I found my missing eye shadow in the guest bathroom yesterday.
My college-aged daughter had “borrowed” it.
As she had her dad’s teeth whitening gel two days prior. The pasta pot earlier in the week. And our camera last month.
All without permission.
And all of this “borrowing” was at least partly my fault.
Four years ago, whenever Annemarie came home to visit during her freshman year, I didn’t just overlook “little things” like my missing hair straightener and new boots. I was so glad to see her, I was downright thrilled by all my missing items. They meant my baby was home again!
But somewhere between then and now, my joy became jaded.
I started having resentful thoughts, like
- I am sick and tired of reaching for my things and finding them gone.
- Why doesn’t she at least ask before taking them?
- Why doesn’t she buy her own?
Then came the day when I asked two questions I should have asked afull decade (or more) earlier:
What’s the difference between borrowing and taking?
When does taking become stealing?
If I could go back in time, I’d teach my children, at a very early age, that
- borrowing is asking for and receiving permission to use someone else’s personal property with a specific agreement regarding when it will be returned and in what condition, along with an agreement regarding consequences if the item was not returned by the specified time or in the original condition.
- taking is using someone else’s personal property without going throught the steps above.
- stealing is taking while intentionally hiding both the act of taking and the item taken.
Yesterday, Annemarie and I clarified some boundaries. In case you might want to borrow and customize, I’ll share the understandings we put in writing:
1) Private spaces and personal property are off limits when the owner of the space/property isn’t home. That includes Dad’s office, my desk area, our bedroom, and our bathroom.
2) Private spaces and personal property require permission. Every single time. One occasion of permission does not imply on-going or future permission.
3) Common places and property are available to everyone as long as they are returned to common availability in a reasonable time frame. For example, a pot in the kitchen, can be used in the kitchen for cooking and then cleaned and put away…or put in the dishwasher…or left soaking in the sink if necessary. But removing it from the kitchen and using it for an entirely different purpose puts it out of common use.
What are you teaching your children about the difference between borrowing, taking, and stealing? How are you helping them learn these vital life lessons?
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