Kid's Adorable Stolen Bike Letter Should Be a Wake-Up Call

bikeA little boy whose bike was stolen in his small town of Albert Lea, Minnesota, deserves a big thank you from kids across America today. His letter to the editor of his local paper -- asking for help in catching the thief -- caught the eye of Yahoo! Shine writer Piper Weiss, who shared it with her national audience to help reunite kid and bike because she remembered what it meant to lose your one mode of transportation, your freedom, your faith in humanity. It reminded me of that too -- and something else.

Kids don't have a whole heckuva lot. And every time you turn around, someone's taking it. Sometimes it's the jerk who steals their Haro Pro Race bike with a black frame and white seat and white handlebars.

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More often it's Mom and Dad. We take away their LEGOs because we have a serious case of LEGO foot after encountering a stray brick in the middle of the floor on the way to the bathroom at 2 a.m. We take away their Nintendo DS because they forgot to take out the trash. We scoot their stuffed animals into the trash when they're not looking because there are just so darn many of them, how were we supposed to know they'd miss THAT one?

Guilty Mom over here. I did what my friend Erin calls a "toy cleanse" last weekend when my daughter was off at my parents' house. Gone went the Elmo she hasn't slept with in three years. Gone went the broken heart made out of perler beads that she insisted on keeping. And let's not even talk about the basket atop the playroom cabinet where a certain Snoopy stuffed animal is still hiding because of a long forgotten punishment.

Cleaning out her room is supposed to make me feel better about the disastrous state of my house. After reading this little boy's letter, I just feel like a big jerk.

As much as I don't want to raise a mini materalist, I'm trying to raise my kid to value what she has, to take care of it, to be grateful. And then here I go and take the stuff away. It's one thing if she's left stuff strewn around the floor and needs a lesson in taking care of it (see above: LEGO foot). It's quite another to take stuff as punishment when it has nothing to do with the transgression or, worse, to throw out their "junk" because we don't THINK they'll miss it. 

As Weiss recalls her days as a kid with a bike, I remember all too clearly the day I came home from school to discover my mom had "cleaned" my bedroom. I remember to this day the doll that went AWOL that afternoon. She wasn't much taller than my hand. She had blonde hair and a white dress with pink ribbons. I never saw her again. I don't think my mom realized what she was doing. Maybe it was an accident that the doll got caught up in a pile of trash. Maybe she thought I'd never miss her. But I don't just remember the toy. I remember it in detail. That says something to me. 

Kids' stuff isn't just "stuff" to them. In a world where they can't decide what time they go to bed or where they go to school, their "stuff" is the only thing they have control over. It's no wonder they form attachments to weird stuff (ahem, broken perler bead heart) and become hysterical when their favorite stuffie isn't available at bedtime.

So I want to say thank you to that little boy who wrote a letter to the editor about his missing bike. He's helped me understand my daughter's attachment to that old Chex Mix box that she rescued from the recycling bin for the second time this weekend. It may look like trash to me, but it's hers.

Have you ever taken stuff away from your kids because it's just "stuff" to you?

 

Image via Marco Gomes/Flickr

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