Virtually every morning, Trout has a major hissy fit about pants. You see, she is of average height, but she is skinny and her legs are long in proportion to the rest of her body. Finding pants that are both long enough and snug enough is an enormous challenge, not to mention the issues with finding pants that are appropriate for an 8 year old little girl (i.e., aren't skin tight, low slung, hip huggers, without words across the ass). For the past four days or so she has been freaking about her pants - they are either too long, too short, too loose and falling down, too tight and giving her a wedgie, too soft, too scratchy, whatever, and I finally got sick of it and last night took her out to get some new pants.
I made a number of mistakes last night. She had ballet and we didn't have time to go before class, so I should have just made plans to come another day. But I am stubborn if nothing else, and I didn't want to wait until the stores got more filled with people and the stock less, so out we went. Mistake number 2: once I discovered that she had some mild intestinal distress, instead of cutting bait and heading home I simply bought more underwear (which she needed anyway - most of her other underwear "gives me a wedgie"). Mistake number 3: when noticing that there were Webkinz EVERYWHERE and she was getting distracted by them at every turn, I should have left. No. She needed pants, I didn't want to listen to the Pants Lament anymore, so pants we did.
First at JCPenney (where I buy a good portion of the kids' clothes) we probably tried on 15 pairs of pants. She is kinda in between the 4-6X size range and the 7-16 size range, so most 6X's were too short but most 7's were too long and too wide and mostly inappropriate. But we persevered and found a couple of pairs of track pants? thin sweats? something like that, plus a pair of pink velour pants that she adores, all of which she assured me fit great and she wouldn't complain about them. But I wanted her to have something else, a nice pair of jeans or pants, more sturdy than sweats, so we headed to someplace I swore I'd never go - Limited, too. Yeah, that was mistake number 4.
I did have good reasons for heading there. The primary one is that Trout is so skinny, and the clothes at LT are cut really thin, so I figured we'd have better luck there. I HAD, on occasion, seen clothes that were acceptable there, and she already knows my rule about no words and no branding (I don't want my kid being a walking advertisement for some clothing manufacturer) so....
We tried on about 10 pairs of pants there, and we struck gold on a couple of pairs that met my requirements, fit her, and were on sale. I stood at the checkout while she wandered around a bit looking at all the crap that they have in the displays up by the front - you know, all the little crap like rhinestone pin Hello Kitty watches that the stones fall off of in two days, bracelets that turn green, little candies, tchotchke crap. I called her over a couple of times, and each time she came and asked for Webkinz, and each time I told her no. I finally got up to pay for the pants, and while the girl is ringing them up I look over and see Trout put something in her pocket.
My jaw dropped and my heart sank, and then I said, in a loud voice "What ARE you doing? You CANNOT do that. Taking things without paying is STEALING!" She looked at me, wide-eyed, startled, and at least had the decency to look a bit sheepish.
"Alriiiiight, I'll put them back," she sighed, and put one thing back on the rack.
"Empty your pockets," I demanded.
"Aaaww, okay, I'll put the other back." She slunk off to put something else on the rack.
"Now turn them inside out," I instructed. If she hadn't needed the damn pants, I would have apologized to the cashier and left. Yeah, I know, mistake number whatever. I did apologize to the cashier and finished paying for the pants. Trout told me she didn't know how to turn the pockets inside out.
I walked over where she was kinda half-hiding behind a candy display. "Let. Me. See." I ordered.
"All RIGHT Mom, I'll do it!" she shrieked as she pulled yet another candy out of her pocket. This time I just frisked her, finally satisfied that the pockets were empty, and I marched her home. As we walked through the mall she'd ask, "Mom, can I -" and I'd spit out "No!" before she could even ask whatever it was she wanted. Took the whole walk to the car before I could speak normally.
I asked her why she tried to steal those things, and she said she was standing there and "it just made me think to do it." I asked her what about the little voice in her head that tells when things are wrong and not to do them, and she said she didn't have one. I told her she'd better damn sight get one. We talked about how stealing is wrong, how it is dishonest, how if she were caught by someone other than me she'd be going to jail, and how she would feel if someone took her things. We talked about the ten commandments, because she is working on preparing for her first reconciliation (we're Catholic), and I told her that when she steals she not only makes me and BigDaddyFish and the rest of the family sad and disappointed in her, she makes God sad and disappointed in her, too. I reminded her that we'd talked about this before, but she insists she forgot. I hear that excuse at least 10 times a week for various things, and it's old now. I don't buy that.
When I was five, I stole something small from a drug store, a pack of gum or a small toy of some kind - I don't remember what at this point. My mother discovered it when we got home, and she took me right back to the store and made me confess to the manager, who was very nice about it, but still stern, and told me that they would let me off with a warning that time, but if I ever did it again they would have to call the police. I never did it again - the act of having to confess my misdeed to someone in authority was more than enough to keep me from ever being tempted again.
I wonder if I handled things right with Trout. I was loud, intentionally, because I WANTED to embarass her. I did apologize to the clerk, a young girl of probably no more than 17 herself, who looked like she couldn't care less. I guess I felt that since I was the one who caught her and I caught her in progress instead of after a crime had been committed, putting everything back and embarassing her was enough. Now I'm not so sure.
BigDaddyFish thinks that because this was her first offense and because we reacted very strongly, no other punishment is necessary. I'm not so convinced. I think a strong message needs to be sent that this is 100% unacceptable behavior. But I also worry about coming down too hard, about alienating her and pushing her away so that she refuses to learn our values. I don't know if there should be further punishment or not. I don't know if wearing the two pairs of pants I bought will remind her, every time, of the whole incident, and that will help reinforce my point. Maybe it will make her not want to wear the pants at all. Which brings us back where we started.
And wouldn't you know, when she put on one of the pairs of pants from JCPenney this morning, the ones she assured me in the store were perfect, she had a damn meltdown, because they were falling down. I pinned them and sent her on her way.
Finding the balance between pushing hard enough to send a message but not so hard you push them away is the toughest tightrope I've ever had to walk.