Light Fingers

I have a child in my class at the moment that reminds me of my daughter at the same age. It doesn’t matter what it is but it will find itself into her home drawer, buttons, dried pasta, pencils, lego bricks, anything. It doesn’t have to be shiny, it doesn’t have to be useful, it doesn’t have to be tasty, it just has to be something that can easily be taken.

When my daughter was that age we used to empty her school bag at night. This was not because we were checking it – we hadn’t even reached the realisation that things were attractive to her, rather we were checking for letters from school, for her reading book and homework, for her PE kit so we could wash it, for her snack in case it was half eaten and left in her bag. We started to discover more and more things from school, or worse from other children in her bag. She never actually wanted these things, but she took them on impulse.

We soon discovered there was a two-way exchange going on. Not only did items from school appear at home, items from home also appeared in school. Fortunately we had a good relationship with school and most things were able to be quietly returned, with no questions asked. It became a way of life for many years.

As she grew older we wondered if we had done the right thing by quietly restoring these items because the sphere of operations widened. She was banned from shops where she had helped herself to items. These were always small and never for her personal gain. On holiday once she took a 50 Euro note out of our wallet to buy all the children on the campsite chips, then gave the change to a couple of kids to take home (the parents it turned out ran school exclusion units and brought the money back to us – thus started a long term friendship).

The only item that caused us real difficulties was just after my mum died. I took to wearing her engagement ring as a solace. My dad gave it to me, it was very old fashioned with rubies and diamonds but brought me close to my mum whilst I was grieving. I made the mistake of just putting it on my dressing table and, of course, it went. No amount of asking whether she could help mum to find it, as mum was so upset, worked. CAMHS helped me massively to understand that it was just an object, it was not my mum, and I moved on. Nevertheless it always saddens me that she couldn’t realise how much it meant to me and help me to recover it. This event did have a happy ending because it was found months later in the cutlery drawer of a school friend of hers and eventually returned to me – we sadly bought a safe and locked it in it.

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