The Time I Unintentionally Taught My Kids About Shoplifting

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So I took my kids shoplifting this weekend -- at least that’s what two conscientious Target employees would have had you believe. But I can explain.

We needed to accomplish two main things in a short amount of time: buy party favors for Caroline’s upcoming Sound of Music birthday party and find pants that fit Caroline. Though it is approaching shorts season, we could hold out no longer since even Caroline’s winter boots have not been able to hide the fact that she’s been sporting that Revenge of the Nerds look.

I had a list. I had a mission. We had little time because we were reaching Shopping Saturation Point and were all three starving. We’d secured about six pairs of pants to try on and were heading towards the dressing room when Lexi let me know with resolve that she needed to go potty and could wait no longer. We shifted course and headed to the restroom.

I left the ½ -filled cart outside of the door but grabbed the pile of jeans thinking that Caroline could try on a few pairs while Lexi was going to the bathroom.

And that’s when things started to break down a bit.

Credit: quinnanya.

What’s interesting to me is that Caroline asked more than once, “Mommy, are you sure we should be doing this?” shifting uneasily as she leaned and pulled and bent and buttoned. This is interesting to me because I do not generally gravitate towards responsible, rule-abiding people (I especially did not in college), but Caroline had the immediate sense that what she was doing was wrong. I brushed her off, “Oh, Sweetheart, don’t be silly. Let’s just get this done.”

A group of people came and went. Lexi finished. I thought to myself, "Well, let’s just try on the rest here instead of lugging ourselves all the way across the store to the dressing room." We were out of the stall by then. I was clutching the pile of jeans while Caroline was leaning under the hand-washer, still obviously uncomfortable about it all. My mother used to strip me down naked in the middle of Sears to try on clothes, so I really thought I was doing Caroline a favor by being secured in this more private space.

When in my periphery I saw a red-shirted girl clandestinely washing her hands three sinks over. It registered -- she didn’t go into a stall first. She’s after me. I began, finally, to feel Caroline’s discomfort. Another family walked in -- one we of course knew -- an old classmate of Lexi’s. We exchanged pleasantries while I sweat a little and I announced more than once in a loud voice, “OK, WE’RE HEADING TO THE DRESSING ROOM NOW TO TRY ON SOME JEANS!”

The red shirt followed us out. And as we pushed open the swinging door, as she asked me sternly: “You ARE going to the dressing room, right?” We bumped into the security guard who stood standing stone-like by our cart. It was an ambush. One result of my recent eye surgery has been occasional blurriness, so at that moment, life got fuzzy. I felt like James Bond having just been slipped a Mickey. The security guard had a boyish face and I thought to myself, He looks like that actor from Downton Abbey, the character they’ve recently bumped off and I thought, Poor guy -- from Downton to security at Target. The guard said, “Sorry, M’am,” and suddenly my anger was Hulk-like, but I turned crimson red instead of green. All the poor man said next was, “The dressing room is that way.”

What I wanted to say was, “Are you kidding me? I shop here every week. You should KNOW me by now. When I was little, we bought jeans at Harrisons, a narrow little place at the corner of Lancaster and North Wayne; the owner had a smoker’s voice and was a little creepy, but he knew us and would wave goodbye as we shuffled off to the five-and-dime for a milkshake. There was no security at Harrisons (though I’m sure countless jeans were stolen). We live in a cruel, cruel world. Not to mention the fact that you right now are really embarrassing me in front of my kids. Even though I know in my heart that this is all my fault, I blame you. I vow to never, ever return to Target.”

Instead, I said in the meanest voice possible, “I KNOW.”


Here’s the thing: I do know. I know that I am not a shoplifter. But, that poor cherub-faced man and his diligent side-kick did not know this about me.

Here’s what’s promising: I have a responsible, rule-abiding daughter.

Here’s the reality: We may need more party favors for our brown paper packages tied up in string. And as sure as silver-white-winter will melt into spring, Target: I will be back.

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