Confessions of a Kindergarten Klepto

Origins of a Kindergarten Klepto

 

You march right back in there young lady, 

apologize, and pay for that bubble gum.

– My Midwestern Mom

Kindergarten is hell. Well, maybe not recess and snacks and nap time. That is all awesome and amaze. No complaints there. To this day, I can time travel back to my cozy kindergarten cot by transmeditating with some animal crackers and lukewarm milk... and by transmeditating, I mean snarfing animal crackers head first after a proper dunking in the cream I keep around for coffee. Because, you know, animal crackers are paleo, right?

But seriously, lurking beneath that happy-smiley-face façade of kindergarten is my arch nemesis Show-And-Tell that changed the course of my life. Plus, a bizarre battle royale between Good Cheryl vs. Bad Cheryl in a bulletin-board shaming that resulted in a stick in my head. Oh, we are definitely gonna talk that one out later.

From Day One, I was seriously misled about what was about to go down in kindergarten. Parent people told me I would learn to read. Then why was I rushing home bawling and inconsolable that afternoon? My practical Midwestern mom thought I was homesick or worse, already bullied for my weird way with words. Yeah, I was that kid, yammering in class about how “ecstatic” I was to be there. Or how “asinine” No. 2 pencils are. Come on, it has to be a bad word. You say “ass” in it. Oh, and what kindergarten kid asks another five-year-old, “What’s on your agenda for today’s play time?”

But nope, no bullying. I’d save up my bullying experiences for 30 years later at the hands of an unbalanced boss and a transit cop who harassed me for jaywalking to avoid a meth drug deal. For now, I was full-on losing it because I had not learned to read on my first day of kindergarten and enough was enough. Like so many kids, I had been sold a breezy image of where kindergarten would lead me. In no time, I’d be checking out piles of books from the library sans adult, all because I could now write my name and phone number for my own library card. This, of course, was just the first step in my accelerated slapdash through all the grades. Teachers would marvel at the genius grade skipper. Then poof—off to a top college to become a writer of import. Apparently, I was destined for a turn-of-the-century writer’s life that my below-average SATs would later try to undermine. 

 

But instead of my rise to writer extraordinaire, my mom broke it to me—the reading and writing thing was more than just a one-day webinar. I quit crying and became chill AF. Then I refocused all my tiny energy—on stealing as much shit as I could from that kindergarten class.

 

***

I started small, as all kleptos do. I scoped out communal property that seemed less wrong to steal. I mean, ethereal school dollars definitely bought that Snoopy picture book, Barbie doll dress, and little firefighter figure who looked really cool on the fire engine back home in my bedroom. All these items had another thing in common—they could easily be palmed and slid into my backpack. And since I grew up in Ohio, most months the overburdened kindergarten teacher was preoccupied with wrestling all of us into our polar jackets, boots, mittens, hats, and scarfs. She had no patience left to care about some piddly, Dollar Store ephemera that had gone missing.

But no klepto stays small for long. Ask those Netflix TRINKETS girls. They’ll back me up. We dream of bigger things quickly. So I stepped up to the good stuff tucked away in the class supply closet. Challenge accepted. The storage area was on the way to the bathroom, so not a bad setup. I just needed to raise my hand and constantly ask to go to the bathroom. Maybe I should have feared more for my social standing as I became that weird girl who goes the restroom every 30 minutes. But the urge to steal won out. And I was no dummy when it came to planning my new klepto endeavors. For some reason, you always had to tell the teacher if you were going number 1 or number 2. Well, obviously I had to go number 2 all the time because the teacher wouldn’t expect me back for way longer. 

This gave me the perfect amount of time for my tiny heists. I’d hold up my two little fingers, as if to say, “Peace, Miss M, number 2 up.” And per usual, my teacher was completely unphased, as if thinking, “Good for you, little person, eating so much fiber at such a young age.”

Of course, I’d hit the bathroom first, in case I actually had to pee. And then I’d slide into that storage room, which for some reason was never locked. I guess no kindergarten teacher expects thievery to start so young. And boy, she really should have protected all the goodies in that supply room. There was glitter and scratch-and-sniff stickers and my fav—clay. But not just normal clay. Boxes of super fun, heavenly scented clay. From the first bar I stole, I knew I needed more. I could never go back to the bland smell of Playdough when strawberry-smelling pink clay waited for me behind that door. 

 

It was a short time before I was totally primed to go big time. But the next step was fraught with moral issues… is it wrong to steal from Show-And-Tell? All those things belong to your friends or at least kindergarten acquaintances. But how do you turn back when you’ve already fallen under the spell of scented clay? I was all in. But maybe my tiny five-year-old brain wasn’t as advanced as I thought. Because for my first big Show-And-Tell snatch-and-grab, I went too big and then it all went horribly wrong.