In the 2,587 days since I first heard CHT’s name, stuff has vanished.
Precious, irreplaceable things. Money. Stupid, irrelevant stuff, food.
I find piles of dry pasta and walnuts hidden by her pillow. Egg boxes full of cocoa powder under her bed, packets of unopened green cheese in her covers. Once, a vast haul of 24 empty bags of crisps wedged under the sofa cushions. Pots of jam – empty; sugar bowls – drained. Hoards of hair bands, my perfume. My christening bracelet; gone forever. And the money; it runs into hundreds of pounds, perhaps thousands. I think it gets mostly given away, or spent on sweets and shared with friends.
The stealing cycles through peaks and troughs in intensity, but never goes away.
My intuition, my reading and research on the topic lend insight that fuels my empathy. I have not once punished her for it; never set up a consequence. I have calmly discussed it, come up with plans to navigate this stealing. Tried to side step it, handle it, reduce it, end it; none have ever worked. I have also – surprise surprise – snapped. Lost it, shouted, ranted, cried, said terrible, regretful things. In other words, totally screwed up.
Over the seven years, this is the thing that has consumed me with frustration, with fear, with concern. Living with it has taken it’s toll: on our relationship, and on my resilience. It pushes me way out of that essential TP Zone, and leaves me dipping into the Magic Porridge Pot of empathy, only to find it empty. It has eroded our trust in each other. Worse, it has hardwired me to a sensory hyper vigilance that – wherever I am in the house – I register that sudden quiet of deceit. The creeping; the slow creak of a cupboard door, the zip on my bag. These sounds buzz like a wasp; leaving me on edge, and questioning her every move. I react to her as if she has become like an intruder in her own house.
A call for help; answered. One tweet to @janeparenting suggested talking in a new way; to ask what she feels taking things – before, during, after.
Immediately, words were there where before there have been none.
“All the stealing makes the same feeling as being taken from my Mum”. And then “I want you to know this pain of being stolen from my Mum”.
Empathy pot now overflowing, I tell her how sorry I am; sorry that she was stolen like that. Sorry for the times when my pain from this stealing made me cross. Sorry for not always being understanding. She puts her hand on mine, tells me it’s ok. Tells me it wasn’t me who stole her. Tells me she wants so bad for me to trust her, and my heart crumples at the stark-faced truth of how much I have let the problem take my focus, and not the child. Tears rolling, I tell her I love her. That I always knew there was a message in her stealing, and I am so proud and honoured that she could share it with me so clearly. I ask her what she wants to do, and she decides to try and tell me when it happens, and asks me to simply tell her if I feel suspicious. We decide to put our trust in each other, and look at the problem as separate from us. We embrace. The whole conversation lasted just a few minutes.
I walk away. Reach up, grab hold of those horrid, problem seeking sensory antennae, and rip them from my head.
They will try to grow back. But I’ll be waiting.
Follow the amazing @janeparenting
Read her linked blog on Stealing.