When I was seven my best friend at the time filled me in on a very cool secret. Guess what my dad does when we go to McDonalds? She asked with a proud smile. He tells them he wants water because its free and then he gets Sprite because its the same color! Free soda! I thought this was beyond cool and told my parents on the ride home that next time at McDs we could order water and get Sprite instead. I paused waiting to be congratulated on my cleverness but my parents stared at me horrified. It's stealing, they said. But its just soda I replied. You can find reasons to justify it, they said, but stealing is stealing.
We have a bunch of people coming into town this weekend. I'm looking forward to it since its not every day that all the people you love most in the world are under one roof, but getting ready for guests, with a baby in tow, and prepping for the meals that will be expected is exhausting. Bone crushing exhausting.
Waleed and I went grocery shopping today. He sat in the car seat in the buggy while I popped cereals, milk and OJ around him inside the cart. I kept my eyes peeled to see if Krogers carried Sharpie pens. I knew they might be more pricey here but being able to pick them up in a one-stop shop would save me the headache of the extra drive to Target, getting him out of the carseat, popping out the stroller, and then doing it in reverse when I'm done just for a simple little pen. Luckily enough Krogers had the pen I wanted- and on sale to boot! I looked at where to toss it but by then Waleed was surrounded in the cart by piles of towering carrots and cucumbers resembling, what some in flat as flat Florida might consider a small mountain range. So I handed him the pen. He stared it and then at me so gratefully, babbling away as though he was accepting an Oscar, not a pen.
Because I had so many things, the bagger, an older Somalian man was kind enough to escort me to my car and help me load it up while I loaded in Waleed. As he finished loading, I took out his tip and walked over to him just as he pushed the trunk closed. Oh, he glanced at the cart that had carried Waleed, the pen, I'll take it inside don't worry. I shook my head, and reached for it, no I bought it, I need that pen. He looked confused, but it was in this buggy. We both stared at the pen. Then at each other. Before I had a chance to speak he quickly smiled and said never mind its okay. Before I could even hand him his tip or respond he walked away.
Sitting in the car I looked over the receipt. Bread, cereal, onions- no pens. I leaned back in my seat and sighed as I stared at the distant entrance. I would need to get my seventeen pound baby out with the car seat. Unfold the stroller, pop him in, soothe him (as he was crying now), and run in to pay for it and then repeat it all again as I put him back in. It's just a pen I thought. They'll hardly notice its gone. The effort of going in to pay for it felt exhausting, and I was already bone-tired.
I remembered a story I once heard of a wise man approached by a father who asked him to advise his son, who respected this wise man greatly, to stop eating sweets. The wise man told him to return in a month. When he did, the wise man told the boy: stop eating sweets. The boy nodded and obliged. Perplexed, the father asked the wise man why he couldn't have said this one month earlier. Because, the man replied, I liked sweets too. How could I tell him to stop a thing I myself did? I had to rid myself of the habit before I could advise him to do the same.
I am going to mess up in a lot of ways in this parenting journey but I hope that I can as best as possible avoid being a hypocrite. It won't always be possible I know, but when I can avoid it I must try. How could I tell Waleed when he was five that he couldn't slip the tic-tacs into his pocket as we walked out the store because it was stealing when I myself, albeit inadvertently, stole?
Luckily, Krogers had a "walk up" pharmacy so I pulled my car up and left it running as I walked up and asked them if I could buy the pen I walked out with. I felt bad that the bagger thinks I walked away with the pen without paying for it. But I guess its okay since I didn't it do for that. I did it because someone taught me years ago that I could justify it all I want but drinking sprite from the water cup is wrong.
I look at my son and while I know that right now he knows little more than the fact that his toes are the tastiest treat south of the Mississippi, he is soaking things up faster than a sponge. The pharmacist thanked me for paying for the pen. I shook my head because the cost of not paying for that pen was much higher.