October 30, 2009

My Life As A Criminal

I was in my early thirties, I was spiralling into a life of crime, and it was all my children’s fault.

Before I became a mother, I was a very moral person. I never stole, I never lied (okay, I did lie, but only when I had to), and I never, ever cheated (except for that one time in Year 8 Maths, but the teacher had left the room, it would have been silly not to).

Since I’ve had kids, though, I’ve been shocked at my descent into delinquency. It started about nine years ago. I had a trolley full of food, and I was wheeling my baby through the fruit department in his pram. He grabbed a handful of grapes and I pulled them away. He started to wail and I gave the grapes back. He ate the grapes and there was instant peace. Who on earth says that crime doesn’t pay?

From then on, when shopping with my son, I became a regular grape-pincher. I thought that I could stop at that. I thought that I was in control. But then one day my toddler grabbed some fruit pastilles off the shelf and devoured them before we got to the checkout. I was going to pay for them – honest! – but he’d chewed the wrapper and the bar code was all mangled and soggy, and I just couldn’t be bothered going back for another.

Stolen fruit pastilles. That’s bad, right? Well, unfortunately, it got worse. Eventually my son went to day care, only to be replaced in the trolley by my cherubic baby daughter. And my daughter, I discovered, was rather a dab hand at shoplifting. There I’d be at the checkout, presenting my bread, milk and groceries, and I’d find a packet of Smarties at the bottom of the trolley which I definitely didn’t put there myself. Of course, I’d put them back and scold her, but after a few rounds of ‘Try to trick Mummy into thinking she chose the Freddos herself’, my daughter began to refine her technique.

Instead of finding the chockies in the trolley, I began discovering the stash at home - in my handbag, in a shopping bag, even wrapped in my daughter’s blanky. Now, I know I didn’t steal them myself, and I know that the store shouldn’t put this stuff at littlies height, but when I found myself feeling chuffed after a particularly big hoist (I discovered a Bugs Bunny plate with a matching spoon and cup in the bottom of my daughter’s pram), I knew that I was headed for sin.

Which brings me to my final transgression – the crime that ended my shameful spree. It happened at an indoor play centre, which I visited with my son, who was five, and my daughter, who had just turned three. Approaching the counter, I noticed that there were two separate prices, four dollars for kids aged two and under, and eight dollars for ages three and up. I thought for a moment, considered the four dollar price difference, and then said to the lady, “She’s two, and he’s five”.

“She’s not two, Mum!” yelled my son. “She’s three! She’s THREE!!!”

“She’s two and three quarters,” I told him, my face burning beetroot red. The lady looked at my son, looked at me, and smiled serenely.

“Twelve dollars”, she said, and ushered us through. She knew what was going on, I knew that she knew, and I felt like an utter disgrace.

All the way up the stairs my son gleefully chanted “Hah! You’re only two!”, and my daughter looked very confused. After ten minutes of trying to explain the situation to my son (who was too busy chanting, and wasn’t really listening), I was consumed with guilt. I knew that I’d come to a turning point in my career, as both a mother, and as a criminal. Nicking grapes was one thing, but lying in front of my children was another. It was time to face the music, or, to be more accurate, the serene lady behind the counter.

“I’m sorry,” I told her. “I lied. My daughter really is three. I wanted to save some money, but I feel very guilty. Could I pay the extra money please?”

“Four dollars,” she said, and smiled again. And I smiled too, because I knew that the same kids who had led me into crime had just led me out again. Oh, and because my son had finally stopped chanting. What a relief.


  1. Ha! You petty thief. Or should that be pretty thief? Or pretty good thief? I used to be one of those grape-stealing children and could never quite comprehend how wondrous the place was. I mean, grapes. At pinching height. FOR FREE! Who said there was no God?

    Look, it's no bank heist but I swear it those grapes are a precious, precious currency. Respect.

  2. Far be it from me to judge....I just want to know where this cheap playcentre is! When I go it costs me $30+.

  3. You. Are. Going. Straight. To. Hell.


    We once made it to the carpark with a huge stuffed rabbit that I didn't notice until we were at the car. Store hadn't noticed it either. Big five minute debate as to whether to return BUT in the kids moral best interest it was returned. Ugh, being responsible sux.

  4. Hmmm. I always thought you looked a bit shifty.Hopefully, your double life as a blogger here, and on MM ,will keep you on the straight and narrow........

  5. did this on the bus for a year in Perth - kids under 5 travel free and daughter had just turned 5 - but we were catching bus to and from school every day so it seemed reasonable and budget-y - and she took up as much space as a 4yr old...
    *sigh* nup - still feel bad...

  6. My husband has the habit of ducking into the shops for a few items with our toddler and not taking a trolley or a basket. He is so busy juggling shopping items and a curious toddler that on more than one occasion he has stuffed an item into a pocket and then forgotten to pay for it!

  7. My daughter is a grape eater at Woolies too, she will often eat what seems to be 1/2 a kilo on our way around (we do a BIG shop). What makes me think though is that when I get home and unpack I am always very mindful of washing the fruit thoroughly before I let anyone eat any of it....after she has already eaten her weight in grapes. It makes no sense, yet I can't ever put unwashed fruit into the fridge! Also my stolen item was once the box of Diet Coke cans, my daughter sits on it in the trolley and they don't want you to lift it out. I forgot to mention it and didn't pay. I did not go back and honestly don't feel very guilty about it. (Until now, seeing it in type makes it seem much worse!)

  8. Oh my god, the number of times I've left Coles with 2 x two litres of milk in the basket of the pram....!!

    No one ever says anything, but I always trudge back and pay for them. Catholic guilt.

  9. Reality check people. Woolies and Coles post profits of millions of $$ every year. A few grapes and sundry won't send them to the poorhouse. Pillage I say!!

  10. I defy any parent not to be a thief. The list of things I've 'stolen' in the past couple of years is astounding. A jacket, nappies, tshirts, countless punnets of strawberries...

  11. My 7 year old 'inadvertently' stole a jar of Nutella from our local grocer recently (no room in the basket & I told her to carry it) and cried the whole way home after her 11 year old sister told her she was going to jail. I was woo hooing in my head for the 3 bucks I had just saved!!

  12. when my sister was born we were going through a checkout and mum was using the bottom of her pram to put everything in [but she also used the top bit - where you can fold it over]. anyway walked out without paying for the stuff in the top part. mum went back and paid for it. feeling guilty. she blamed her just 'giving birth brain'.

    but my sister continued to be a criminal. lipstick, balls, fruit, food, lollies, anything she could get her hands on. and if you were stupid enough not to watch her and walk out. never got caught though.

    i havent stolen anything. i look too guilty.

  13. It has always occurred to me (as I prise Freddo frogs out of little firsts) that someone should run a shoplifting defence based on the They Was Asking For it Guv Principle. In fact, I am prepared to defend you pro bono just to see how bloody fast the stores would take the sweeties away when we win.

  14. Hilarious post, Kerri.

    Those playcentres rile me because you're charged a fortune to get in the place, only to find it filled with games and rides that require further gold-coin payment. And then you're forced to spend another fortune on trans fat and sugar because you're not supposed to self-cater.

    I therefore look upon myself as a kind of suburban Robin Hood when I lie about my children's ages to get cheaper entry. However, I make sure I avert my kids' attention first so they don't hear mummy lie.

  15. Munchkin stole another child's "set of key" toy the other day at Toddler (story) Time at the library! I didn't notice until we'd left that she was holding it, obviously had snatched it off another pram while I was chatting! Imagine if the owner was watching me as I left with their child's toy!!!! I'm scared to go back to Toddler Time!

  16. I'm with LissyLou - pillage i say, pillage! May your children continue to lead you into low-level crime against the corporate giants

  17. I met a bright 3 year old the other day - when asked by me how old he was he told me three. His sister then said 'Joshy, how old are you when we go to Legoland?' 'I'm two' he said confidently....

  18. Hahaha! LOVE it Kerri!! I never took anything when I was little although I do remember dying to know what was inside the Humpty Dumpty Easter eggs when I was about 7... Mum wouldn't buy me one so I decided to "accidentally" break one open... I just wanted to see what was making the noise inside!! Turns out it was Smarties! Haha... I left the broken egg with its Smarties in the shop on the shelf with all the others...

    Also remember being a variety of ages... The most prominent was being 13 when I was actually 15... This was going into Dreamworld- Child's tickets are $24.00 cheaper!! On the same Queensland trip I was also 16- People under that age weren't allowed in the Spa in the hotel!! =P xoxo


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