Other lessons…not so easy.
A few weeks ago, Eldest had new a friend over. They went to a garage sale up the street together. Ran through the house and yard like a pair of maniacs. And then they had a sleepover.
A few hours after the friend had left, Eldest came to me in a fit of distress saying something really awful had happened: Her money was gone.
She had thirty dollars she'd been saving. Though warned with quotations to keep it someplace safe, she had put it on the windowsill of her bedroom.
And now it was gone.
We hunted for it. We checked drawers and bags and pockets. Dug around under the bed and desk. We quizzed the Middle Twain. We pulled apart Captain Adventure's room.
Neither of us wanted to bring up the possibility that her new friend had sticky fingers…even though it was by far the most likely cause of the fiscal disappearance.
Eventually, though, she began sniffling from her bed.
"Mommy," she said. "I really hate to even say this, but the evidence kind of says that maybe my friend took it, doesn't it."
It really did look that way. The Middle Twain aren't too likely to risk it, and if Captain Adventure had taken it, he would have immediately brought it to me demanding candy – thanks to the Den Dollar system, in his mind that's what cash is for. Get a dollar, get a candy.
So we talked about how not-right that was, and about money itself. She really doesn't have a whole lot of experience when it comes to having real money, and hadn't been ready to listen to me when I'd said things about it before – things like, "Don't walk around with your money out in your hands" or "Hey! Don't start yelling, 'DIDN'T YOU JUST GET $200 FROM THE ATM, MOMMY?!' in public like that!!"
That money had a way of making people do things they might not otherwise do wasn't new information, but it was newly important information.
We talked about how tempting that money would have been for a ten year old who doesn't even have her own allowance yet, who had just gone to a really cool garage sale, where one dollar bought two almost-new board games and another dollar got three hats and four stuffed animals.
And we talked about the concept of innocent until proven guilty. For all we knew, Captain Adventure would come running up to me later with the thirty dollars clutched in his sweaty paw yelling, "Mom-MEH! I haf it some maun-EEE, I wan-it some can-DEEE."
He's still pretty amoral that way. Totally innocent in his avarice, and blithely unaware that he's totally going to get busted on that deal – like I'm not going to know he must have stolen that money from a sister or my purse or something.
…unless he's got a day job I don't know about…oh, no, he doesn't go to kindergarten all day! He works in the mines, picking up the small slag…
Well. Last weekend, the new friend's older sibling took Eldest aside and told her that her little sister had come home with money she claimed Eldest had "given" her.
After they had left, Eldest sat down at the table looking thoughtful.
"So?" I finally asked her.
"Well, I told her that her sister had said she took my money," she told me. "And I told her that if it were true, I wasn't mad and I totally forgave her and everything."
She paused for a moment, then smiled sweetly. "…and then I told her, 'but I still want my money back.'"
Heh. That's my girl.
She hasn't gotten her money back, of course. There's still no actual proof, and Eldest isn't the kind of kid who is going to launch a Federal investigation into the matter. She isn't even the kind of kid who won't continue to give someone the benefit of a doubt, even when all the evidence and the hearsay of a third party all points the same way.
But she will be keeping her cash out of sight from now on…even when she's among friends.
Tough lesson. I'm sorry she had to learn it; but hopefully, she's learned it well and early and for a relatively small price.
I didn't really learn it until my twenties, when a "friend" swiped $600 cash from my apartment.
That was a really painful way to learn about the effect cash can have on otherwise decent human beings…especially with the rent due the next day.