Last week the wife found an empty gum package and a package of candy in the girl’s room. Then she found a half-empty package of goldfish crackers stuffed in a drawer. When the girl got home, the interrogation began. This led to her coughing up two empty one-pound cartons of Fig Newtons.
OK, so this means she’s sneaking food from the pantry again. And she’s worked up to entire boxes of cookies. This explains a lot, like, how come she keeps gaining weight so fast. Before you wonder how a kid can snag an entire carton of cookies, we were getting Fig Newtons at Costco because we put them the kid’s lunches. That’s how come we didn’t notice an entire box going missing. But it gets better.
It turns out she’s been stealing small items from houses she’s been visiting. As in, she goes to someone’s house to play, and pilfers something. It’s been small things, but it just makes my head explode. And it gets even better.
She has also been shoplifting gum and candy from grocery stores! For the last several months! Nearly every time we took her shopping, it turns out, and her brother knew about it. Because you see, in order to guarantee his silence, she would share what she stole with him. Cunning little weasel that she is. And she confirmed that the time I caught her with candy under her shirt, she was indeed trying to sneak it out of the store, contrary to what she told me so earnestly at the time.
Although this post includes a gratuitous use of exclamation points, italics, and bold, the wife and I have remained surprisingly calm, at least initially. The girl was quite surprised by this, and asked us why we weren’t yelling more. What could we say? That we feel so utterly betrayed that we’re in shock? That we already felt like we had tried every trick in our arsenal to get her to straighten up? That she has exhausted us into submission? That I wanted to ship her off to an Alaskan military academy?
We are looking into consulting a variety of professional resources. Clearly the psychologist we have been seeing with her isn’t accomplishing as much as we thought. We also want to talk to her pediatrician, the school counselor, and a bunch of others on a long list we are considering. We know a Beaverton police officer, and are considering having him come and talk to her. We want her to talk to the store managers where she stole, apologize, and pay for what she took. As we’ve been trying to tell her, she has been stepping over an important line: She’s not just going to get in trouble with us, she could get arrested. I don’t know if she completely understands this, or if she is just playing dumb. She’s a great little actress.
Why does she do it? Are we starving her? No, of course not. I am becoming more and more convinced that she has an eating disorder, because almost everything she has taken is a sweet or candy. The wife disagrees, and thinks it’s more likely that she is continuing to have an impulse control problem. Hopefully we can get her professionally evaluated to help identify what her issues really are.
One thing for sure, though, is that she has been dishonest with us on a level so deep, and so casually, that it is stunning. Since having my nose thoroughly rubbed in this, I have been becoming more aware of patterns in her behavior. After telling her to get busy picking up the family room, I watched her through a partially open door as she sat and continued reading her book, turning the page four times. I walked in and sternly told her she needed to be picking up, not reading. She immediately and indignantly said she wasn’t reading, that she was in the middle of putting the book away, and she WAS cleaning up.
If I hadn’t just been watching her laying back and calmly reading, I would have given her the benefit of the doubt, as I so often had. She sounded genuine. It would have been plausible. The things she has said to us so often sound plausible, and she always sounds genuine. And how many of them have been similarly complete fabrications? More than I care to think about. Now that I am paying close attention, I am realizing that she is always stretching the truth to make herself look as good as possible. And we’ve been buying it, or at least not making an issue of it, for far, far too long.
Although we haven’t had the kind of screaming, weeping, meltdown you might expect, it’s only because we’re exhausted, and numb. But it’s definitely affecting us. We have no patience, not with them, or with each other. Little things become big issues. Nerves are stretched thin. And while I prefer to end these posts with some catchy and definitive final statement, I don’t have one. The reality is I have no idea what we are going to do with her, or even how to begin to repair this situation. And that sucks.
I’m trying to word what I want to say in some objective manner, because you’re well aware of some of the issues I’m having in the same venue of children’s brains.
But I’m having a really hard time doing so. You’re going to have to deal with it, bucko.
Little Miss PAgent *DOES* have an eating disorder. She also *DOES* have an impulse control problem. Both are separate, but related. If the eating disorder isn’t diagnosed, methinks she’ll graduate to bulimia in high school, once she gets a whiff of how people get treated based on the shape of their bodies. We don’t want that.
Explain to the present psychiatrist what exactly is going on. If s/he is at all surprised, or gives a defeated-sounding reaction to it, then chew them out because they should know all that already. And then find a new one. Don’t you just love mental health intakes? Mmm-mmm.
I also don’t know if you’re being strict enough with her. Don’t take this the wrong way, but maybe you need to do things a little differently. If I catch my son dancing around the room when I ask him to clean up, I put my hands on his shoulders, make him look me in the eyes, and tell him that it’s cleanup time NOW, and it’s dancing time LATER. If it were a book, I’d probably step up to him, tell him one more time, and then take the book out of his hands and say, “I’ll put this away, there are more important things you need to do.” We also make liberal use of the phrase “I am not going to deal with your behavior now, so do us all a favor and listen the first time. Bad, bad new age parents we.
The new therapist we got my son to see was wonderful after our last incident. I spoke to her for the first time over the phone Saturday evening. I haven’t met her in person yet, but she’s been around since September. I told her that I was concerned that we were going to run into problems when he got older, but she said she’s seen parents not get help until later, when it was almost TOO late, so we’re doing the right thing. You’re doing the right thing too. I hope your wife has a lot more patience with doctors — she’s going to need them.