Years from now when my youngest son does something mischievous, like pull a prank in college and get caught, I will be able to look back and pinpoint exactly when his life of crime began. Today, July 13, 2011, at 4:05 p.m. Sure, he has taken toys from his brother at home, he has stolen my cell phone and Daddy's car keys, but today is the day he took his crime spree on the road.
Before Alex joined our family my oldest son showed no interest in carrying his belongings from his cubby at daycare to the car. Every day it was a battle as I juggled his lunchbox, home work papers, clothes, swim trunks, towel- whatever odds and ends he needed to get through the day. Then along came his little brother, who is more than happy to carry all he can away from school, and suddenly Matthew wants to do it all himself. Alex is especially interested in Matthew's lunch box, demanding to carry it out of school every evening. Now that his brother wants it, Matthew wants it too, naturally, so pretty much every day I have to become a hostage negotiator to free the lunchbox from the grips of two sets of little sticky hands. Every day.
So I knew my youngest son really liked the lunchbox. I just thought it was that lunchbox...
Today when we arrived to pick up Matthew he could barely contain his excitement over the brand new lunch box of a friend. And to his credit, it was a way cool ride for the carrot sticks and gummy bear set. It was a large plastic John Deere tractor. It was, according to my oldest son, ..."so cool, Mommy, it is just really way cool." While standing in awe of this large plastic tractor he didn't even notice that his little brother had taken the opportunity to nab his lunchbox from his cubby. With Alex trailing behind us we walked down the hall and around the corner, past 4 more classrooms and walls covered with cubbys. As we headed towards the front of the church Matthew was chattering away about wanting to get a lunchbox like his friend's, only "not a tractor, Mommy, but something even cooler, like a race car." He debated aloud about which would be better, a nameless race car or a Hot Wheels car. "Like Track Attack, Mommy, one of those way cool cars." (Track Attack, for those of you not living with a pint size race car fanatic, is a Hot Wheels driving game for Wii that my little guy may just be addicted to. I am not too concerned though. What with the casino being built right around the corner from me I figure there will be plenty of addiction help popping up soon.)
As I listen to Matthew chatter on about race car lunchboxes and how he needs a new one because Alex is going to need one when he starts daycare so he can have his old one and "I can get the new one, Mommy, because I am the older kid, right Mom, right?", I quickly look back every so often to be sure that Alex is trailing behind us. I see his light brown hair bopping and weaving out of the corner of my eye, as he toddles along behind us while Matthew hangs on to my arm and bounces up and down, making sure he has my full attention focused on the very important matter of race car lunchboxes and how much more food they can hold. More food? This kid barely eats at home, yet he cannot seem to get enough at lunch. I make a mental note to ask him later, when he is not so excited about race cars, if he is getting enough to eat at school.
We pass the drinking fountains and head towards the cafe area. I completely turn around to look fully at my youngest son for the first time since we began our journey from the classroom. I see he is still hanging on tightly to Matthew's little red lunchbox. And he is also holding on tightly to 4 other lunchboxes of various shapes, sizes and color. What the hell? He is totally loaded down, with 2 lunchboxes in each hand and the fifth one held tightly against his chest. He can barely see over all of them. If I wasn't so mortified I would have found it quite funny. Looking back, I wish I had whipped out my cell phone and taken a picture. Although then there would be evidence of his crime...
I stop the train and pull into one of the cafe tables. Matthew, always helpful, chooses this moment to say "Mommy! You have to watch him ALL THE TIME!"
After looking around to see if any other parents or teachers are around we lay the 4 lunchboxes out on the table. I pick each one up individually, turning it over looking for a name. One has a first name and last initial neatly printed on the back. I set it aside and open the other 3. Nothing. No names, and one of them even has a space to write the name! Parents, really! My kid CANNOT be the only one who steals lunchboxes in broad daylight. If your child's lunchbox has a place to write the name of your child in it, do it!
Matthew pipes up to tell me he knows who these other lunchboxes belong to. I sit down at the table and corral Alex between my legs so that he cannot wander behind the counter and steal the coffee pot. I put my hands on Matthew's shoulders and look him square in the eye. "This is VERY important, Matthew. Do you REALLY know who these lunchboxes belong to?" His expression is serious as he solemnly shakes his head, yes. I hand him the lunchboxes and tell him to put them back in the right cubby's. Oh and Matthew? HURRY!
So, yes, I kinda made my 4 year old an accessory to a crime. He took his role very seriously and skipped off to put the stolen goods back where they belong. Alex accompanied me, this time in my arms so that he was not free to wander about picking up loot, to put the last lunchbox back in the right bin.
As we walked out of the church tonight I wondered if I should have found a teacher to help us, and not relied on the 4 year old to sort out the mess. Here's hoping everyone took home the right lunchbox tonight!