Friday, October 28, 2005

Hot chocolate

I have debated over the past 24 hours as to whether or not I should blog this. It’s a rather personal story (nothing new there then), not just about me, but about Scrappino as well. Indeed, it reveals far more about Scrappino that the usual ‘he loves to play cricket/he watches too much Dr Who’ than is generally found on this site. For my part, I’ve willingly entered the egotistical, self-revelatory arena of blogland and I have to take any uncomfortable exposure that comes with that. But Scrappino hasn’t. He’s only here by default, and I am conscious that it’s not fair to expose him to too much public scrutiny.

That said, I really do want to share something that happened over the past couple of days. So, with the requisite advance apology to Scrappino, here is the story.

On Tuesday, I took Scrappino to the O2 centre in Finchley. It’s a small(ish) shopping centre with a lot of restaurants and cafes, a cinema and a branch of ‘Books etc’. Scrappino and I go once every couple of months and, Scrappino being a creature of habit, we enjoy the same routine every visit. First we have lunch at Nandos, then we watch a film and then we pop into Books etc on the way home and treat ourselves to a book. It’s the same thing every time. Lunch, film, book, home.

So, on Tuesday, we went to the O2. We had lunch at Nandos, watched a film (Wallace and Gromit) and then went into Books etc and had a browse. I chose a guide book to Athens (have I mentioned that I am going on holiday to Athens next week?) and Scrappino chose a Dr Who novel (yes, they make books of the bloody thing too). I paid for the books and gave the bag to Scrappino to hold while I went to sort out the ticket for the car park. And then we went home. So far so good.

We’d been home for about an hour when I decided to check out the Athens guide book, so looked in the bag for the book. Inside the Books etc bag was my Athens guide book, Scrappino’s Dr Who novel and a bar of chocolate. I was puzzled. Scrappino often asks me to buy chocolate if we’re at the supermarket or in a shop queue, (shopkeepers always leave the chocolate on a shelf perfectly placed for kids to see them). But I knew for a fact that he hadn’t asked me for any chocolate that day, and I certainly hadn’t paid for any. How did the chocolate bar get there?? It would have been simple for Scrappino to quickly knock a bar of Galaxy into the bag while nobody was looking. It was the only possible explanation.

I know that all kids go through a stage of stealing sweets. We’ve all done it. It’s part of growing up. A right of passage. But it’s also part of parenting to come down like a tonne of bricks the minute you first catch your child stealing. You have to make them realise the consequences of their actions; drum home that there are some misdemeanours that are just not acceptable, which go beyond the odd sarcastic aside to the teacher or forgetting to do your homework. And stealing is one of those. You have to stamp it out from the start.

And so I asked Scrappino, quite calmly, given my horror/anger/shock/disappointment. “How did this chocolate get in here?” Scrappino looked shocked. “I don’t know” he replied, and looked me straight in the eyes. I recall reading somewhere that you can tell when a child is lying because they look straight at you and their eyes don’t blink. Scrappino was wide-eyed, unblinking and definite in his answers. I knew he was fibbing.

“Scrappino” I explained, “I’m not going to shout. I just want to know how the chocolate ended up in the bag”. Scrappino, still maintaining eye contact, replied “I really don’t know. I’ve never seen it before”.

I began to feel exasperated. “Okay, look” I said, “I know how much you love chocolate. I guess you saw it there and really wanted it. And you knew I’d say no because we’d just had lunch and so you thought you’d just, you know, take it. Is that what happened?”

Scrappino didn’t flinch. “No. I don’t know how it got there”.

I started to worry. Not only has my pride and joy nicked a chocolate bar from right under my nose, but he’s doing a brilliant job of lying about it. I tried changing tactics and opted for the old George Washington approach.

“Look Scrappino. I’m really not going to get cross. I’m not angry that you stole the chocolate. Well, I am, a little. But I’m more upset about the lies. Tell me the truth. Did you steal the chocolate?”

“No” said Scrappino, “I didn’t steal the chocolate”.

I was clean out of ideas. I’d tried gentle persuasion, accusation, reverse psychology, the lot. And he still wouldn’t own up.

“Fine. Well, until you tell the truth, and admit what happened, the chocolate is going in the bin. And you can’t read your new Dr Who book. Okay?” and I took the Dr Who book out of the bag and put it on the top of my cupboard out of Scrappino’s reach.

All that evening I thought about the chocolate. About Scrappino stealing it. And about his refusal to own up, even after being caught red-handed. And all night the new Dr Who book sat in the top of my wardrobe, unread and the chocolate lay in the bin, uneaten.

The next day Scrappino and I went to shul (we do occasionally) where we met some friends. They invited us to join them that afternoon at the O2 centre to watch a film. Scrappino and I gave each other knowing glances, but agreed to tag along. And so, 24 hours after the great chocolate robbery, Scrappino and I found ourselves back at the O2. (Nanny McPhee this time). Before the film started Scrappino’s friends decided to pop into Books etc and we went along as well. I noticed a book that I’ve been trying to find for a while and so, while the kids were mucking about in the ‘Kidz Zone’ I went to pay for the book. The chap behind the counter took my card, and as I was signing the credit card slip, he put the book in a bag. He then took a bar of chocolate from behind the counter and put it in the bag. “We’re doing a special promotion this week. A bar of Galaxy with every purchase. Enjoy”. And he handed me the bag.

I was struck dumb. Then mumbled “erm, thanks. Excuse me a moment. I have to apologise profusely to my son….”

During the entire film I couldn’t help thinking about the whole episode. What does it say about me? That I jump to conclusions? That I can’t tell when Scrappino is lying (or, as it turned out, when he’s telling the truth). That I was so convinced that I was right that I couldn’t hear what he was saying? And what does it say about Scrappino. That he’s not a thief, clearly. But also, I thought quite proudly, that he stuck to his guns. He knew he’d not nicked the chocolate. It would have been so easy for him to just admit it to stop me going on about it. Or to get his new Dr Who book back. But he knew he’d not done anything wrong and, as it happened, was much better at sticking to the truth than I’d given him credit for. There was no bending under pressure or faltering or saying what he thought I wanted to hear. He doggedly stuck to the truth.

He accepted my apology very gracefully. “Told you” he said. “Oh, and does that mean I can eat the chocolate?”

“Yes” I replied, “you can eat the chocolate.” And he did.

And I ate humble pie.


Blogger MC Aryeh said...

Scrappino sounds like a very impressive young is not easy being a kid...

6:12 pm  
Blogger baldricka said...

....or a mother!

8:30 pm  

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