Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Great Juice Caper

Son Number Two is five years old and is almost two months into his first year of Kindergarten. (We are hoping it’s his first and only year of Kindergarten, but based on our experience, you never can tell.) He has a best buddy in his class named Luke, and he and Luke are as thick as thieves. Actually, they are thieves.

Now, it is no surprise when little kids get into mischief. What is surprising is when two five-year-olds get together, hatch a devious and complicated plan involving simultaneous stealth and deception in two separate houses, and execute the plan flawlessly every day for two weeks unbeknownst to their parents, only getting caught by sheer happenstance.

The silent alarm that these two miniature partners in crime unknowingly tripped came in the form of a casual conversation between a mother and a teacher. My wife was volunteering in Number Two’s classroom one morning, and had a few spare minutes to chat with Mrs. Camarda.

“Your son is a real pleasure to have in this class.”
“Thank you.”
“He is such a sweet boy. He and Luke are inseparable. They are so cute at lunch with their juice.”
“Excuse me?”
“I said he is a sweet boy…”
“No, no. About the juice.”
“Oh, you know. When he and Luke buy their juices at lunch. They think that is so fun.”
“He buys juice at lunch!?!”
“Well, not every day. Sometimes they buy chocolate milk.”

Upon further questioning, it turns out that the cafeteria at my son’s elementary school sells juice for a quarter and chocolate milk for fifty cents. Number Two and his buddy had been throwing back delicious lunch-time school beverages every day for at least two weeks. Luke’s mom happened to be volunteering on the same day, so she was immediately brought into the conversation to compare notes. Both boys were being sent to school each day with a lunch box and a bottle of water, and neither one had ever been authorized by a parent to purchase any extracurricular liquids, nor was either one ever given any money to do so.

My wife called me later that morning in hysterics. Hysterical laughing, that is. She explained what she had learned, and amazed, noted that Number Two had somehow apparently been leaving the house with money in his pocket every morning without us knowing. The questions were plentiful. Where was he getting the money? When was he getting it? Was he bringing money for Luke, also, or vice versa? Why is juice only a quarter? Can I, as a dad, get in on that? Etc.

As any good parents would do, we weighed our response options. How should we handle this? Should we sit him down and have a talk with him, or booby trap his piggy bank and scare the living daylights out of him? We debated for a while, but in the end, our hand was forced by the sheer lack of information we had. The junior juice larcenists had us in the dark. We had no idea where the money was coming from, so we were forced to talk with him without setting any elaborate trip wire/air horn devices. Oh, well.

Aside from being a key player in a beverage crime syndicate, Son Number Two is generally a very honest and generous boy. We were sure of a few things: If he was getting the money from a piggy bank, it would be from his own. (His older brother, Son Number One, would have been a whole different story.) Also, it was possible that he was funding the whole operation. He would happily buy his friend juice every day without thinking twice about it, and that would put us in the awkward position of needing to praise his generosity while chastising his deception.

As it turns out, each member of the Capri Sun cartel was paying his own way. Upon intense questioning by two moms who were trying very hard not to laugh, both boys sang like canaries. With an odd mix of relief and disappointment, my wife found out that Luke was the mastermind. It was his idea to steal the car, and our son had decided to come along for the joy ride. Number Two had been sneaking downstairs to his piggy bank early each morning to get his daily quarter and secret it into the pocket of his school clothes before getting dressed. As it turned out, Luke didn’t have access to his piggy bank, so he had been swiping coins from him mom’s kitchen change jar that was meant for vacation spending money. Busted!

They were getting together each day to decide on juice or chocolate milk, so they would know if tomorrow would be a one or two-quarter day. That is seriously long-range planning for five-year-olds, and amazing when you compare it to their lack of ability to remember almost anything else about their daily routine. Number Two can’t remember to brush his teeth even though he has to do it every morning and evening. He can’t remember to wash his hands even though he has to do it before every meal. But when it comes to deception and covert refreshment operations, he can remember to hold daily planning meetings, remember what the next day’s cash requirements are, and remember to pilfer the correct amount each morning before dawn. Go figure.

When all the details of the caper were uncovered, the four parents had a good chuckle, but our reactions to the miniature crime spree were mixed. We all had the same general thought, but the men and women viewed it from slightly different sides, as is so often the case.

Both mothers said, “Oh, great. They’re able to fool us already, and they’re only five years old. High school is going to be a disaster!”

Both dads said, “Holy cow. They can already fool us at five years old. That is so cool. I wonder what kind of stuff they’re going to be able to pull off by the time they’re in high school?”

Women are always looking at things so backward.

See you soon,

Copyright © 2011 Marc Schmatjen

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