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the mommyhood memos: the sneaky cookie-stealers at mcdonalds

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

the sneaky cookie-stealers at mcdonalds

Approaching discipline issues with others’ children is a very sensitive issue. What would you have done in this situation?

{image source here}

It’s been raining constantly this week. Anyone knows that bad weather plus a stir-crazy toddler equals a potential disaster and an inevitable mommy meltdown.

So in order to avert said disaster and mommy meltdown, I decided to take Levi to McDonalds to change things up a bit. I would take my computer (free wifi), get a coffee at McCafe, and sit in the indoor kids area while Levi had some space to run around.

Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?

When we first got into the kids room there were about five school-age kids running around, everyone playing happily and having a blast. It wasn’t long before the kids disappeared, leaving behind a box of food that Levi quickly discovered.

I went over to swipe it away from him (didn’t want any half-chewed-up mcnuggets finding their way into his little mouth) and saw that it was an unopened box of cookies. Score! I am a sucker for McDonald’s cookies – both the chocolate chip ones and the animal cookie(ish) ones. These were the animal cookie ones – a perfect snack for Levi and I to share.

Thinking about it for a brief moment, I decided to put them down and make sure the other kids weren’t just out for a bathroom break or something. “If these are still here after a little while we can share them,” I said to Levi (but more to myself than him).

I have to admit, the thought of free cookies did excite me a little, but of course I didn’t want to steal from unsuspecting children who may get to the car and realize they left their precious cookies behind.

A few minutes later some older kids came in; they must have been about nine and eleven years old. Immediately they also discovered the cookies and the younger brother picked them up.

“Are those yours?” I asked, knowing full well that they were not.

“No, they’re not his,” the older sister said.

“Well then put them down please.” I replied.

“But those kids left,” the boy protested.

“How do you know they won’t come back to get them?” I continued. “Please put them back where you found them.”

The boy put them down.

For the next several minutes the kids lurked on the stairs near the forgotten cookies. I could see them out of the corner of my eye, looking for an opening. I glanced up frequently from my computer, curious as to what they would do but also keeping an eye on my 14-month-old.

They knew full well that I was watching them. They also knew full well that I wasn’t their mother.

Sure enough after a few minutes I noticed that the two were no longer hovering over those coveted cookies. They had disappeared into the play structure along with the coveted box.

Yes, I was irritated. Not just because I couldn’t have my cookies (heck, I could always just go and buy some for us – that wasn’t a big deal), but because I told them not to pick them up and they snuck around and defiantly took them anyway.

I sat there thinking about what to do while the kids watched from within the structure to see if I noticed.  My former childcare worker/preschool teacher self was coming out and I wanted to set these kids straight. However I also knew that I have no business disciplining someone else’s kids at McDonalds. (By the way I was the only parent in the play area – these kids were plenty old enough to play unsupervised and their parents were nowhere to be seen.)

After several minutes of deliberations, I decided to give them a short “pep talk” and maybe lay on a little healthy guilt.

As I walked toward the structure I could hear alarmed whispers, frantic shuffles, and crinkling cellophane.

I peered around the corner and they looked at me with wide-eyes, no doubt wondering what their fate was.

“I know you guys took those cookies”, I said in a calm, respectful tone. “Didn’t I tell you when you first came in that they didn’t belong to you? And then you snuck around and took them anyway when I wasn’t looking. I know I’m not your mom, but I’m still an adult and you should know better than sneaking around like that to do something you know you shouldn’t. Anyway, I just think that next time you should think about it a little more before you sneak around taking other peoples stuff.”

Then I went back to my place on the floor and left it at that.

I found this hard because: 1) I had no authority to discipline these kids (just as I wouldn’t want a stranger disciplining mine); 2) I believed these kids were old enough to make good decisions and the fact that they were sneaking around just proved that to me; 3) My parent/teacher instincts wanted to help them learn self control and integrity; 4) Let’s face it, I had already mentally staked a claim to those forgotten cookies.

Dear friends, what do you think? Was I sticking my nose where it didn’t belong? Would you have spoken to these kids initially about the cookies? Or again after they took them? Would you have left it as-is? Maybe you would have just eaten the cookies in the first place, or left them for the next person without noticing or caring. And what do you think in general – should you call out kids when they blatantly misbehave if their parents aren’t there to do it themselves? Or should you just ignore it as long as it doesn’t effect your own child? I generally think it’s not my business unless it is harming another child or affecting mine in a way I don’t approve of… but this little scenario just pushed a button since they so defiantly and sneakily disregarded my straight-forward instruction (which I felt was a completely reasonable instruction in the first place). What do you think?? Feel free to agree or disagree with me, as long as you do it respectfully. :)

still cookie-less and kinda sad about it,

adriel booker | the mommyhood memos | 2011
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At April 6, 2011 at 8:36 PM , Blogger A Little R&R said...

Personally, I think you handled this just fine. If the parents were not around and the boys were doing something wrong (and they were) they needed some healthy guidance from an adult. In my mind, you were not disciplining them - you were simply letting them know that their behavior was unacceptable. And I can totally see myself doing the exact same thing. *grin*

At April 6, 2011 at 9:36 PM , Blogger Casey Martinez said...

yup, you most def. did the right thing. Your response reminded me of the example my mom set for me when I was younger. She was NEVER afraid to stand up for what was right even when it made me nervous for her. She broke up teenage fights, confronted teens who were crude or inappropriate etc. I'm not sure that I would have confronted them because I can be a wus but, then sometimes I surprise myself. I think you handled this superbly!

At April 6, 2011 at 10:06 PM , Blogger Caiti said...

I probably would have done the same. Sure, you were not their mother but I think we have some responsibility for each other. I think I'd want someone else to call my children out for doing what they knew was wrong if I wasn't there to do it myself.

At April 6, 2011 at 11:42 PM , Anonymous Jamie said...

I'm not sure what I think.

Honestly, I probably would have taken the cookies up to the counter and left them there letting them know that the kiddos who had just left the play area left their cookies behind.

I'm not sure you were more entitled to the forgotten, unopened cookies than those kids were. They obviously had noticed them as well, that's why the above suggestion would have let those kids stay honest (they didn't do anything different than you intended).

At April 6, 2011 at 11:57 PM , Blogger adriel, from the mommyhood memos said...

yes jamie, i agree. the fact that they wanted the forgotten cookies doesn't bother me a single bit - i don't think that's wrong. i thought it was wrong that they disregarded an adults (reasonable) instructions and got all sneaky about it. but that's a good idea - just taking them back to the counter in the first place! thanks for your input.

At April 7, 2011 at 12:18 AM , Blogger Anna said...

I think you handled the situation well. If kids realize that other people are watching what they do, they will think twice about their actions. If they had gotten away with it, it makes it easier to do it again.

At April 7, 2011 at 1:28 AM , Blogger Taylor said...

I don't think you did anything wrong. If I wasn't around and my daughter was being a twerp, I'd want someone to point her twerpiness out to her in a calm, polite manner.

Although, I probably would have just picked up the cookies right away, so there wouldn't have been an issue. :P

At April 7, 2011 at 2:40 AM , Blogger cooperl788 said...

I really liked Jamie's suggestion, though that wasn't even my 10th idea of what I would have done in your shoes. I don't know what I would have done - I like to think I would have said something. It wasn't like there was another parent in the room to supervise these kids and help them make a good decision. In my opinion, that means that they are leaving an open door for anyone else to point out their children's poor (or good) behavior.
On another note, sometimes hearing a lesson like that from a stranger has a much bigger impact on someone than hearing it from your parents.

At April 7, 2011 at 5:28 AM , Blogger kissapoo said...

You know the phrase, "It takes a village to raise a child?" I think you exemplified that phrase with poise and grace! The fact that you didn't selfishly take those cookies for yourself at first shows how you value honesty and integrity. And then how you didn't discipline, but simply pointed out that you recognized what those children did was superb!

I would be totally happy with you coming up to my child and saying the same thing. I would hope you wouldn't have to but, if the situation presented itself, that would be how I hope an adult would talk to my child.

I TOTALLY agree with cooperl788 about the lesson having a stronger impact coming from a stranger. I was a child that always had to learn the hard way, and I would have been mortified (and therefore learned the lesson) if a stranger had talked to me like you talked to those kids.

P.S. It's okay that you feel upset about not getting the cookies yourself either! You learned a lesson in this as well and sometimes lessons are hard to learn. You can be a little upset about that. ;)

At April 7, 2011 at 6:32 PM , Anonymous Rachel said...

I'd like to think that if my child made a not so great decision, and I wasn't there, that someone would have the grace to let them know that decision wasn't the best the same way you did. If they were school aged, they were old enough to wait and then come back to you and say 'those kids haven't come back, now can we have the cookies?' I also think that its good for kids to see that other's care about their behaviour too. Otherwise its, 'well we can behave this way for mum and this way when she's not here' (and I've seen it go both ways!).

At April 8, 2011 at 12:16 AM , Blogger Cari said...

I'm glad you said something...I would want another parent to do that if my child took the cookies after an adult asked them not to. I think for kids, sometimes wrong doings are not about making a good or bad decision, but more about if they'll get caught. I certainly think that needs to change in our soceity. I have gently scolded kids at the indoor play park for knocking down younger children or being bullies.

At April 11, 2011 at 12:58 PM , Blogger Alicia said...

My first thought was to wonder, as an adult, how you would have handled it if you had taken those cookies when you first saw them and the kids came up and said something to you about them not being yours. Personally, I probably would have felt quite convicted. Which leads me to believe that while it was wrong for them to defy what you told them, it was also wrong for them to take the cookies that didn't belong to them. I like the suggestion about taking them back to the counter. All in all, I think what you said to them was probably about all you could say to someone elses kids in a public setting. I probably would have handled it the same way. It's hard to find the balance in situations like that when their parents aren't there.


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