Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Missing money

Rachel and Miriam are participating in a hearing study at UNC, which pays participants $15 each session. The girls had their first session after school today, so Andrew picked them up and then sat in the waiting room while they completed their hearing tasks (I stayed home with the little ones).

When they came home they proudly brandished their hard-earned money. They each had two crisp dollar bills: a five and a ten.

"Very cool," I said. "Put it away and get ready for dinner."

Rachel immediately started calculating her tithing. She has a jar for her own money and jar for tithing. She counted out $1.50 for tithing jar and stuffed today's $15 into her piggy bank.

Miriam went into her room and didn't come out for a long while (chances are she'd started to play with something; she's rather distractible these days). We had to remind her that it was time for dinner and she dilly-dallied her way to the table.

After dinner, while Miriam was taking a turn loading dishes into the dishwasher, Benjamin was floating around like a boy who needed an assignment so I asked him to tidy up his bedroom (which he shares with Miriam) since he'd been playing hard in there today and it looked it! He obediently skipped off and started putting things away. Miriam finished up with her share of the dishes and then went off to help him.

That's when she noticed that her money was missing.

"How can it be missing?" I wanted to know. "I told you to put it away so it should be in your piggy bank, right?"

"I didn't put it away-away," she admitted.

"Then where did you put it?"

"On the floor."

I turned to Benjamin to ask him about the money but he was sure that he saw it and didn't move it. By now Miriam had worked herself into a full-on tizzy, so Andrew went to help her look for it and soon the $5 bill was located on her dresser. The $10 bill, however, had apparently vanished. Miriam was devastated but was sent to bed anyway because she had school in the morning and the show must go on! (And if she'd put it away in the first place things would've been a lot rosier, so next time just put your money away, for crying out loud).

I was busy settling Zoë (let's not jinx things but I'm liking this heat wave for a number of reasons; first, it gives me confidence that I could move to the Emirates one day, and second, playing out in the heat really wears out this baby. And there's not much that does that! But apparently a heat index of 114°F/45°C does! Our current daily lows are rivalling the current daily highs of Calgary (about 77°F/25°C) and I'm kind of loving it)... Anyway, Zoë was actually settling so Andrew did his best to comfort Miriam.

When I had Zoë asleep (again, let's not jinx this!) I came out of the bedroom to make my lullaby rounds.

"Benjamin's probably already out," Andrew said.

But he wasn't. This heat has nothing on him. We walked to the pool at 9:00 this morning, swam for two hours, and walked home. He did an hour of yoga (thanks, Cosmic Kids). He played with every toy we owned. And still he was wired at bedtime.

I left him flopping around on his bed so that I could turn my attention to Miriam. She was still crying her little heart out about losing such a large sum of money.

Miriam had hung a sweet little sign on her bed for me that said, "I have already said my prayers. Please sing to me even if I am sleeping."

(Did I write about the time a couple of weeks ago when Benjamin had fallen out of bed, so I was helping him calm down in their bedroom, at about 2 AM? Well, we accidentally woke Miriam up. She mumbled something at me, but I didn't quite catch what, so I asked her to repeat herself. "You didn't sing to me before I fell asleep!" she said, and then thrust her arm out of her bed rails and demanded, "Tickle my arm!" So I sang her a lullaby at 2 AM, which, trust me, was just the thing I wanted to be doing at 2 AM (not sleeping, because that would be lame)).

I sang her a song and rubbed her back and told her that there wasn't anything else that could be done tonight. We'd just have to clean her room really well and with any luck her money would show up.

"I prayed about it and everything but I just don't know where it is!" she sobbed.

Eventually I had to leave that disconsolate girl to her own devices so that I could give some attention to her brother.

I sang him a song and patted his back (he doesn't like rubs) and helped him say his prayers. I asked him about Miriam's money, since he had been the last to see it.

"When you saw Miriam's money on the floor," I said. "How much was there?"

"Two!" he said. He has no concept of what money actually was, but that answer was the answer we were looking for since Andrew and I had begun to wonder if perhaps she'd left it in the van or dropped it between the van and the house or something. But, no. Benjamin saw two "monies" on the floor, so that $10 bill must be somewhere in that room.

"Can I have a little drink?" Benjamin asked.

"Just a small one," Andrew said.

And when he skipped off to get himself I drink I thought to myself, "You should look inside his money jar." So I grabbed his money jar off his shelf, pulled off the top, and there was a crisp (though crudely folded) ten-dollar bill sitting right on top. Ironically, he has a Darth Vader money jar (I suppose that's what we get for giving him a bad-guy for a bank).

"Oh, no!" I gasped, then asked Andrew what we were even supposed to do in situations like this.

I dropped the money back inside his money jar and put the lid back on. When he came galloping back into the room he saw me holding his money jar and his face fell.

"Hi, Benjamin," I said.

"H-h-hi, Mom," he said.

"Do you have anything to tell me about your money jar?"

"," he said quietly.

"So if I opened this up right now, what do you think I would find?"

"I don't know..." he stammered.

"Do you think I might find Miriam's money inside?"

"I guess..." he whispered, starting to feel ashamed of what he'd done (Andrew almost started laughing out loud at this point. I guess, indeed).

"Should we find out?" I asked.

"I guess..." he whispered again.

I pulled off the top and there it was, the ten-dollar bill. We made Benjamin deliver it to Miriam, apologize, and give her a hug. She felt much better. Benjamin did not.

We took him out to the living room to have a private chat about right choices and wrong choices, about lying and truth-telling, about remorse and repentance. He didn't want to answer any questions out loud and kept pointing to his temple and saying, "I'm saying it in my brain."

"I need to hear your words, though," I said, "So that I know you are understanding what we are talking about. If you have not brushed your teeth, for example, but you say that you have, is that the truth, or is it a lie?"

"I'm answering in my brain."

"I need to hear your words."

"It's a lie," he'd choke out.

It was a heavy, emotional conversation for him. At the end I sang him a few extra feel-good lullabies while we snuggled, then we sent him to bed and I went into Rachel's room to say goodnight.

She was sitting on her bed, completely in tears.

"Oh, boy," I sighed. "What's wrong with you?"

"It's just..." she blubbered. "Why would Benjamin even do something like that?"

"You're upset that your brother stole your sister's money?" I asked.

"And lied about it," she sniffed, nodding her head.

"It's hard to have a juvenile delinquent for a little brother," I said sympathetically, which made Rachel giggle (and snort snot all over the place). "But really, he didn't understand the gravity of his actions. He didn't know he had taken ten dollars. That sounds like a lot of money to you but it doesn't mean anything to him. When I asked him how much money he found on the floor he said, 'Two.' Not fifteen. Two. He has no idea how money works. And it's so exciting when we find a penny in the street, you know? We call him over and let him pick it up and we ooh and ahh. It's kind of like a game for him. He loves picking up money and putting it in his money jar. I don't think he really thought this was any different. He knew it was Miriam's money, but I don't think he really knows why money is important to people. I am upset that he lied about taking it, but I think we worked through that and he gets it now and it's going to be okay. He's not a criminal. He's just...four."

That made her feel better.

It was a busy evening of making children feel better (or guilty (but then better)). All three of the "big" kids were crying over the missing ten dollars. Zoë slept right through that escapade (otherwise she'd probably have been crying as well). But don't worry. She's awake now! 

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