The Doc Project·Personal Essay

My kid stole a Kinder Egg. I tried to make it a teachable moment. It didn't go well

When her son pockets a Kinder Egg from the checkout line of the grocery store, Jennifer Warren attempts to turn it into an invaluable moral lesson. But the store manager has other plans.

With her son caught egg-handed, Jennifer Warren tries to teach him a lesson. But her eggspectations are dashed

'I just couldn't help myself!' Jennifer's son eggsclaimed. (Illustration by Althea Manasan/CBC)
Listen11:09

"No, I'm not going to jail. If anyone's going to jail, it would be you."

I'm saying this to my son. We're sitting in our parked car. He's in his booster seat. He is six years old.

This is not my proudest moment. But I have just discovered that my son has broken the law. 

As such, for the purpose of this essay, I've asked my son whether he would like me to use another name, to protect his identity. He's decided to go with "Charizard," the name of his favourite Pokémon character. 

I don't usually take Charizard grocery shopping. I take my older son, who is 10 and has extremely low expectations for our grocery shopping trips. Twenty-five cents for a gumball, maybe a Lunchable, and he's good.

Charizard is not like his brother.

"Hate it," he responds succinctly when I ask him whether he likes going grocery shopping with me.

'I can push the cart!' Charizard says. He runs over my toe.

But I hadn't spent much quality time with Charizard lately. So I thought, let's give it a try. Maybe it'll be a bonding experience!

So, shopping list in hand, I walk through the doors of my neighbourhood grocery store with my youngest son. 

"I can push the cart!" Charizard says.

"Uh, sure, Charizard," I say uneasily. He runs over my toe.

What follows is a blur of Charizard losing it over a case of unicorn cupcakes, jackknifing the cart in the middle of busy aisles, and berating me for buying potatoes.

This is what it looks like when Jennifer Warren takes her other son grocery-shopping. (Submitted by Jennifer Warren)

Grocery fail

Eventually I give up on my shopping list. Instead, defeated, I watch as Charizard 12-point-turns the cart into a checkout line.

As we wait behind two shoppers with full carts, I gaze off into the middle distance and think of how to make this a teachable moment.

But when I look down at Charizard, he's actually standing still, beside our cart. Minutes tick by. We pass the time pleasantly chatting about his day.

I'm overcome with emotion. I crouch down to his level, as all the books tell you to do.

"Charizard, you are being so well-behaved right now. Thank you."

"You're welcome, Mum," he says.

Download the Charizard theme!

Time for a new ringtone? Charizard sang his own a cappella theme for this story, and it has a delightful bossa nova feel. Click here to download.

For the next three minutes, life is beautiful. We check out, and into the car we go. But as I pull up to the house, I notice something beside Charizard in the back seat. Something that wasn't there before.

While I had been waiting in the checkout line, staring into the middle distance and contemplating my son's moral education, he was bold-facedly breaking the law.

Charizard shoplifted a Kinder Egg from the checkout line. He eschewed the compact size of the Mars Bar and the slim lines of the Crispy Crunch and went brazenly for the highest-risk, least-pocketable treat.

I've been duped.

Hatching a plan

I feel a righteous fury settle into my very bones. And then, a plan. I know what I am going to do. I am going to teach Charizard a lesson — for the sake of his future. 

And even better, I am not going to be the one who actually has to do the teaching! I am going to outsource the teaching.

I lay it all out to my six-year-old. We would return to the grocery store. We would get the manager, and Charizard would confess everything. 

The Kinder Egg will become, as it were, an angel on his shoulder.

In my mind, this is how it's going to go — the manager will then give a heartfelt lecture to Charizard that will instill in him an unshakeable moral compass.

The Kinder Egg will become, as it were, an angel on his shoulder.

But my plan starts to fall apart almost immediately, as Charizard argues that if we go back to the store and confess, I will be sent to jail for theft — which is when I lose it. 

"No, I'm not going to jail. If anyone's going to jail, it would be you."

We storm back into the grocery store and I summon the manager. A middle-aged woman comes over wearing a polar fleece vest and the harried expression of a grocery store manager one hour before closing. 

"You wanted to speak to me?" she says.

"Yes, hi," I say, "I was here a little while ago with my son, Charizard, and he has something to tell you."

But Charizard is silent.

Not eggsactly as planned

I open my hand to reveal the slightly crushed Kinder Egg, whose wrapper has now started to unpeel.

"Charizard stole this Kinder Egg from your store, and we've come back to tell you, and to pay for it. Charizard, what do you have to say to the manager?"

"Sorry?" Charizard says.

My son's alter ego, a defiant Pokémon dragon. (Nintendo)
 

And the manager's response also leaves a lot to be desired — as Charizard demonstrates later, when I ask him if he remembers what she said.

"Nope." 

The reason he doesn't remember is because she said, "Okay, Charizard, it's all right this time, but just don't do it again, okay?"

"All right THIS time?!?" I think. "What is wrong with you?"

"Ok, so is there anything else you need?" says the manager.

Yes, I think. There is so much more I need. A trip to whatever chair in the back room you put shoplifters in. An educational video about youth delinquency, where aimless teens get locked into abandoned refrigerators! (Was it just me who had to watch this video?)

I look down at the Kinder Egg. It is crumpled and partially unwrapped. It is a Kinder Egg no one would want.

"Well," I say, "Charizard's going to use his own money to pay for this Kinder Egg now."

"Jason's free," she says as she walks away. Jason, it turns out, is the same checkout guy I had the first time around. He's looking our way with curiosity.

I say to Jason, "My son Charizard is going to pay for this Kinder Egg, and then I need you to to throw it out."

Jason looks down at the egg. And up at me. "What happened?" he mouths to me theatrically.

"He stole it," I mouth back.

Jason nods in respect. Well, that's clearly the best I'm going to get tonight.

Charizard and mom Jennifer. (Submitted by Jennifer Warren)

To hear this story, complete with Charizard's reflections on the experience, tap or click the Listen link at the top of this page. 



Jennifer's alter ego, Rowlet. (Nintendo)
About the Producer

Jennifer Warren is the senior producer of CBC Radio's The Doc Project. She has also made pieces for the show about mincemeat tarts and her really bad pre-teen haircut.

About 30 years ago, she shoplifted a lipstick from the K-Mart in Orillia, Ontario.

This story was edited by Acey Rowe.

 

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