I don't know how it began, the encouraging of my son to become a crime lord. Most likely, it was birthed out of necessity, as so many poor seemingly short-term parenting choices are. It was probably because of a tantrum, a freakout, a clingy spell, a crying spell -- some event in which throwing my son off his game, making him question or making him confused, was the only surefire way to get him to stop whatever nonsense he was currently engaged in.
"Just steal it," I must've said about that toy he wanted me to buy or that airplane he wanted to ride. "Go ahead. Take it. But you'd better get away before the feds come." Undoubtedly, he stopped crying/screaming/flailing and cocked his head in that cute, inquisitive way he does and said something along the lines of, "But, Mama, we can't steal. That's wrong." Thus turning the tantrum on its head, making him the person telling me no.
It's a tactic I use a lot, and in the short term, the results are pretty stellar. The con-man parent approach bats around 1.000. And whenever a parent finds something that works to quickly dry up a meltdown, it's pretty hard for the parent to turn his or her back on it. It's why you see so many kids, eyes red from crying, walking around Target with a large chocolate bar melting around their now-smiling mouths. We cave. I cave by suggesting absurd crimes to my mini.
A baby running a crime ring is inherently amusing. It's why we always laugh at the cigar-toting tot in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit." It's why Dave Chappelle's baby-on-the-corner routine is surprising and hilarious. But what never occurred to me prior to having children is that the idea of the jailbird baby didn't pop into the imaginations of adults willy-nilly. Those cute little monsters gave us the idea of a crawling criminal by simply being the adorable, occasionally evil toddling little tyrants they are.
When my son was first learning how to walk, he used to make his way around restaurants and parks, looking for the next sturdy source to lean on and catch his fall. But though his next location was determined by his need for balance, his desired destination was always a woman's purse. He knew those things were full of goodies and toys. Often my 1 1/2-year-old would return to me, all smiles, handing me a recently snatched wallet. I would thank him for the loot and walk back to the unsuspecting lady and explain that my klepto-kiddo had just stolen her cash and credit cards. The woman would usually smile and comment on how cute my baby was. No harm, no foul. And an idea for the most adorable baby crime ring was born. Move over, Artful Dodger; my pickpockets are pint-size!
I'm sure this memory is what made me think of suggesting that my child steal to quell a tantrum some years later. And the notion of our being secret thieves began to permeate throughout our conversations.
Recently, when I saw a Jeep I liked, my son said, "We should steal it!" "Totally," I agreed. "If the doors of the car are open, we're jumping in and driving it home." My son ran up to the door and tugged. It swung open. Uh-oh. My kid looked so eager; this was his big "Gone in 60 Seconds" moment! I tried to cover. "Oh, shoot, we need the keys."
"They're right there," my son exclaimed, pointing to the keys hanging in the ignition.
C'mon, people! How am I supposed to teach my kid not to steal your car when you make it so easy?
I made up some reason as to why it was not a good time for grand theft auto and rushed my kid out of the parking lot. But the gleam in my child's eye made me wonder whether I had taken the stealing jokes too far -- or whether he even knew it was a joke. I had always assumed he was in on it.
Yesterday we went to an antiques store that is on the first floor of the owner's house. Despite the "open" sign, a security alarm blared when we opened the front door. My son bolted straight toward our car, screaming, "Hurry! We gotta get away before the feds come!"
We may need to have a serious talk.
Katiedid Langrock is author of the book "Stop Farting in the Pyramids," available at http://www.creators.com/books/stop-farting-in-the-pyramids. Like Katiedid Langrock on Facebook, at http://www.facebook.com/katiedidhumor. To find out more about her and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.