It was Friday evening, about seven o'clock, when I spotted the bracelet. I recognized the magenta beads strung together by elastic, for I had seen it that morning at the Dollar Tree. The problem was, we were not at the Dollar Tree. We were at Home Depot, and the bracelet was not on a display, but my daughter's wrist. It appeared as though I had a thief in my midst. I waited until we reached the parking lot to confront the little criminal. The best way to coax a confession is to act as casually as possible.
I leaned over the shopping cart. "So, where'd you get that bracelet?" I asked casually. Annie looked down at her wrist with hesitation so slight, only the most experienced crime-fighting mother could detect it. When she did not answer, I pressed a little further. "Is that the bracelet you showed me at the Dollar Tree?" Annie's little lip began to tremble. "The one I asked you to put back," I reminded. She hung her head as tears welled in her eyes. "Did you steal it?" I whispered. Annie tore the bracelet from her wrist and tried to shove it in my hands as if it were made of poison ivy instead of plastic.
"Take it!" She cried. "I don't want it anymore!" I insisted she wore it during the drive across the street to the Dollar Tree and told her she needed to give it a cashier and confess what she had done. Annie held her arm away from her as she wailed and sobbed. I asked her if she stole it on purpose or if she forgot it was on her wrist. She insisted she forgot, and as I analyzed the evidence (i.e. her long sleeves which prevented her from feeling the beads sliding up and down her arm), I determined she was telling the truth. So, when we pulled up to the store, I turned around and handed her a dollar. "How about we go pay for that bracelet?"
She was afraid to walk into the store, convinced the approaching sirens were the police coming to take her to jail. We waited 'til the ambulance passed so she could feel secure enough to go inside without having a meltdown. Bravely, she stepped up to the register and handed the cashier the bracelet and the dollar. I watched the fear and anxiety in her eyes melt away as the bracelet was handed back, this time, paid for and authentically hers. She slipped it onto her wrist and held it close to her heart.
Back in the car, we talked about how yucky it feels to do the wrong thing and how much better we feel when we repent and make things right. Annie nodded vigorously while admiring her magenta reminder. There are so many times in a day when I feel like an inadequate mother. Sometimes I yell when I shouldn't, put my kids in front of the TV too often, feed them treats while the healthy bananas turn brown, and live in my head instead of in the moment. But as Annie smiled at that bracelet, I did too, because I think I may have just done something right.