We were in a clothing store today, and I was looking at the racks of cheap French-terry shorts, hunting for a 4T because although she will be five in less than one month, the 5's and 5T's I bought at last year's end-of-season-sales are still too big. She gets taller every day, but she's till the smallest in her class.
She had a pink plastic piggy bank in her arms, talking to it like it was an old friend, and she'd dressed it in both a 4th of July star-spangled headband and a clearance St. Patrick's Day giant green bow tie. She was holding it up and spinning in circles, telling the pig "Oh, Sabrina, now we are going to dance! I will dance you all around the room! We can SPIN!"
I heard a CRACK and looked over to see her at a dead stop, with a horrified look on her face. I thought maybe she'd tripped over something, but she was looking at a pair of rainbow-framed sunglasses on the floor, a child-size pair that seemed to be missing both its arms.
"I'm sorry, Mommy," she said immediately.
I picked up the glasses and found one plastic rainbow-colored arm underneath what was left of the frame. The other arm was nowhere in sight.
"Did you break this?" I asked.
"Yes," she said, and swallowed. "We were dancing and I stepped on it and I broke it. I'm very sorry." She looked from side to side. "I think we should go."
"Not just yet," I said. "Was it missing the other piece before you stepped on it?"
"Yes," she said, but hesitated before she said, "It was missing that piece."
"But then you stepped on it and broke this piece?"
"Yes." She reached for it, took it, and looked nervously at a store employee nearby. "Can we go, mom? I think we should go. I'm very sorry I broke it."
It did, of course, just for a tiny moment, occur to me to just put down the sunglasses and walk away. I did not want to pay $7.95 for non-working sunglasses. But I expected better of my kid (and myself).
"Well," I said, "if you break something, the right thing to do is to tell someone that you broke it."
She looked at me, her big blue eyes full of apprehension. "Will they be mad? Will the store people be mad that I broke it?"
"I don't think so," I said. "But they might make us pay for them. We'll see. You'll have to take them up front and tell someone and see what they say."
She let out a breath and squared her little shoulders. "Okay. Let's go to the front and I will tell them." She put down the piggy bank she had been carrying around for the past 35 minutes and turned to walk to the front of the store. I walked behind her, watching her determined steps and wondering how the hell I lucked out and got such a good kid. I could tell she was scared, and she wanted to put down the glasses and leave, but she knew this was the right thing to do so she was going to do it.
I was proud of her, so fucking proud, because she is like this pretty much all of the time. She is so tiny and loving and so goddamn good, and I don't know how I got so lucky.
She walked up to the counter and looked at me, and I nodded to her.
"Excuse me, but I broke this," she said, handing it to the cashier. "It was a little broken and then I stepped on it and I broke the piece off and I'm very sorry." She stepped back a little, blinking those big gorgeous eyes, waiting for her punishment.
The cashier smiled. "It's okay," she said, setting the pieces aside. "I believe you. Thank you for being honest."
I apologized to the cashier too, and then I bought Piper the shorts and the damn piggy bank she'd fallen in love with, because how can I not reward the kid for that kind of behavior? I wanted to buy her the goddamn moon.