Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Wubble Incident

We were at the Manchester Target, which is never a nice place to be in the middle of a Saturday afternoon, and Ethan had decided he wanted a Wubble.

A Wubble "looks like a bubble, plays like a ball" according to their advertising, and inflates up to three feet. He mentioned it before (right after Christmas, of course!) and I said maybe he could earn the money for it. The Wubble costs 20 bucks and he already has a little over 10 in his piggy bank.

Ethan had sort of blew that idea off, and hadn't mentioned the Wubble for a week or so until we walked into Target and he insisted on seeing it. So after getting the usual stuff we headed to the toy section, and there it was, in the aisle with outdoor inflatable-type stuff. There was only one Wubble left (they are packaged in relatively small hexagon-shaped boxes) and the box was a little ripped.

"I want it!" Ethan demanded, sounding very much like a typical kid. He took the box down from the shelf to get a closer look. I told him he wasn't getting it today and that he could, as we'd discussed, work around the house doing extra little jobs to earn money for it.

I foolishly assumed we were done with the Wubble.

Silly, silly woman.

Twenty minutes later, I loaded what I'd bought into the car, buckled Chloe into the car seat and hopped in the front. As I was pulling out into the massively busy parking lot, I could see a strange, eager gleam in Ethan's eye. It was the kind of look he always gets when he's done something wrong and he can't help but spill the beans.

"Did you see I have THIS?" he asked. He bent over and lifted up the Wubble box he'd been examining back in the store.

Un. Believe. Able. Apparently, as he explained a second later, he'd shoved the Wubble under the cart when I wasn't looking, and sneaked it into the car as I was loading things into the trunk.

Let's just say the next 10 minutes involved a rambling diatribe on the evils of stealing as I gripped the steering wheel and tried not to hit pedestrians. I formulated a plan: we were about to pick up Dan over at the business and go out somewhere. I would get Dan, we would head back to Target, and one of us would walk back in with him. And the Wubble.

"Why did you do that?" I demanded, knowing the answer, of course.

"Because I really wanted it!" he exclaimed. Well, duh, mom.

We talked about right and wrong, and laws, and God, and stealing, and how stealing hurts the stores and the people who work for them, and trust, and not getting what we want the second we want it. I will admit I threw in a few lines about what happens to grown-ups who steal (he's got a definite fear of prisons), but of course he had to reply, "But I'm not 18 yet," so then I told him about "kid jail" and that sometimes really bad young people had to go there. That gave him pause.

A half-hour later we were back in Target, waiting in the customer service line. I held the Wubble under my arm. Ethan was crying and I began to worry someone would wonder what was going on, especially when he burst out with, "I don't want to go to jail!"

"You're not going to jail," I whispered calmly, as the lady behind me gave us strange looks. "But you DO need to do this."

I had hoped Ethan would hand over the Wubble, admit to stealing, and apologize. Once we got to the counter, he buried his head in my arm. "I can't do it," he sobbed.

"My son took this," I said to the woman in her fifties, whose eyes opened wide with understanding. "Oh...Ohhhh." She looked down at Ethan.

"What do you say?" I nudged. An I'm sorry came out in nearly a whisper.

"Do you promise to never, ever do anything like that again?" the woman said in a stern but not unkind voice. Ethan nodded, she thanked me for returning the Wubble, and we headed back to the car.

I enveloped Ethan in a big hug in the parking lot. He buried his face in my coat for a moment, sobbing, then looked up at me with big eyes filled with tears.

I was waiting for that moment. You know? Like in the old sitcoms when the sappy music starts playing and the audience says "Awww" (Full House immediately comes to mind) as the lesson learned is brought to light. I was thinking of those Davey & Goliath reruns I used to watch as a kid on Saturday mornings. Google Davey & Goliath and you'll find hordes of people guffawing over the utter corniness and "fundamentalist" values. I loved it as a kid. Claymation Davey (who was quite a brat sometimes, I have to say) always had that moment when he realized his wrongdoing, when he understood he had offended God and hurt his family.

Ethan looked up at me with those big eyes, his expression sorrowful.

"What is it, hon?" I asked, waiting for the confession, the expressions of remorse.

"I REALLY WANTED THAT WUBBLE! I didn't want to give it back!!!" More tears.


And so, we got into the car and headed out for what was either a very late lunch or a very early dinner. I wondered, yet again, if the messages, the morals we are attempting to teach our kids are sinking in even a little bit. After talking this over with a few friends, one pointed out that Ethan may very well see me every day grabbing every little thing off the shelf in Target and throwing it in the cart, and thought he'd do the same. She wondered if maybe I shouldn't make a point of taking something down I really wanted, and then putting it back, announcing that I didn't have enough money and would need to save for it.

She may be right. And maybe this incident has done its part to help deter Ethan from embarking on a life of crime.

But I don't care. From now on, when we're out shopping, I'm making sure to always check under the cart.

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