Got any Gum?

When my daughter was very young, she had a thing about gum. She absolutely loved it. She would literally steal to get it…seriously. Of course, she was only five years old or so and I really didn’t think she’d become a hardened criminal over it…

DAUGHTER: This is a holdup!

CLERK: Here! Take all the money!

DAUGHTER: I don’t want your money! Here, fill this bag with gum!

What actually happened was that we were leaving a grocery store one day and I noticed her chewing. I had specifically said “no gum” when we were in the store, so I suspected the worst.

ME: What’s in your mouth?

DAUGHTER (suddenly not chewing): Um, nothing…

ME: Open your mouth. Wider. Wider! There it is. Where did you get the gum?

DAUGHTER: I had it…

ME: What’s in your hand? Your other hand! This looks like a new pack of gum…with only one piece missing. Where did you get it?

DAUGHTER: I had it…

ME: Did you take it from the store?


We marched back into the store, returned the gum, and apologized to the store cashier. My daughter was humiliated. It worked…she never stole another pack of gum. It didn’t, however, destroy her craving.

We went to a restaurant not too long after my daughter’s foray into crime. I should’ve seen this coming. My daughter was a serious gum addict and my ignoring that fact didn’t do her any favors. We were about to order when I noticed she was chewing…again.

ME: What’s in your mouth?

DAUGHTER (suddenly not chewing…again): Um, nothing…

ME: Open your mouth. Wider. Wider! There it is. Where did you get the gum?

DAUGHTER: I had it…

Here we went again.

ME: Open your hands, both of them. (Nothing there). Where did you get the gum?

DAUGHTER: I had it…

ME: Seriously, where did you get the gum?

I saw her eyes momentarily flicker down…down to the table. I couldn’t believe it.

ME: Did you get the gum from under the table?


We made her spit it out and explained some of the nasty things she might’ve gotten from chewing somebody else’s old gum. She nodded her head, but I still didn’t think she took us seriously.

ME: Oh my God!


ME: Your hair’s getting shorter.


ME: And you’re starting to smell funny.

DAUGHTER (very alarmed at this point): WHAT?

ME: Is that fuzz starting to grow on your face? (Full panic began to set in).


ME: I think you’re starting to turn into a boy. (She was speechless before a tear rolled down her face).

DAUGHTER: R-r-really? Wh-wh-why?

ME: Probably because you ate the gum. It must’ve belonged to a boy.

SON (right on time): Haha, you’re turning into a boy!

DAUGHTER: No! No! I’m sorry! Daddy, turn me back! Please!

ME: I think some broccoli might fix it…

DAUGHTER (with the first trace of doubt): Um, no.

Anyway, I made the last part up, but it could’ve happened. We worked on her addiction and she soon kicked it. Now she has little kids of her own and every time I hear some of the stories, I think of a term my wife taught me…Parental Payback. I like that term.


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