Sunday, December 28, 2008

Tell me...

So here's a big fat What Would YOU Do for your consideration right here in the down time between Christmas and New Years:

Picture the scene... Mark and I took the two youngest with their Yuletide cash to one of the largest retailers in America on the day after Christmas. To say it was a madhouse would be an obscene understatement. People were everywhere.

In the midst of the chaos, I told one of my children (who shall remain nameless) that it would behoove them to keep their cash in their pocket because pulling it out to stare at it like it was their Precious every 5 seconds would heighten their risk of losing it.

I think it must have been somewhere around the 16th time of repeating the aforementioned warning that I made the firm decision to NOT replace any cash that was foolishly lost because said offspring refused to obey.

We finally finished our torturous shopping experience a trillion and a half hours later when we headed to the equally torturous check-out line. "Child" puts their goods up on the belt thing and proceeds to pull out their cash.

Or should I say: What was left of it.

It was very obvious from the look on Child's face that they realized right away that they were not going to have enough to pay for 2 of the 3 things that they were hoping to purchase. Eventually, all of the pulling of the moolah in and out of their pockets caused some to fall out.

Even though I'd told them so, I still felt like crap, but I had no other alternative than to say, "I'm so sorry, but you are going to have to put back these two things. This probably wouldn't have happened if you'd have obeyed Mama, you know."

The child looked at me with big ol' tears forming in their eyes and simply said "Yes ma'am". Child was naturally disappointed, and I can understand that. Tears rolled quietly as they paid for the rest of their stuff, but they weren't obnoxious about it. After all, it stinks when you are learning a lesson the hard way.

In the mean time... The people who were behind us in line made no bones about the fact that they thought I was a HORRIBLE jerk of a Mom. One of them muttered "that's just wrong" when they witnessed the exchange between Child and me. I decidedly ignored it because I don't have to defend my parenting to random people who don't have a clue what's already happened.

We gathered up our stuff and we walked toward the door. We ended up running into some friends of ours on the way out, so we exchanged the usual greetings and kept on going. We were just about to exit when a woman (who I'd never seen before, not even in the line behind us) comes running up to us holding the items that Child had to leave behind. She looked at Child sympathetically and handed them to her. I said (like a goober) "No ma'am, we didn't pay for those things." But she motioned that she had and then she put her hands up as if she wouldn't take them back and then walked off.

I was stunned and humiliated, and then I got M-A-D (all in the time span of about a minute). We got to the car where I had to explain the whole thing to Mark, who had been helping the other Child and didn't know WHAT in the free world was going on. Then HE got mad, but at that point, neither of us knew what to do about it.

So, I turn the question over to you, bloggy friends. Now, go getcha some leftover Christmas cookies and a large drink, and then tell me.... If this little scenario had happened with you and your child (and random strangers), what would YOU have done?

Thanks. And a Happy New Year to you!


leslie ruth said...


Let me just say that if I had been in line behind you, I would have been silently applauding your parenting skills. Natural consequences, one of the best ways for kids to learn! (this from a teacher and a one from a classical/Charlotte Mason school at that.)

I can and can't believe that woman would buy the items for said Child. She probably thought she was being compassionate...or something. So accepting them was probably the gracious thing to do. Well, that and you were too stunned to do anything else :)

I guess you could let Child know that you have them (the kindness of strangers, etc.) and that she'll have to earn some $$ to "buy" them from you if they would like.

Or, let natural consequences take the full toll, return them to the store ("These were a gift and I don't have the receipt!") and treat yourself to something as a reward for your fine parenting skills.

I vote for the latter :)

Distybug said...

I certainly wouldn't give them to "child". I think I would probably donate them to a worthy cause or family. Don't you just HATE when people stick their stinkin' noses in where it doesn't belong?

Dena @ Green Acres said...

I actually had something like this happen to us several years ago. A different reason, but one child had to put back an item they wanted. Someone behind us gave my child a sucker or some kind of candy (can't remember now what it was) and I said "Thank you, but no thank you" and I got the 'you are obviously the worst mother in the world' look, but like you I didn't feel the need to defend myself to them. He wouldn't accept it back, so I laid it on the checkout that was empty and left the store.

Not saying that was the best choice, but at the time I didn't know what to do, only that my child didn't deserve it and wasn't going to have it.

3girlsmom said...

Very similar thing happened to me several years ago - I was teaching school (3rd grade) and several of the classes were on a field trip. Another teacher had a student in her class who was a known thief. The children were all told to bring $5 (and NO MORE) to eat lunch with - we were going to Burger King. This child's grandmother gave him $20 that morning, which he "lost". We all knew he had pocketed it - other kids were even telling us that it was in his pocket (which we weren't allowed to search) so we called his grandmother. She said to let him eat lunch back at school (he was a free lunch child) and for no one to pay for his lunch at Burger King. A total stranger heard his teacher say to him that he wasn't allowed to eat lunch out but didn't hear that he would be eating back at school. He was LIVID and not only bought the child lunch, but called the principal and superintendent of our schools to tell them how cruel we had been by not allowing the child to eat. We tried to explain that he was getting to eat lunch, just not at Burger King on someone else's dime - especially when he was hiding his own money to keep for himself but this man would have NO PART of our explanation.
He, just like the lady at the store, didn't know the whole story, and didn't realize that you were teaching Child a valuable lesson, and was butting in where he didn't belong. Frustrating.
I would tell Child that since he neither earned nor paid for said items, he would need to take them to a church charity, Hannah Home, something like that, and donate them. Just my thoughts. That way, they'd go to someone who is less fortunate and Child wouldn't learn that crocodile tears make people buy him things when he didn't obey in the first place.
Except I'm a sucker for tears, so I can say all this because I didn't actually see the pitiful face and tears. :)

DaNella Auten said...

I would take a possibly mean route... Give it to siblings... that way he/she will be tortured by seeing it everyday and not having it... a good reminder. (well unless it is a doll, the boys wouldn't care for that) Or have them donate it.

Lol this is a very high "deserving"
society. Everyone has a sence of entitlement. We need to realize we don't deserve what we have and it is a good thing God doesn't give us what we deserve...
(stepping off of my soap box)
Wow! I feel much better now.
Love ya

chickadee@afamiliarpath said...

a very similar thing happened to one of my kids in the bank right after she got her change turned into cash, she dropped a 20 and we never found it.

i did not replace it because she is often careless with money and i had told her to let me hold it until we got in the car.

however, we had no well-meaning person behind us who offered us a spare 20 to replace it.

your situation is wild. i have no idea what i would do. can't wait to hear other responses.

beyond this moment said...

I would have been mad too. Furious actually. Well-meaning or not, I do not appreciate it when people interfere in my parenting.

That said, there are a few ways you can handle said items -

I love the idea of earning money to buy them, and I also love the idea of giving them to charity. My gut tells me that Child should not have them. Period. Natural consequences.


My heart says that maybe this could be a lesson in grace. After all, we sin and disobey the rules and ignore the warnings of dire consequences ahead. Then, someone who didn't owe us anything pays the price for those consequences and gives us a gift we do not deserve. And that Someone won't take that gift back once it has been given.

Am I making sense?

I'm not your child's parent, so I don't know if s/he has felt the impact of the consequences - been convicted of the sin so to speak. If you believe there is a repentant heart - NOT a resentful one - perhaps you could consider grace? Just a thought.

ConservaChick said...

Well, I think I'm going to be the odd man out here, but I think It was a great representation of grace.

How often to we mess up, and God picks up the pieces?

I'm sure the pain of loosing the money was huge. The humiliation of having to put the toys back in front of an "crowd" was a huge punishment in itself. I think that your child learned a VERY valuable lesson. Not only about consequence, but of kindess and grace, and GIVING.

How many times have I been foolish, but God still provides.. so much more than I deserve. It's those moments that I fall even more in love with him.

You can do what you want with the toys, but please don't miss out in the blessing here!

I do need to say that I think the comment above about giving the toys to the siblings so the child can be tortured is CRUEL, and would accomplish NOTHING good...

You are a great mom Gayle, that shines through in your blog. K

Teresa said...

It could go two ways for me. Depending on your childs age. If they understand the grace of God and what he has done for us, then the grace thing will be great. But for a younger child, I think I would donate it to another child you needs it. You can also make it to where she is blessing someone else. Again I think it is all about the reality for your child. If she can understand the grace then thats a good thing, but if too young then I think charity. Your her mamma, and you know her heart, and her personality and what she is will learn from.

But good job for sticking to your guns. Also consider to make sure you are not underminded in the situation. Sometimes Jesus deals in grace but also with letting us have the consequence of our disobedience. Let us know what you decided.

Halfmoon Girl said...

First, (((hugs))) for you. I laughed at this part :"because pulling it out to stare at it like it was their Precious every 5 seconds would heighten their risk of losing it.", but then my heart started hurting when you guys got to the till. I would have done the same as you, but my heart would have been painfully squeezed the whole time. I also would have been frustrated at those around you who were judging without knowing the whole story. I think you handled it gracefully though. At first I was gonna say that perhaps your child could earn the items by doing some housework or something...but then I read Karlie's comment- very interesting, insightful perspective... I dunno- you are a great parent and know your child Gayle, you will make the right decision.

Halfmoon Girl said...

oh, I was going to add that the torturing method mentioned did not really sit well...but I don't think you would do that anyways...

Maria said...

I say use it as a grace lesson. I had a similar situation happen to me. I think that lesson is one that I think can be recalled in yours and your child's (childrens) memories... every thing happens for a reason and I believe we can use it all for His glory.....
Your a great mama!

carrie said...

looks like you got some good answers already, so I won't interject my mediocre parenting opinions in here. But let me That's a crazy story and yes, it would've totally made my letters.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's a tough one. I would have done what you did. And I would probably emphasize the gracious actions of the stranger.

Jenni at talking hairdryer said...

I would have totally done the same thing in the line at the store.

So, here's my knee jerk reaction. A bit of stunned silence, a thank you for the kind thought to the stranger. Momma carrying the items to the car. After a bit of time to let all the emotion of the moment pass, in the privacy of our home (since no one would allow you privacy at the store), I would gently explain the situation and reasons to child. Then I'd guide the conversation towards (you know the old mom trick of planting the idea and then the child thinks it is their idea) child donating the items.

But I'm pretty sure my heart would break the whole entire time because all I would be wanting to do is let child have the toys and see that smile I love so much.

Sara@ Butterville said...

Huh, first I will say THIS. That was very kind of the lady, who thought she was doing a good deed by purchaseing those items for what I can only assume she tought YOU didn't have the money for...that said. She should have minded her own wasn't like you were at the Grocercy store and forgot your wallet or couldn't find your cash and THEN offered to pick up the tab.
You were RIGHT in not getting those items for your child after they were warned about losing the money. This you did PERFECT. I would explain to child that the women was trying to be helpful but you both KNOW why those items weren't purchased and now they will get returned or donated...
You rock Mama! And kudos to the nice lady, but maybe she should have asked or something.

Sara@ Butterville said...

Ok, I just sat and read through all the comments...and the grace thing. WOH! those ladies are WISE!
I change my answer, if the child can understand grace...let them have the toys. Jesus SO did that for us. I love these ladies!

Gayle said...

I think you were totally on the right track. That lesson learned about obeying mommy as well as keeping your money in your pockets will never need to be learned again. I'm not sure what I would have done about the gifts but if they were given out of the,"Poor kid, your mom sucks" attitude I would have feen FUMING!

Gayle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mocha with Linda said...

Standing ovation for you, Gayle! There are far too many parents who won't stand up and do the hard thing for their child's character.

And you obviously have taught your child wll since he immediately obeyed and knew throwing a fit wouldn't work.

You've gotten some great responses and suggestions. I think either donating them or letting it be an example of grace is fine, depending on the child's age, maturity, and response to the whole situation. And one other thing, that is really hard but very important, is to pull yourself back a little bit and try to distance yourself from your own frustration and humiliation. That, for me, is usually the hardest. The effect on my kid is not usually as big as the effect on my pride in some situations, and that is what I have to deal with.

Love ya, my friend! You are doing a great job!

Emily said...

hahaha. I am laughing at all the comments you've had so far. They are a RIOT to read. Just about as funny as your post.

I think where I normally go wrong in my parenting is that I DON'T. yes. I DON'T let natural consequences occur enough. A natural consequence of mine when I drop $20 is, well, there's not pizza tonight. Or me LOSING a library book? Well dangit. It's gone. Natural consequence...I pay the library their enormous fine.

You can't truly be mad at that lady, 'cause she didn't know the whole story. She fell for the beautiful kid of yours and their polite..."Yes, Ma'm" that they gave you. (seriously, I might have given in after that somber reaction) (all your kids are mighty gorgeous, so they know how to pull at the heartstrings)

It's over now. Let the kid have the toys and not without a little talk about natural consequences and with a little grace sprinkled on top. :)

KarenW said...

Wow! That's just amazing. I think that I would have been ticked off as well - someone interfering with my parenting skills and all. But, what's done is done. Difficult things happen to teach us a lesson. So use this opportunity to teach. I love conservachicks idea about the provision of God even when we mess up. Best wishes!

Caroline said...

Let me first applaud you on your parenting ability {clap,clap}. You did just the right thing.

My first thought was to return them to Walmart and take the money to put in the offering plate.

I don't know. I sure can't believe someone stuck their nose in where it didn't belong. The nerve of some people!!!

Angela; said...

Hi sweet friend ~ my very first thought - before I read the comments - was that he/she had already experienced the harsh reality of disobedience on the spot so grace was in order - with a time of explanation (apology/restoration/prayer perhaps), of course. And I'm not saying they deserve the gifts - I would still then ask the child to choose whom they should give them to, or any of the other things mentioned are great suggestions.

Showing them this important concept is crucial for their spiritual growth/learning. What a blessing the Lord gave you such a moment!

Happy New Year ~ Love you!

Kent said...

Wow! isn't it amazing how people like to butt in not knowing all the background--she probably had only good intentions.
You are so right to allow the natural consequences to take place--i do not do that often enough. The child( losing the money) was acting childish by pulling out the money to look at it--but--was he/she being disobedient or defiant in any way??? That would determine my actions. I really think they learned a valuable lesson and I'd let them work to earn one of the gifts and maybe donate the other one. You'll make the right choice!!!

Stacey said...

Gayle, hey! Let me tell ya this makes me downright angry--a parent actually PARENTING and look how you are treated! Gayle, you did it just right at the register and you didn't have any choice afterwards. However, I'll deviate from popular opinion here and say give the boy his toys--he knows you're serious and he knows next time to keep his precious in his pocket next time (that was FUNNY).

You're doing it right--I sure wish I'd done more of that when my older two were younger, no doubt about it. xoxo

Gayle @ thewestiecrew said...

Ok, I'll go ahead and tell ya what we did.

Right after it happened, Child said that they were sorry that they cried and handed over the toys to Mark on their own accord.

We figured that:
1. They understood the lesson that we were trying to teach and
2. It was a perfect illustration of Grace (just like so many of you said).
PLUS, we didn't have a receipt to return it, so we let Child keep the goods.
The End. :)

I LOVED each of your answers even though some of them made me giggle. ;)

Big hugs to each of you!

Under the Florida Sun said...

Wow, I had a lot to say but after scrolling down through all the comments.. it was all said already.. LOL..

Keep us posted as to what you decide!

Reformed Grits said...

I'm with everyone that cheered your natural consequences even with their humble response at the time; I was mad with everyone at the buttinski who had no clue. We have that sometimes in my extended family... rules we have in place for a reason and that they think are dumb and feel free to let me know.
Anyhow, on one hand I'd say drop in the toy donation box at the door-- that was my knee-jerk response but I don't know if I'd have enough "moxy" to do that (heehee.) I also thought about after a long time of talk and reflection, etc letting them have one toy and giving the other away, sort of symbolizing grace for you and extending grace to others...
Anyhow, I'm sure you did the right thing!!!!!!

Kristin said...

I confess I didn't read all comments,so someone may have said this already. I would, like you have been frustrated with the arrogance of said woman. And I don't know how I would have handled it. I may have gone straight to the returns desk. But when you stop and think about it, it is a great object lesson of what Christ does for us. (Not that the woman was a Christ-figure herself.) But we can't pay for our sins. We are helpless. And Christ pays the price for us, though we are undeserving. So you could explain this to the child and give them the loot.

Michelle Bentham said...


Since you are the MAMA... You could require your child to do something selfless with the items like donate them to a children's charity or take them to a children's hospital chaplain to be given to children who spend the holidays in the hospital. Teaching them we do not benefit from disobedience.

Or... If you prefer - you could just explain grace to you child in a way that makes clear disobedience is never to be rewarded, but grace and mercy are about not getting what we deserve.

If you would like your child to learn a responsibility lesson you could have them "earn" the items by assigning chores to be done in exchange for the items.

It is your call as a parent. I would say more than anything forgive the well-meaning woman who had mercy on your child, find the value in this teachable moment and procede with prayer. God will show you the way.

Me... in my former self, might have handed the goods off to someone else right then and there... Or just slapped the woman.

Today, I would have tried to be gracious and then explain to my child how this act of covering their disobedience is much like Christ covering our sin through salvation.

Teachable moments... It is sometimes for us, sometimes for our kids and sometimes for us both... and others.


Lora Lynn @ Vitafamiliae said...

And that sense of "entitlement" is why we just spent billions of dollars bailing out two different industries.

You were in the right, friend. Brave mama.

His Girl said...

you did exactly what I would have done... cause I know, that if I lost my money, and some lady came out and gave me what I wanted I sure as get out would have accepted it. I think you're right... the lesson was learned and all is good and right in the world.

that lady on the other hand? I think she's related to the lady I encountered when my children were toddlers in the mall. One of the twins had refused to walk any further. I picked her up, she kicked. I tried pulling her, she sat down. So, I just left her there (obviously not forever)and walked a few steps away.

I turn around to see if she's coming, and this "lady" is picking my daughter up, drying her tears, offering her sympathy and tsk, tsk, tsking me.

all I can say is she was lucky my hands were full with the other twin or the 'good Samaritan' might have gotten a faceful of my ninja skillz. it was a bad day already. sheesh.

Anonymous said...

Loving the answers you got, girl! I would've NEVER even thought of using it to teach God's grace. Of course, I have a 2YO. Grace is not in my vocab right now. :-)

2nd Cup of Coffee said...

I was going to first of all say that you seem like a wonderful loving mother and I'm sure you did the right thing for YOUR child, whom no one else knows. I was also going to go the grace route, and thought I was a genius for thinking it up, until I saw all of the other comments about grace. Interesting how many responses this got, wasn't it?

Growin' with it! said...

whatever the toys are, i'd keep them for yourself as a payment for the pain and suffering you experienced! otherwise, no lightbulb thoughts at the moment on how to deal with this one! i AM anxious to hear how it turned out.

all i can say is...GRRRRR. people.

Growin' with it! said...

i'm back being nosey with more time to read other people's comments now. but i do have to tell you that i felt so awful for you today and i told my hubby. he said right away that you should take the "presents" back and keep the money!

DeeDee said...

OHHHHHHH i hate it when people intrude where they should not.

I agree with others who have already posted... I know that you will know what to do.

I sure hope that you are going to join us at my blog for the WEDNESDAYS in the WORD. I would love to read your perspective along the way.

Sweet Blessings,

Happyhome said...

You've already gotten some awesome comments. This is an amazing lesson in natural consequenses (great job Mom!) and grace. I would bet the lady thought she was helping someone from the goodness of her heart, not because she thought you were a bad mom. She probably left feeling really good about what she had done. I would venture to guess this is a lesson your child will not soon forget. What a great opportunity to teach both God's amazing grace, as well as how to "pay it forward" can they in turn bless someone else? Sometimes the "teachable moments" with our kids teach us even more.

Krista said...

I love thinking of all the brilliant things you could have said to the lady...
Maybe something like, "Look lady, if the kid had been a better pick-pocket, he (or she?) could have bought more loot! As it is, he (or she?) was only able to snag $15 this time. So keep your handouts... he'll do better next week! You got to train 'em when they're young - so mind your own business!" Seriously... I would have been M-A-D too!!

Kelli said...

This would be a hard decision. I would be MAD as well and if I could have picked my chin up off of the floor in time, I would have told the lady off! Your child doesn't deserve the stuff but I wouldn't want to be cruel about it because she/he didn't ask the lady to buy it for him/her. Maybe keep them to give as gifts for bdays and such? (My daughter left money in her pocket and was playing at church--when she got home the money was gone. We searched the church yard and there was no money--our pastor gave her a very small portion of the amount she lost because he felt that someone took it from the yard. At any rate, I don't think my daughter learned her lesson and in hindsight I would not have let her accept it)

JenIG said...

that is absoluting infuriating. good heavens, I'm sure I don't know what I would've done. This is why 90% of kids are bratty in America. They have adults in their lives who cannot bear the thought of children undergoing unpleasantness in any form... and they close their eyes to the long term damage that it does.

good thing YOU are her mother and that nosy lady is not a constant presence in your lives. YUCK!

Jason and Brook said...

I agree with giving her grace to keep the "gifts". However, the next time the earned money, I would have the child use it to select and purchase a toy to donate to charity.

Fran said...

As bad as I want to read the comments first, I'm not.

You did the right thing...or at least what I would have done.

And, I would have been mad too.

And, I would have promptly returned the stuff to the store without a receipt....obviously without a receipt.

This has all been settled by now.
I hate it that I missed it while it was going down!!

Now, I'll go read all the comments.

Anonymous said...

Wow - A lot of responses!

I would have handled it in the line, like you did.

I would have also accepted the gifts for the child, because like some others have said...doing something like that would be just like our awesome God. The people didn't have to and I don't think it was to show you or Mark up, or anything...I just think they wanted to do it.

Was it the same people who said something of disgust when you were facing the issue in the line?


Cindy-Still His Girl said...

I would totally try that scam again and have the child "lose" money for the groceries I have piled up. Then I'd say what you said followed by, "But I guess we can eat rice again every day this week," and laugh like a madwomen when the people behind me fell for it and paid for my groceries. :)

JUST KIDDING. I know YOU know that, but who knows what some reader would think.

I'd have done what so many other said- turn it into a lesson on the GIFT of grace. What a sweetie- "yes, ma'am." You're a good momma.

Natalie @ I AM (not) said...

Totally depends on how old your short person is to understand grace. My girls would have seen it as "awesome! I got my stuff!" now, if they had still not got their stuff, they would understand the consequences of not listening.

Sigh, then there's the whole grace-I'm-a-mom-and-you-melt-my-heart buisiness. BUT, YOU know your baby's heart and what will bring about the greatest growth and understanding.

I woulda been mad because what that lady did came out of a judgement, not charity. If she made the comment about it being "so wrong" then she wasn't buying the stuff because she thought you were broke. She must have bought them out of judgement.

Still, that whole grace thing should come from YOU, not the lady. So, you could keep the toy and offer it to your baby at the right time for her to understand.

Did any of that make any sense!?!?


Natalie @ I AM (not) said...

Oh, I just saw that it said you didn't recognize the lady who bought the toys to you. Hmm, now that still doesn't really change it. She must of thought, well, I have no idea.

Just kinda bummer all around. you did good.

Anonymous said...

this response may be a bit delayed, but i was just introduced to your blog, so it's timely for me :)

i just want to say that there is more than one valuable lesson learned from the events that transpired. you certainly deserve to be commended for your parenting skills. it's never easy to see your own child well up in tears and still handle it the way you did. but if you hadn't...what lesson would they have learned right? kudos to you! the next thing that is admirable (and speaks volumes about your parenting) is that your child did NOT make a huge scene and throw a temper tantrum! Kudos to your child! now..for the woman that stepped in and made the purchase...the lesson that could be taught to your child here is that "there is good in many human beings" and that they must have had a big heart and wanted to "make someone's day without asking for anything in return". doesn't mean we have to teach our children that they can/should trust or rely on strangers, but they can learn that there is good in people. i wouldn't look at it as they made this gesture to make you look bad, but rather, because they COULD. while she didn't know the circumstances of the decision you made, we don't know her circumstances either. maybe children that age have a special place in her heart, maybe she has a loved one that age that she doesn't get to see often, maybe she suffered some type of a loss recently and it made them happy to see your child happy. Kudos to the stranger!