I knew it would happen, some time soon. Just like losing his baby teeth. It's bound to happen, at some point, but you just don't know when.
Last Friday night,Joe and I went out together, enjoying Happy Hour at an actual 'dress-up' restaurant sans enfant; Kiddo was having a playdate with a good friend. Saturday came along, and I got the news that my little guy is growing up.
"Mom!" he said, his face lit up, "We sneaked chocolate last night!"
"Oh, really?" I was surprised, but not entirely. See, I've heard this before with the kids I nannied--their excited faces as they triumphantly retold how they got into the candy stash or the cookies. How they were so happy to finally have gotten one over on their parents.
And they all say to me the same thing: "Don't tell."
I would remind them that if they know it's a wrong thing, they shouldn't be doing it. And I would later privately tell the parent, with the reminder to just be more aware of their child's increasing abilities and to please, not mention this to the child as an "Hazel told us you said", but to keep an eye open. We want to keep the lines of communication open, and to keep all the adults in the loop. At least, I would want this.
So dear Kiddo, in his infinite glee, said the same thing to me. "Don't tell my friend's mom and dad."
"Oh?" I replied, waiting to hear what his reason would be for this. Perhaps he didn't want to get his buddy into trouble.
His motives, however, were less altruistic. "No, don't tell, because when I go over there next time, I want us to SNEAK IT AGAIN!" Cue the sugar-crazed eyes and delight at the prospect of doing it a second time.
First, let me say that I know that kids are going to be 'sneaky'. This started with whispering 'potty talk' to each other when we were out and about. Okay. I get it. And I KNOW they are supposed to try and sneak sweets.
But what concerned me was that while I could talk my face off about why it's wrong to sneak and steal candy--at home or with friends-- it was still probably likely to happen. What I could do, more constructively, was to at least give him good information. "Let me show you something you should remember if you are getting into candy..." I took him into the bathroom and found some different types of medicine packets and bottles. We looked at the foil packets, and I explained that if he ever sees chocolate in packets like this, not to eat it. "It's for making people go poop, and it can really hurt your tummy." We looked at bottles with lids that couldn't come off--"that's for medicine. If it's in a package that's hard to get into, it's not candy." Then, we went into the kitchen and examined the chocolate stash, the bright colors and pictures on the wrappers, how they were easy to get into. "This is why you should always ask an adult. Because something could look like candy, but it could make you sick, or worse."
If he's going to sneak something, I want him to do it as safely as possible.
The same can be said for alcohol, or sex. We don't want them to do these things when they get older, but we can inform them about safety. About not getting into a car if you are intoxicated or your friend is, but calling home. About reproductive health, and why it's best to wait to be in a long-term, committed relationship, and how to protect yourself and your partner both physically and emotionally.
Even about weapons safety; I want him to know what a real gun looks like so it becomes perceived as something we don't touch or play with, instead of an object of uneducated curiosity which could kill someone.
For me, it's about giving him the best information possible so that if he does make the decision to do something I don't approve of or agree with, at least he might do it as responsibly as possible.
We do the same thing with things that are dangerous, without the overhanging moral implications. We give kids driver's education classes and make them pass a license test. No one (excepting some religions) really has a moral argument regarding driving an auto, but we all know it's potentially dangerous, and so we advise our children: No texting, driving while distracted, driving while under the influence of any drug or medication. We teach our children how to use power tools (don't tell me you can't hurt yourself with a sewing machine or electric mixer!), we teach them how to use a potentially-dangerous internet in safe ways.... all because we want our kids to one day be able to do these things themselves, safely and responsibly.
After assuring Kiddo that even though I wasn't happy he was sneaking things, that I was really, really glad that he had told me, I talked it over with Joe. We both agreed that we would want to know, and so...
Last night, I told the mother what was up. "Just so you know what my little guy is scheming" I said lightly. I didn't want to put anyone on the spot, and in the big picture, this is small potatoes. "And you totally have my permission to bust him if you catch him" I laughed. I explained that I was encouraging honesty and was not going to make a huge issue out of it, and that I'd been clear with Kiddo that if he was caught, "you know, they would not be pleased. In fact, they might really be pretty upset." Before our playdate today, Kiddo and I also discussed that asking first means that you 'might' get something you are wanting; sneaking it would mean a certain "no" and a loss of privileges. "Oh" he replied, his little face sobering right up.
These things will happen. The sneaky stuff. Oh, shit, I know-- it's only just begun. But I think, for a beginning, it wasn't a terrible one.