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Oregon Family Magazine

Mugged in My Own Bed

04/02/2014 ● By Sandy Kauten
“Give me my iPod!” demands my 11-year-old daughter Wendy banging on her big-sister’s door

Her sister Marie, age 18, whips open the door, thrusts the little gizmo at her and snarls, “OK, take it! You’ve got the worst music on it anyway.”

“Then how come whenever I want to listen to it, you have it?” asks Wendy.

Loitering ineffectually in the hallway, I interrupt, “Marie, where is YOUR iPod?”

“Sally took it to camp last summer and lost it,” she says. “She says somebody stole it, and she ought to know, being a thief herself.”

Crime upon crime! I ask, “Wouldn’t life be better around here if you girls would respect each other’s property rights?”

“Tell that to Marie!” says Wendy.

“Tell that to Sally!” says Marie.

 Sally IS the worst offender. Take the infamous Sneaker Incident:

Dressing to go visit her cousin for a few days, little Wendy put on the wrong pair of black high-tops. They belonged to Sally’s friend Emily (who practically lives here) and are identical to Wendy’s except they are two sizes bigger, something that Wendy somehow failed to notice.

When it was time for Emily to go home and visit her parents, the only shoes that she could fit into belonged to Marie who was away at her waitress job. So Sally encouraged Emily to go home in Marie’s brand-new raspberry suede sneakers. (They were something of a trophy for Marie. They had been priced at $80, but the young stud behind the cash register gave her a wink and applied his own hot-chick discount, charging her only $50. Lax in the technicalities of ownership himself, the cashier figured that $30 was a small enough sacrifice for his unknowing boss to place on the altar of Feminine Beauty. Or maybe he thought of himself as a kind of Robin Hood, robbing the rich to give to the “hot.”)

The Sneaker Incident had unfolded like a good play – where something happens to stir things up and the characters then react in logical ways.

For Marie, the logical reaction upon coming home and finding that Sally’s friend had copped her shoes, was to grab Sally and shake her like a rat. Luckily Marie couldn’t immediately get her hands on the negligent little creature who had set the chain of events in motion that would eventually send Emily shuffling around town in Marie’s prized shoes. Wendy was still away at her cousin’s house, idly wondering how her sneakers had gotten so big. 

Where did we go wrong? My daughters have been trained to appear instantly when called to dinner. They know not to tease people who are funnier looking than themselves. They never say “literally” when they mean “figuratively.” But it seems I cannot get them to embrace the concept of private property inside our home.

One Saturday I spent several intense minutes at online bill-paying and then, feeling somewhat depleted, I crawled upstairs to take a nap. When I awoke, 14-year-old Sally had stolen the watch right off my wrist and her older sister had made off with my car. Sally’s explanation had filtered into my slumbers: “The people I’m babysitting for don’t have any clocks in the house and my cell-phone battery is dead.” And I guess Marie was too considerate to wake me up to ask for the use of my car, but not considerate enough to refrain from stealing it. Nevertheless, when you go to sleep in your own room you figure that any sneak-thieves who come for your valuables will be professional criminals, not your children. Maybe next time they’ll tie me up. This would’ve been the time to take serious punitive and corrective action – before one of them takes a pillow case and starts helping herself to the neighbors’ laptops, panty hose and leg wax. But I only had the fortitude to beg for the return of my belongings on a no-questions-asked basis.

There’s a fine line between budding criminality and a sloppy redefinition of ownership. My wife and I may have voted for a Democrat or two, but that doesn’t mean we have entirely rejected the concept of private property.

Yet our daughters believe that anything in our house is theirs for the taking. Communism failed in Russia, but it seems to be flourishing in our household. What’s a red-blooded American to do? I really don’t know, and it’s probably too late anyway. 

Karl Marx, author of “The Communist Manifesto,” once said, “Private property is theft.” I’ll bet when he said it, he’d been caught sneaking off with his sister’s iPod.