We live in a small New England town that I will call SoHa. We feel privileged to live here, where the streets are clean, the houses have picket fences, and the parks have stone walls and manicured baseball fields. The majority of our neighbors are even more "privileged" than we are, from the latest SUVs, to nannys, to second homes.
A few weeks ago, C took T1 and T2 to the park. T1 and T2 rode their scooters, as they've been doing since they got them this summer, gleefully zipping down the sidewalks of SoHa, keeping up their constant stream of chatter. When they got to the park, they dropped their scooters at the edge of the grass and ran to the playground. C briefly noticed some teenagers using foul language and messing around on the war memorial, but he quickly turned his attention back to pushing T1 and T2 on the swings. A while later, when they were ready to leave, the scooters were gone. A man nearby told C he had seen the two teenage boys ride off on them. One of the boys had longish blond hair sticking out from under a baseball cap.
One of the scooters turned up back at the park about a week later (thank you, Charlie, T1's friend, who spotted it and would not rest until it was returned!) The other appears to be gone forever. About a week after they were stolen, I saw a teenager with longish blond hair sticking out from under his baseball cap, hanging around the shopping center, riding what looked like T1's scooter. Before I could decide what to do, he was gone.
T1 and T2 were disappointed when they're scooters were taken, but not distraught. C and I were more upset than they were. The scooter could be replaced, but should we take some action so that the teenager wouldn't just get away with stealing a little kid's scooter? We struggled with whether to report the incident to the police.
I tried not to judge the boy and his parents, whoever they were. I know teenagers do foolish things, but I couldn't help wondering, what kind of kid would steal something in plain view of adults like that? Is he so spoiled that he thinks he can instantly have anything he wants? Or have his parents failed to instill the most basic values in him? Or are there kids who do bad things, despite their parents' best efforts? As the parent of two young boys, that was the most disturbing thought for me, that a parent can do his or her best, and the kid could fail to learn right from wrong.
In the end we did go to the police. We went to the police, not because we thought the boy was bad or because we wanted retribution. We went to the police because he is the son of one of our neighbors, even if we don't know them, and we thought they would want to know what their son had done. Some day our boys will be teenagers messing around in the park, and I hope that our neighbors will be our eye and ears, helping us to ensure that they never learn the lesson that they can steal something without consequences. I hope for the best for that boy; I hope the police catch him.