Trying to Do the Right Thing

My little six-year-old darling was picking up trash off the school grounds with her Daisy Scout troop this afternoon when she came upon a $20 bill. It was a cause for much celebration and excitement. She was the heroine of her little group.

And then I made her turn it in to the office on the off chance that someone comes in asking about it.

We didn’t even discuss it. I just took her into the office and turned in the money and watched her little face crumble. And felt instantly like I had made a mistake. But of course it was too late to back out with the principal in front of me and the money handed over.

I don’t regret giving the rightful owner a chance to claim the money, but I do regret the way I handled things in turning it in. I took my sobbing little girl home and held her in my lap and talked about why I had done what I had done, how there could be another little girl sobbing at home right now because she had lost the $20 her parents had given her for something at school, and how grateful she would be that another child turned it in. Then I apologized to her for not giving her a chance to hold onto her find for a little bit to show it to Daddy, and for not discussing with her the right thing to do before just doing it. I asked her to forgive me, and without hesitation, through her sobs, she said, “I forgive you, Mama. I love you.” And I felt worse. I asked how I could make it up to her.

We had a good afternoon afterward. We talked about finally instituting an allowance so the kids can have spending money that they don’t find on the ground, and I painted her toenails sparkly pink, and she got to watch that episode of The Simpsons where Lisa does a science experiment to prove that a hamster is smarter than her brother. She seems content.

One thing about parenting that never fails to amaze me is how sometimes even when you have what looks like a clear-cut path in front of you, you can feel like you made the wrong turn. I guess that’s true for life in general, but the stakes seem higher with kids. I really don’t want to screw this up.

Categories: The Kids

2 replies

  1. Wow, I feel very guilty and like kind of a bad person for saying this: But I am pretty sure I would have let my kiddo keep the $20. If it were an object that belongs to someone, I would turn it into the office in seconds flat. But a single bill? Do people actually go to lost and found to claim such a thing? And what is the school going to do when no one claims it? I hope they told you that if no one claims it by the end of the school year that it belongs to the finder.
    I think you handled her disappointment in the best way possible, though.

    • We did put her name on it as finder, so if no one claims it she’ll get it back. Likelihood of rightful owner coming to look for it is probably close to zero, but we’ll see. It’s a tricky thing; a wallet would have identification, a watch would have identifying features, but there’s nothing special about a $20 bill. I told her that being honest brings with it the potential of dealing with others who are not honest, and that’s a price you pay. We’ll see how it plays out.

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