We All Make Mistakes: What Shoplifting Taught Me About How I Deal With Problems

It was the summer of my 6th-grade year and you know, 7th grade is when you become a grown-up. I’d be kissing tons of girls, going to dances, and maybe the most grown-up thing of them all… I’d have a locker. However, this summer is when I would carry out the most juvenile act of my life.

At this time Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren clothing was all the rage. If you wanted to look fresh you’d get yourself a Ralph polo – the ones with the little horsey over your heart – and a pair of Tommy jeans 3 to 4 sizes too big for you. Unfortunately, they cost about a bazillion dollars. And yes, bazillion is a word. Just look it up.

Because I was 12 and my income consisted of whatever I could find in between the couch cushions and middle console of my parent’s minivan I owned no Tommy and Ralph. To add insult to injury most of my friends did and this made them cooler than me. You see, my parents didn’t spoil me with fine cotton sewn goods or pass out 20 dollar bills like they were Tootsie roll pops on Halloween night for simply throwing away the garbage.

Nope, instead, my parents spoiled me with love. Which is great and all but it doesn’t really help your game with the ladies or popularity in middle school. Fuck my life right?

But I think you feel me here. There was no way I was going into 8th great with no Tommy and Ralph. I can’t show up to a party and have my first beer wearing some knock off from K-Mart. Come on Mom and Dad, that’s like social suicide.

Luckily I had one friend that was in the same boat. He lived down the street from me, let’s just call him Tim – mostly because that’s his real name.

It was the end of July and Tim and I were running out of time. There were about 4 weeks until school started and still no Tommy and Ralph for either of us. It was time to take matters into our own hands. So we got together at my house one day and mapped out the perfect plan to get our hands on some polo shirts with little horses over the heart. Navy blue ones with a red horse to be exact – the ladies can’t get enough of a red horse’s.

The plan was simple. We were just going to steal them.

We next did what any juvenile shoplifter would do. We asked my Mom for a ride to the mall. We weren’t nervous at all. The plan was foolproof. Simply steal, not get caught, and be wearing some fresh gear by tomorrow.


Ice water ran through our veins as we entered Nordstrom. Nerves of steel, no fear, in and out – we had a job to do. We knew where the goods wear and we headed straight for them. Apparently, Tim had bigger balls than me because once we got near the fine cotton goods I pretended to look at some shoes while Tim suspiciously walked over to the red horse shirts.

I must have seen something I liked because I lost sight of Tim. Either he was super good at stealing stuff and went Ninja on me or something was up. I headed over to the where the polos were to see if I could find him.


I began to perspire a bit and as I took another step I felt a large and chubby hand on my shoulder.

“Come with me son.”

I turned around and a rather large mall security guard had Tim by the arm. I didn’t try to run, I didn’t ask why. The gig was up and I walked with the guard and my buddy Tim to the “holding cell.”

As we all walked together I wanted to ask the guard if he was ok with being an accomplice to murder because that’s what my parents were going to do when they found out about this.

Tim and I waited in a small dimly lit room decorated by only a desk, a few chairs, and Paul Blart’s family photo’s. Tim was picked up first, leaving me alone with the security guard. I sat there with my head down, mostly out of embarrassment but also because I was hoping the guard might take pity on my poor soul.

My Dad walked in. I lifted my head but quickly reverted my head back down to stare at my shoelaces. They were white. No shock there.

The only words that came out of my father’s mouth were, “Pick up your head, look this man in the face and apologize for what you’ve done.”

I apologized but I didn’t have the nerve to pick up my head and look the security guard in the face.

My father repeated his words but this time with a little more force behind them. Imagine Zeus being pissed off at his son Apollo for stealing a pair of winged boots from cupid.

“Pick up your head, look this man in the eyes and apologize for what you’ve done.”

Again, I apologized but my head was still down.

Then it rained. Not that calm soothing rain on a warm summer night that relaxes your soul. No, this kind of rain was different.

“Pick up your fucking head. Look this man in the eyes and apologize.”

At this point, it seemed to be in my best interest to pick up my head and apologize.

We left the dungeons of Nordstrom and took the 30-minute trip home. It was silent the entire ride back but I was grateful for this. I was ashamed, embarrassed, and felt like I let my parents down.

When arriving home I expected to see my Mother crying in front of me questioning what sort of son she had raised. But she was nowhere to be found.

My Dad told me to head up to my room and that he’d be up to talk with me later. As I climbed the stairs I noticed that my parent’s bedroom door was shut. I remember thinking how odd, their bedroom door is never shut.

I didn’t think much more of it and continued down the hallway into my room. My Sega Genesis, stereo, and any other toy or game had been removed.

“Fuck me,” I said in my head. This was going to be my holding cell for some time.

A few hours later my Father came up and informed me that I would not be playing any baseball this season and would be spending the rest of my summer in my room. This hurt but not as much as the next few days would.

A few hours later I was summoned to dinner, I’m surprised it wasn’t slid under my door. Everyone was there except for my Mom. After eating I was told to head directly back to my room. As I walked past my parent’s room I noticed that the door was still shut.

For the next 5 days, I wouldn’t see my mother. Not as she left for work, not for dinner, and not to lecture me on what an idiot I was. She doesn’t like confrontation or upsetting anyone. She’s an avoider and I guess I inherited that quality from her because I do the same thing in my life.

  • Relationship problems ?Bury myself in work and avoid them.
  • Can’t stick to my diet and training plan .Isolate myself from everyone and focus on it until I can.

She was also probably in their blaming herself for my actions. Questioning what kind of mother she was and if she had done a good enough job raising me. That’s the kind of woman she is. Always taking responsibility for other people’s actions and holding herself responsible when she doesn’t need to.

So Mom, I guess I took two qualities from you.

Getting caught shoplifting turned out to be on of the more influential experiences of my life. It connected me to my Mother in a way that I never thought possible. It helped me understand her better and how she deals with difficult situations when they arise and it helped me understand myself better and how I approach difficult situations when they present themselves.

Is it my Mother’s fault that I avoid problems and confrontation and spend the majority of my time trying to make everyone else happy?


Is it my Mother’s fault that I take on other responsibility for other people decisions, behavior, and actions?


As Mark explains in this article it’s not all your parents fault.