A Thief Among Us: My Family Turns on Itself

I doubt there are many parenting books on this type of situation.  It’s not exactly the type of topic that gets its own chapter in a parenting book.  Can you imagine?  “Chapter 7: When you Suspect Your Children are Thieves.”  I know there are kids and teenagers who dabble in the art of stealing–I knew a few growing up–but there can’t be enough to warrant some kind of common knowledge on how to deal with that type of situation.  Many years ago my parents found themselves in a situation where I bet they wished there was a chapter titled, “When you Suspect Your Children are Thieves.”

When I was in Junior High, my dad noticed that some of his personal possessions were missing from his dresser.  If I remember correctly, he thought maybe some of us kids were just goofing around in his closet again.  A few days later my mother discovered that all of the lunch money that she hidden in her drawer was all gone.  At first, my mom thought maybe she was running shorter on lunch money than she thought.  When the freshly replenished supply of lunch money was replaced went missing again a week later, however, my parents first suspicion that maybe one of their children was stealing from them was formed.

After all, who from the outside world would know that my mom hides the lunch money in her second drawer under her socks?

A few days later my dad’s secret cup of cash that he kept in his closet disappeared.  At this point, they knew they weren’t just misplacing their money–someone in the house was stealing it.  Because the thief seemed to know exactly where all of the hidden money was located, my parents believed it had to be an “inside job.”

My parents gathered the family into a room and told us kids about the missing money and other belongings.  They explained the importance of honesty and asked us to be honest and tell them who was stealing the money.

They waited, but nothing.  No one admitted to stealing the money.  My sisters and I looked at each other with pleading looks begging the culprit to come forward.  Nobody came forward, so my parents decided to run to town leaving us at home to discuss who had been stealing from them.  They wanted an answer by the time they got home or we were all going to be punished.

Once my parents left, things got ugly.  We each accused each other of stealing the money.  It became a sort of trial without a judge, jury, or any rules.  We pointed to various motives for stealing the money.  We identified who had the most knowledge of where the money was located. It went on and on and on.  Still, nobody admitted to stealing the money.  At the end of our pretend trial, my sisters voted for me to take the fall.  I was the only boy, I was the only one who knew where all of my parents’ secret things were located, and I had the most motive to steal the money.  The only problem?  I didn’t steal the money.

My parents came home and the moment came where I was going to be thrown to the wolves, so to speak, and accused of being the thief.  Before anyone could say anything, my parents apologized profusely.  While they were gone to town, a neighbor called them to tell them they had seen a neighborhood kid running out of our house and down the street with hands full of cash.

My parents explained to us how they had made a mistake and promised they would never make that mistake again.  They then took us to Polar King–a locally owned and operated burger joint that we all loved–and allowed us to order whatever we wanted.

Despite the ugliness of the whole experience, I think we grew closer as a family from that experience and learned a valuable lesson.

Photo Credit: Flickr

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