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"Its okay, Mom, my shirt is tucked well enough today," assured my eight year old as I knelt to straighten his uniform shirt and help him tuck it in neatly. I found myself instinctively stepping forward nevertheless and getting a hold of his little waist. Surprised at the feel of something crisp tucked in the side pocket of the pant, I dug in only to find two crisp and neatly folded ten rupee notes.
Getting ready for school, carrying money? I took a deep breath let it all sink in before reacting. This isn't the first time I have caught him stealing. There have been scattered incidents in the past...the day the local grocer called to inform me that my son had been to the shop asking how many smiley balls would a thousand rupee note buy him. The man at the store had been quick enough to take the sum of money from the child and sensing something fishy, given me a call instead of letting him have smiley balls. A couple of incidents had been reported by the baby sitter Maushi when she had noticed him sneaking into the shop with coins picking up bubble gum stuff.
What new challenges does single parenting bring? How good a mother can one ever be? What happened to the value system we are inculcating at home? Are these situations a sign of peer influence on a pre teenager? A million thoughts buzzed in my head all at once in a matter of seconds. Calmly settling the chaos in my mind, brushing aside all entangling thoughts, I stood up taking charge of the situation. There was no need to ask for justification or explanation. Money thefts; big or small are unforgivable. Yes, I do send my son to run errends and pretty often and he always returns with reasonable explanation of what is bought and for how much. He always brings a cash memo and has a logical explanation for the brake up and the total sum of money spent.
Obviously, petty thefts could have been occurring because of the careless way in which I leave my handbag around. Yes, I can take part of the responsibility. No matter how wise a kid looks, no matter how mature he thinks, money is just something that has to be kept under lock and key. At the same time, the child must learn that no matter what amount, stealing money is simply unforgiveable whether it is hundred rupees or a fifty rupee coin.
Requesting the baby sitter to leave us alone for a while, I shut the room door behind me and turned to my son, "This isn't forgivable, we need to talk." He had already realized that I meant business. He'd better understand that Mom loves me most of the time and fills his world with fun and frolic but when we close the door, sit down and talk, it means she feels strongly about something which is beyond tolerance. "I have found twenty rupees in your uniform pocket and I understand it was certainly not given to you for any reason. I also understand that there is supposed to be no money with you which has been unsettled after the purchases we made last evening. Theft of money, especially if it is more than once, is unforgivable and sorry certainly isn't going to help here. It is a deliberate wrong done on your part."
He had tried to hold back when I offered to help him tuck in his shirt which was indicative of the fact that he was aware of the money in the pocket which he intended to keep hidden. When I finished talking, he had nothing to say. I waited for a few minutes and went on, "Your allowance for the next two months has been forfeited. At the end of two months, I will reassess the situation and then take a call on whether or not or how much and when money is to be allowed."
One reason why this world has seen gangsters and thieves is because unworthy parents weren’t quick or courageous enough to draw the lines between desirable and undesirable behavior and define boundries. I certainly have no intention of making negative contribution to the well being of future citizens of our nation.
Disciplining my own self, I put away my handbag and wallet into my cupboard and decided to be a little more discreet and cautious about money today onwards. Also, plan to go shop for petty requirements such as a loaf of bread or a kilo of tomatoes by myself, sending across the message that “Mom is in charge of the finances” and “It is going to be a while before I can trust you with money again.”