The book fair at school is one of my son’s favorite times, because, like me, he loves to read. If anyone ever needs to calm him down just give him a book and you won’t hear from him again. He’d been looking forward to this event since he’d heard about it and was so excited when his cousin had lent him money so he could buy something (I didn’t have change that morning and my promises to get change and take it to him fell on deaf ears). He proudly took his borrowed money and went barreling at full speed to the library. He must have looked meticulously at all the products for sale from books to pointers to pens, gathered up what he wanted and dumped the pile in front of the cashier. I’m sure she must have thought my boy was a little nutty because I’m guessing he was bouncing around telling her about all the things he could buy with the money (poor thing thinks a $20 will get you tons of stuff now-a- days). He grabbed his stuff, got his receipt and ran back to class.
When he got there, his teacher, knowing he needed to give his cousin some change, asked where the extra money was. He hadn’t realized in his excitement he had spent all of it and agreed that he needed to go back and return some items so that his cousin could go buy. His teacher asked for the receipt and his bag to discuss what should go back and what should stay. She then noticed that there were 3 items on his receipt, three items in the bag and 2 small erasers on his desk. That’s when the phone call came.
“Mrs. Caceres, this is Mrs. A. from school.”
“Oh Boy. What happened now?” (me naively thinking he’d scaled the bookshelf in class).
“Your son has been caught stealing from the book fair. I had to pull his card because of the severity of this action and…”
I lost her at that point. I may have even interrupted her. I honestly can’t remember. But I’m pretty sure the next words out of my mouth were something along the lines of
“WHAT??? Are you serious? That’s not like him… that doesn’t make sense… get him on the phone NOW.”
I was placed on hold and then he was on:
“Mommy?” (As his teacher and Lord knows who else was standing next to him)
“Yes… what happened at the book fair?” (As I’m fighting the tears imagining my son possibly becoming a delinquent)
“Mommy, I swear, I didn’t steal anything, I gave the lady my stuff, gave her my money and left!!! I didn’t steal!!! I paid for everything Mommy honest!!!”
Now here’s the thing. I believed it when my son TPed the bathroom. I believed it when he threw the pencil to the roof. I’ve even believed it every time I was told he fell off of a chair, didn’t pay attention or didn’t complete an assignment. My husband and I have always taken the side of the teacher, no matter what. So I was again faced with the decision of who to believe. On one hand, I could believe the teacher as she goes on and on about my son the thief and the liar or I could stand up for my son. The boy who may make mistakes but confesses to each and every one of them and has never stolen in his life. I also knew my son wouldn’t have it in him to blatantly lie to me while his teacher was standing next to him. It didn’t make sense. So I chose to believe my son.
I politely got back on the phone with his teacher and asked if there was a possibility that he could have grabbed the erasers by mistake, thinking he had paid for them – after all, he is 7-years-old and doesn’t truly have an understanding of what a $20 bill can get him. He just knows that money buys you things. At first, she insisted that was not possible, that he had stolen. I proceeded to ask how she could possibly be so sure if she wasn’t even with him.
I probed a little deeper into the events and discovered that when he had gone to the cashier he had gone with easily 20+ items and needed some help figuring out what he could and couldn’t buy. He had then given the cashier his money, gotten his items and had gone back to class. My gut feeling was that he had not deliberately stolen but had taken the items (two erasers by the way) by mistake thinking he had paid.
So I began to say all the thoughts as they flooded in my mind – that she should know my son better than that; that this was the same kid who confessed to everything he’d ever done wrong and took his punishments like a man. I told her my son was many things – hyper, lazy at times, and could be a bit of a pain, but there we two things I knew he was not – a thief or a liar. And I wanted a conference.
My son came home that day devastated. He sat on my bed and cried insisting he hadn’t stolen anything that he was a good boy who would never steal. He told me he thought his teacher didn’t love him and he didn’t know why she didn’t believe him. He said his class thought he was a thief. My heart broke more and more with every sentence and the more my heart broke, the angrier I got.
As of now I’m still waiting to have that talk but it’s probably a good thing it didn’t happen right away because I may not have been very level headed. I think as parents we need to pick our battles with those who will have any sort of influence on our kids. There are times when our children are wrong and need to be disciplined. Someone will tell us something we may not want to hear about our children. In those times, we need to grit our teeth and take it. But there are other times when our kids need us parents to defend them. This may all be a giant misunderstanding and hopefully, will be cleared up soon. But my children need to know that I will always defend them. They need to know that whoever messes with them had better be prepared to face Mama Bear.