The Day Grape BubbleYum Scared Me Straight

I remember the moment like it was yesterday... It was the day I became a thief.

You see those racks of chocolates and treats at eye level in the checkout lanes of grocery stores were just too much for me to handle when I was less than four feet tall and staring at them while I waited on my mom to buy the vegetables for dinner. It was the day I asked for some gum, and my mom said "no!" But I really, really, really needed to taste the delicious, mouth-watering, bubblicious grape flavor of the BubbleYum gum. That was the day I learned what stealing meant. That was the day my mom marched me back into the grocery store, with tears streaming down my face and I had to hand back the pack of grape-tasting goodness to the cashier and tell her I was sorry I had taken it without paying. Luckily, with good guidance and a hefty dose of embarrassment and horror, I was scared straight and able to avoid a life of crime. I knew my one moment of thievery was enough for me! Bubble gum tastes so much better when you have to do a few extra chores to earn the 25 cents to buy it yourself! The taste of grapety goodness mixed with satisfaction of a job well done is truly bubblicious!

I had forgotten all about that day and the impression it left on me until this past week when the unthinkable happened. My sweet, little angel of a girl became a thief herself!

{GASP! I'll let you have a moment to recover from the shock before I continue...}

I know... I didn't see it coming either. She and I had spent the morning at a friend's house having a play date and planning crafts for VBS. A light-up bracelet had caught her attention and she had fun playing with it while we were there. When I said it was time to go, she helped pick up all the toys and then we headed home for lunch. A few hours later we were walking into Target and she not-so-innocently pulled the bracelet out of her purse and said Ms Katie had given it to her. Then almost immediately, as her face twisted uncomfortably with guilt, she came clean... "Mom I didn't tell the truth just then. Ms Katie didn't give it to me. She doesn't know I have it. I took it. But it was so pretty I just had to have it!"

This was it... my Grape BubbleYum moment. I was suddenly thrown back in time to handing that grape bubble gum back to the cashier and remembering how much I learned in that moment. It was my choice now to make a lasting impression for her to learn the importance of honesty and integrity, or to blow it off knowing it had come from the dollar bin in the store we were headed into.

So I took a breath and we talked about how taking something that isn't yours and without permission is stealing and how God tells us not to steal. We talked about how she knew it wasn't the right thing to do because something made her afraid to tell me. We talked about how that something is the Holy Spirit telling her what is right and what is wrong, even if we don't yet know what the wrong thing is called. We finished running our errand and then on the way out to the car, I reminded her we were going straight over to Ms Katie's to return the bracelet and to apologize for taking it. As I held her little hand and talked to her in the parking lot, a stranger passed by and overheard our conversation. He turned around, never breaking stride, and called out "Good job Mom. She's going to turn out just fine because of moments like this." Thank you kind stranger. Thank you for taking the time to acknowledge a difficult parenting moment and reminding me this was a big building block towards her future.

She was getting so nervous on the car ride over as she was struck with the guilt of realizing what she had done was wrong and because she loved Ms Katie and didn't want her to stop loving her too. That moment of recognition transformed into such a sweet conversation about how we all do bad things, but when we realize it, we have to do the right thing and we have to ask for forgiveness from the people we hurt and from God. Just like with Ms Katie, God may be disappointed by our bad things, but He loves us so much that He will forgive us because Jesus already died for all the bad things we do.

As we walked in the house, I proudly stood back and watched my little one do the hard thing and the right thing. She handed back the little bracelet and told Ms Katie what she had done and how sorry she was. As Ms Katie immediately told her she was forgiven and gave her a huge hug, I watched relief wash over her little face. That stranger's voice echoed in my mind... "Good job Mom. She's going to turn out just fine because of moments like this." This was a bubblicious moment in parenting and she's going to turn out just fine.