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The Thief

December 13, 2011

For all of the flack our local police get, I’ve always had positive interactions with the police around the not-so-great things my child does.

There was the time they showed up at our front door after Bubaloo had called 9-1-1.

I was out shopping and the kids were home alone.  Bella called me to let me know what he had done.  Apparently he “accidentally” called 9-1-1.  He said he kept on pressing 9 followed by an uncountable number of 1s and suddenly he was connected to an operator on the other end of the phone asking what his emergency was.  I think he panicked because he stayed quiet and handed the phone to his sister.  She’s not always the most astute and it took her a bit to figure out it was 9-1-1 on the phone and she didn’t necessarily assure the operator everything was okay before she hung up.

I made it home mere seconds before the police showed up to verify that nothing indeed was wrong.  I profusely apologized and Bubaloo apologized.  I explained to Bubaloo how what he did was dangerous and instead of the police helping out someone in danger who may have really needed their assistance, they were wasting their time at our house.  He then spent some time in his room bawling and reflecting on his actions.  To my knowledge, our house has not called 9-1-1 again.

The police showed up at our house again this morning with Bubaloo in the back of the cruiser.  It was not completely unexpected.

Bubaloo has a really big problem with stealing.  It’s compulsive, uncontrollable, unremorseful and I don’t think there’s anything else we can do to make it stop.

Both kids have always had a food issues and issues related to hoarding of stuff.  It’s a mark that their early lives of neglect have left upon them.  Bella seems to have successfully worked through most of these issues, but they’re still prominent in Bubaloo’s life.  Combined with his lack of impulse control, it’s a recipe for disaster.

Our first encounter with stealing was in grade 4.  At the time we thought it was a developmental thing and Wifey and I we refer to it between ourselves as the Great Snack Caper.  His consequence for stealing snacks from his classmate’s lunches was to replace the snacks with his allowance and make a public apology in front of the entire class.

I can’t recall any great moments of thievery in grade 5, but this is likely because we pulled him out of the regular classroom through a section 23 and he spent the year in a specialized behavioural classroom where the ratio was 3 adults to 12 kids.

In grade 6 he returned to the same school as before and early on in the year he stole some chocolate bars from the classroom.  He was required to pay for those chocolate bars and make restitution at the school.

In grade 7 we reached the tipping point of stealing. One time he was caught taking money from his charity jar and from his sister’s savings jar to buy junk food at the local convenience stores en route to and from school.  This had taken place over a significant period of time and we guesstimated that around $80 had been misappropriated.  We pawned off his DS to replace what he had stolen and he had to earn the money to buy his DS back.

This was insignificant when compared to his next offense.

It came to our attention that Bubaloo had been sneaking off school property at lunch when he and some friends finally got caught.  A couple of pieces of information came forward which led Wifey and I to suspect that he had been stealing again.  We tripped him up and it all came out.  It was more horrific than we ever could have imagined.   He had been stealing for months from three local stores.  Chips, pop, candy bars and comics.  Hundreds of dollars worth.

Bubaloo and his buddies would take money from kids at school and sneak off the property to go purchase the junk food contraband.  One of the boys would buy some snacks and distract the clerk, while the others would load up their pockets with unpaid merchandise.  They’d return to school and distribute their haul after having eaten a large portion of the goods.

The consequence for this was that Bubaloo and his buddies received an in-school suspension.  In addition, we had him sell a bunch of his video games, and nearly his PSP, so that he could repay the store owners for what he had stolen.  He had to hand them each $20 when he made an in-person apology and handed them a note.  We also enrolled him in a theft counseling program which he completed.

This year, I caught him having taken $9 from my wallet.  It was the first time he had ever stolen from me.

On Friday, we found out he had been smoking, and then gave him a get of jail free card. We had suspected for a month-or-so that something was up.  This is when he confessed that he had been stealing from stores again.  Given the context of privileging honesty over consequences when this disclosure was made, there were no punishments handed out.  Bubaloo was actually able to articulate for the first time that opportunity and impulse control were his triggers.  Together we revised the timing and route of travel to school and coordinated him taking his meds a bit earlier in the morning.  We were hopeful, but realistic.  We knew what would happen next and knew that it was only a matter of time.

Today he got caught and the police are now involved.  His name is in the system, and after having shared with the officer our history of interventions, we’re collaboratively going to try to get him into the diversion program.  Because it’s his “first offense,” nothing is likely to happen of consequence.

We’re at wit’s end, and our hope was that judicial involvement would spark some sort of change, but I don’t think it’s done anything but up the ante for the kid.  He just doesn’t care.  He’s angry in a way that we’ve never seen and it’s a dangerous anger.  I was hopeful that this would scare him, that maybe he’d finally learn his lesson, but I’m not holding my breath.  This is a hard kid with some pretty hard times ahead of him.  Even the officer commented on that.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 13, 2011 6:14 pm

    I have no advice or words of wisdom as my kiddos are only 5 1/2 and while my little daughter hoards things away and I’m worried about possible eventual theft we aren’t there.

    I think all I can say is that I believe you are doing so very much right by Bubaloo because his ability to express himself to the point that he recognizes what the triggers are is huge. I’m sorry this is a frustration you are having to navigate and I’m glad you have this place to get some of the frustrations out.

    • December 15, 2011 3:39 pm

      Bubaloo has always been a hoarder. It’s always been food (um, the opened and half eaten can of ravioli we once found in his room) and if it’s food, it’s junk food. He also loves to collect stuff. It’s objects that most people would call garbage, or that he’s culled from the garbage, that he refuses to throw out – a broken umbrella, little pieces of plastic, broken toys, rocks, packaging from toys. But he also keeps things like cards. He has every birthday card given to him since we became a family. He’s kept cards from before he could even read them. I’m not sure that the hoarding and theft go hand in hand, which could be a good thing for you!

  2. December 13, 2011 7:51 pm

    Just wanted to let you know that C and I are thinking of you two. Those kids are so lucky to have you as parents. Sounds like you are doing everything you can to raise your son to understand the consequences of his actions. Such a sad byproduct of early neglect. Big hugs to you both.

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