This afternoon, Sammy sauntered into the kitchen with an envelope in his hand. He said he’d found in on the front porch (what he was doing there, I have no idea). It turned out to be some kind of bill for our next door neighbors, which I suspect was misdelivered to someone else on the block, who then misdelivered it to us. He wanted to open it, but I said it didn’t belong to us and we would bring it over later. End of story, right?
Of course not. Why would I be writing about something so mundane? (Don’t answer that, Snarky McSarcasm.)
A little while later, Sammy came back into the kitchen carrying shards of paper, which careful investigation (OK, sideways glance) proved was the neighbor’s bill he’d run off with and opened anyway. It was at this point I had a massive flashback to the day when I was about 6 and I decided to take home a book I’d been reading in the doctor’s office waiting room. When my mom found the stolen item tucked into her bag, she wheeled the car around and for marched me back to the doctor, to whom I had to confess and apologize. And thus ended my petty larceny career.
Mom, I would like you to know that lesson stuck with me. So much that I immediately knew I would apply it with my own son, here and now. So I told him we would be going to see Miss Betty (our neighbor) to return her mail and apologize for opening it. From the look on his face, you’d have thought I’d said I was going to make him feed his beloved Angry Birds shirts into a wood chipper. There could be no greater punishment.
Parents, there is a moment when you discover you have hit upon the most heinous punishment your child can imagine, one that will teach him a lesson, not hurt him in the slightest, and make their blood run cold all in one fell swoop. It is a moment of joy to savor and remember.
The next thing I knew, Sammy was getting out a pencil and paper to write me a note, clearly to be filled with all the righteous indignation a 7 year old can muster, and I looked forward to the missive with glee. It said, “Dear Mommy, I’m sorry we can’t go next door tonight.” As if his written pronouncement was on par with a presidential veto on his punishment. I thanked him for his effort, but said he was still going. So he declared he’d write Miss Betty a note, which I assumed would be his apology that would get him out of having to do so in person (nah, I was still gonna make him). But what he’d done was erase me as the recipient and added Miss Betty, as though he could leave this note telling her was wasn’t going to come over to apologize. I laughed even harder then, and told him to get his shoes.
He started bawling on the 20 yard walk over, and tried to turn back several times. But we got to the door, and a bewildered Miss Betty came out while I coaxed Sammy into saying he was “sorry for opening your mail.” I explained what had happened and she thanked Sammy for bringing her mail to her and told him not to cry. He couldn’t have run home any faster. (Thanks, Betty, for playing along!)
I have no idea if this incident will make as lasting an impression on Sammy as mine did on me, but I can hope it at least teaches him to be more respectful of things that belong to other people. Maybe seeing all this will also affect Sabrina. Maybe I’ll get to apply this little gem of childhood humbling again in the not too distant future. All I know is that I’m keeping that note forever.