Cohen stood by my side, Emerson in the sling, as I emptied the plants from our basket at the nursery yesterday. My phone rang, and I answered it by reflex, as the nursery woman began to serve us. I really should have waited a moment, finished the transaction and called back. I know. I usually do. I'm not sure why I didn't. But I made arrangements to meet friends at the duck pond as the woman entered our plants in the til and Cohen discovered the small $1 pot plant ornaments on the counter. I added a tiny tea cup to our total and nodded in agreement when Cohen held up a small green frog. I paid and thanked the nursery lady, phone still to ear I'm ashamed to say - incredibly rude I know - and ushered Cohen to the car. As he climbed in to his seat I strapped Emerson in to hers. Triumphantly, Cohen held up his little frog and told me how wonderful it was, then held up a small lady beetle ornament and told me how equally wonderful it was. Taken aback, brain not quite in gear, I asked where he had gotten it? After a pause, in which his four year old brain must have been working furiously, he simply informed me that he had liked it.
"Did you take that beetle without paying for it Cohen?"
"No, I just liked it."
Thus began a conversation that was revisited throughout the day. It's wrong to take things that don't belong to us. When we take things and don't pay for them that is called stealing. Stealing is even worse than breaking a rule, it is breaking the law. I will always love you, no matter what, but I am feeling disappointed. Beetle in hand, children in car, car thankfully parked alongside the entrance, rather than publicly shaming him, I returned to the counter and replaced the beetle. Shame faced myself, I explained what had happened. The nursery woman smiled, assured me it was not a problem and admitted that she thought he had taken one. An even brighter shade of red, I returned to the car and picked up the thread of our conversation once more.
Oh, the lessons we learn. I'm still a little shocked. My sweet baby is now a little boy, a little boy who is testing his limits, exploring the world and not always making the right choices. And as I try to guide him, I am learning lessons too, and not always making the right choices.
Next time, I'll let the phone ring.