Stepfamily Issues

Personal stories about stepfamilies, childhood and general family issues.

November 06, 2006

stepsons and theft

Freya is a stay at home stepmother and almost a sole parent to a 16-year old boy. While her relationship with him has been very good up until now, she is struggling to understand why he has suddenly starting thieving from her and the neighbors.

"I was told that pubescent boys around the age of 13 and 14 are the worst trouble," says Freya, "but Gerard didn't give me much trouble at all when he was that age. It is only now that he is 16 that he is becoming a problem."

"His father is away for long stretches, traveling interstate and overseas on trips, and his mother is even worse in that respect," explains Freya. "They have more or less handed the raising of Gerard over to me."

"Gerard's dad just comes home and wants to relax. He doesn't want to hear about any problems I am having. He expects me to deal with everything"

"Gerard gets a generous allowance so it is not like he is short of money," says Freya. "His stealing is more a case of lack of respect for the property of others and a feeling, I think, that if something is 'there' he has a right to take it."

"I first noticed something odd was going on when I did the weekly accounts and found I was short of money in my purse."

"I'm pretty good with housekeeping and know exactly what's coming in and going out," explains Freya, "and at first I didn't want to believe that Gerard was stealing from me. I just made believe I had been short-changed at the shops."

"When this happened on several occasions I solved the problem by using credit rather than cash."

"Everything was going well until I discovered several purchases on my credit card bill that I had not made."

"The purchases were made at florists and I had to smile," laughs Freya. "It looked like Gerard was trying to impress the girls by buying them flowers, and while I thought it was a very sweet thing for him to do I didn't like the way he was going about it."

"I spoke to Gerard and he seemed suitably chastened by what I said," says Freya. "I told him that if he ever needs more money all he has to do is ask me for it and I will give it to him."

"He said that his allowance was enough - he wasn't short of money - it was just that he wanted the flowers delivered and the only way to do it was by credit card. And he didn't think I would mind that he used my card."

"I made it very plain to him that I minded very much and that he should ask me first should he ever want to make a credit card purchase again - and that once he's learned the value of money I would give him his own card."

"A few weeks later a neighbor knocked on the door and told me that he had caught Gerard stealing his newspaper - and that it had been going on for months."

"Part of Gerard's daily routine was to stroll up the road and buy milk, bread and a newspaper every morning before going to school," explains Freya, "and I always let Gerard keep a few dollars change to supplement his allowance."

"When I realized that Gerard had been pocketing the newspaper money and stealing the paper that a neighbor had delivered to his doorstep every day, I was very angry," says Freya. "Especially so because I had only spoken to him about the credit card a few weeks earlier."

"What was wrong with the boy?"

"I offered to compensate the neighbor - whatever he wanted - and begged him not to involve the police," says Freya, "and thankfully he agreed not to press charges. He just wanted Gerard to stop stealing his paper."

"That night I had a long talk to Gerard and tried to get him to understand the error of his ways."

"He had nothing to say," sighs Freya. "He just sat there and said nothing and didn't seem to realize that he had done anything criminal. It didn't even occur to him that one day the neighbor was going to catch him stealing the paper in the same way that I would catch him using my credit card."

"Was he dumb, or what?"

"He had plenty of money, so he wasn't stealing because he was short of cash," says Freya. "I think he was just doing it because he could, I suppose."

"Gerard refused to do his morning stroll up the road after that - he was too embarrassed to face the neighbor," sighs Freya, "and now I have to do it, even though I'm embarrassed to face the neighbor, too!"

"If all that wasn't bad enough," sighs Freya, "a few months later I paid for Gerard to go on an overnight school excursion and I discovered that he had stayed at a friend's place instead. He wasn't just stealing - he was also lying."

"At this point, despite Gerard begging me not to tell his father, I had to talk to my husband about the situation," says Freya. "The whole thing was escalating and Gerard needed a firmer hand than mine to guide him."

"My husband's way of dealing with problems involves a lot of shouting," sighs Freya, "and the scene between him and Gerard wasn't pleasant but I am sure it impressed something memorable on the boy."

"We still can't figure out why Gerard has started behaving so strangely. I can't believe he stole and lied to test how smart we are -- to see how much he can get away with -- or simply in order to gain attention," says Freya.

"All I can think of is that he is just going through a woolly minded phase, preoccupied with whatever girl he's currently in love with, and now that he has had the fear of God put in him by his father he will settle down. At least I hope so!"

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