When Otto and I picked up Chinese food this weekend, they gave us three fortune cookies. We, of course, ate two of them. The third cookie has been sitting on my kitchen counter ever since.
I moved it to a more prominent location this morning while I was packing the kids’ lunches, reasoning that maybe I would see it when I WASN’T running around, busy, and do something with it. I’m not sure what I thought I was going to do. Eat it? Throw it away? Who knows. All I know is that I was tired of seeing it shoved back on the corner of the counter where I stack the diet coke cans waiting to be crushed and put into the recycling.
Finally the lunches were packed, everyone was suited up, and we headed out to the bus stop. As is my custom, I saw the kids off, walked home, and started cleaning up the breakfast stuff.
And as I put Monkey’s cup into the sink I saw that the cookie was gone.
I knew what had happened. Sometimes, with two kids, it’s hard to figure out who’s responsible for something. They both blame each other, or they both claim innocence, and you never really know. But this time was easy.
Monkey not only hardly eats anything, he’s not one to sneak… well, anything. It’s just not what he does. (He does plenty of other annoying and obnoxious stuff, but not that.)
Chickadee sneaks food. And shiny things. She often takes items that would be freely given her if she’d just ask, but for whatever reason, she doesn’t ask. (We seem to have cured her of out-and-out stealing, but she will still “borrow” things from me or from school at times.) Chickadee also happens to think that fortune cookies are just about the coolest invention since pierced ears.
So; no mystery, here. Chickadee took the cookie.
Is this a big deal? Well, I don’t really care about the cookie. I care that she takes things without asking. And I care great big heaploads about the fact that she is inclined to lie rather than to fess up, most of the time. So in thinking about how to handle this, I decided that the priority would be to get her to tell the truth.
When the kids got home, I waited until a lull when Monkey was busy elsewhere and sat down to confront her.
Me: Chickadee, I need to talk to you.
Me: I’m going to ask you something, and I am only going to ask you once, and you are only going to answer once, because you are going to tell the truth the first time. Okay?
Me: Did you take the fortune cookie off the counter this morning?
Me: … [but… she never cracks that quickly! what do I do NOW?] Okay… ummm… did you eat it?
Me: [wait, what was I supposed to do next?] Well. Um. You need to ASK and not just take, next time, please.
Me: Okay then. Thank you for telling me the truth.
And then she went back to what she was doing, and I wandered off wondering, vaguely, if I was supposed to do something else. I think I was maybe supposed to mete out a consequence. But neither do I want to punish her when she actually owns up as requested, because then what’s the incentive for her to tell the truth?
I conveyed the dilemma to Otto tonight on the phone.
Me: So I don’t know, do you think I should’ve punished her?
Him: Did you ask her what the fortune said?
Me: Did I… what? No. Why would I ask her that?
Him: Well, that’s part of the equation here.
Him: What if the fortune said something like “You will soon become very wealthy?” Then she’s taken a fortune away from you that YOU NEED, and that should be punished.
Him: But if it’s a cruddy fortune…
I am not kidding when I tell you that Otto certainly brings fresh perspective to my life.