One windy, snowy, late afternoon, just as I had finished picking up our school-aged kiddos from after-school daycare, I buckled them into their car seats then lifted up the front of 2-year old Mr.O’s car seat poncho to do the same when suddenly 4 year old Mr. C cried out in horror, “Oh no! That’s Roger’s!!!!” What?! I asked, half startled, half confused. “That!!!!” He cried out pointing to Mr. O’s clenched fist which had been covered by his incredibly manly monster print poncho. “That’s not ours! That’s Roger’s grocery game! He brought it in from home and it’s not ours to take! He took it!!!!!” He exclaimed in true disgust through a furrowed brow pointing at Mr. O.
I still had no idea what he was talking about. I asked Mr. O what was in his hand. He responded with the typical, 2 year old answer “No!” After a couple more attempts, I finally pried his little fingers open to see a teeny, tiny, rubbery creature about half an inch tall staring back at me. “We have to bring it back! It’s not ours!” shouted 5 year old, Miss M. “Yes, we do!” Mr. C agreed.
Damn. What were we thinking by instilling such great morals in our children?
The thought of unbuckling all 3 kids, unloading them out of the car, down the path in the freezing cold, windy conditions just to bring some weird, little creature back to the classroom was exhausting. I froze for a second trying to figure out what to do. While this is a fantastic learning opportunity to teach my kids to follow their moral compass and do the right thing, it was also going to take a really long time and be quite the hassle when we were already running late because of how long it takes to wrangle them from daycare everyday. How dare they enjoy daycare so much that they don’t want to leave! I know. It’s a pretty great problem to have so we can’t complain!
I suddenly remembered that Roger, the proud owner of this miniature green thing wasn’t there when I picked my kids up! Phewwf. “Roger was already picked up right?” “Yes!” confirmed Miss M. “His dad picked him up today!” Perfect. “Okay, so since Roger has already gone home from daycare, why don’t we put his little creature somewhere safe and we will return it tomorrow when he will be there to get it?” Silence. After tabling this idea, I gave them a few seconds for consideration. “Yes, that’s fine!” Mr. C said. Miss M nodded in agreement. Thank God.
I loaded their backpacks into the car and we headed for home. Miss M and Mr. C were in overtired, hyper, irritating moods. I had to referee several disagreements, threaten a time-out or two and answer a minimum of 93 questions. A typical ride home.
Before I had even unbuckled them, they started complaining that they were hungry. I asked them to bring their backpacks inside as I opened Mr. O’s car door. Naturally, he had taken his boots, socks, hat and car seat poncho off.
I shoved his unwilling, little feet back into his socks and boots, bundled him up and then headed up the driveway to scoop the backpacks that his older brother and sister had dropped in order to fight over who was going to open the front door.
We got inside and had dinner, playtime, bathtime, storytime and bedtime.
Not another thought was given to the miniature, rubber, green creature until the next day when I opened the door to the daycare and the first child who turned excitedly to see me arrive was Roger. Not my own kids. He ran right over to me and said “Did you bring my toy back? Mr. C told me that his baby brother took my toy from here yesterday and that you were going to bring it back to give it to me today. Did you bring it? Because it’s not a daycare toy! It’s my own toy from my house!”
Crap. My heart sank and I instantly felt like a criminal. I had totally forgotten about our theft from yesterday.
“I’m so sorry, Roger!” I said with a genuinely broken heart. “I completely forgot! Is it okay if we bring it back tomorrow?” Roger’s head sunk down and he muttered “Okay.” and then walked away. I felt so bad but told Miss M and Mr. C that we would get his little toy ready for them to bring back the next day.
In the chaos of yesterday, I can’t even remember if Mr. O had brought it in the house or not. I hadn’t even looked at it close enough to recall exactly what it was but it was going to be our night’s mission to find the damn thing.
When we got home, I unloaded the kids and their gear and then took the time that they require to walk like snails up to the door to search Mr. O’s car seat and the surrounding car for the mysterious, green creature. It wasn’t there.
Due to the chaos of yesterday’s ride, mystery, stolen green guy was completely out of my head by the time we had pulled in the driveway. It’s possible that Mr. O had brought it in the house with him and I hadn’t noticed. So, we proceeded to search pockets, dump toy bins, check yesterday’s dirty laundry, backpacks, etc. We basically tore our whole house apart looking for a half-inch tall green thing.
Hubby came home and asked what we were doing. I explained the whole thing to him. He looked at me like I was insane which was more annoying than it was offensive because he’s not the one who had to face Roger, the kid that our toddler STOLE from.
We didn’t find the green guy. I asked Mr. C to describe everything that he knows about this creature. “It’s from a grocery game. He’s little and green and stinky and Roger has lots of them and so does a boy named Sam and they are SO COOL. I wish I had some of them!” Okay…note to self…. do NOT depend on this kid to give a description to a sketch artist.
Me: So it’s from a game?
C: Yes. A grocery game.
Me: Grocery like ‘grocery store?’
C: Yes. Like where we buy food.
Me: Did a grocery store give this to Roger?
C: No, I don’t think so. You don’t buy it a grocery store. I don’t know where you buy it but it’s a game about groceries. That’s why it’s called a grocery game. But we have a part to Roger’s grocery game at our house and he NEEDS it to play it!”
Perfect. I suspected I had enough information for a google search later in hopes of replacing whatever the hell this creature was that we stole. I REALLY not paying close enough attention to it.
After we tucked the kids into bed, I went through every toy bin again and created a line-up (not even kidding) of tiny, green toy creatures that could possibly (hopefully) be the stolen good in question. The next morning, I excitedly presented them to Miss M and Mr. C at the breakfast table. “What are those for?” They both asked. “Which one is Roger’s toy that Mr. O brought home?” “None of them!” Damn. I had tried googling but my search for ‘grocery games’ didn’t really get me anywhere. Ugh.
That day, I managed to get over to the toy store and check out the board games. I didn’t find anything that resembled anything ‘grocery store-like.” Ugh. It’s pretty hard to replace something when you don’t know what it is.
Mr. C started drawing “Grocery Games” for me. I’m pretty sure Roger forgot about this whole thing but our little family wasn’t prepared to let it go. Mr. C started drawing more and more “Grocery Games” and cutting them out so they were cut out characters. He wanted to have “Grocery Games” just like Roger and Sam. Sure! I gladly handed him paper, markers and scissors each evening to grant myself a little peace while making dinner. He asked for a ziploc bag to keep his ‘Grocery Games’ in and if he could bring them to school under the condition that he only brings them out at daycare. Apparently Roger and Sam bring their grocery games everyday and he needs his own so that he can play with them. Sure! Go for it! I loved that he was making new friends.
Day after day, his paper cutouts went back and forth to school and home and he would rave about how much fun he had playing the Grocery Game with Roger and Sam and how he wished he could have his own Grocery Games someday. I still had no idea what this game was but loved seeing my little boy so happy and engaged with friends. His Grocery Game stories would always make me wonder what happened to that one random little creature that Mr. O stole. It was a true unsolved mystery.
A couple weeks later, the kids and I were at Canadian Tire grabbing some yard bags to finish bagging the rest of our leaves. Since it was close to Christmas, the store had a few toy aisles set up. I told that we could browse through the toys as long as they understood that we weren’t buying any toys on this trip. They agreed. This was secretly very beneficial to me because, since we so not have cable/satellite TV, we read our news online and there is no longer a Sears wish book, our kids don’t even know what to ask for because they are basically sensored from any marketing materials, commercials or advertisements. They each pointed out a few toys that they liked and then Mr. C randomly started to basically. hyperventilate. “What’s wrong?” I asked. The poor kid could barely breathe, never mind utter words. “Look!” He pointed up on a shelf to this little box of little creatures. The name on the box read “Grossery Gang.” BINGO! A light went off inside my head! I finally knew what he meant by ‘grocery games.’ They were actual little toys similar to a Littlest Pet Shop Set or Shopkins where you can collect characters and accessories… except these disgusting little things were based on rotten groceries. The characters are literally named things like: Putrid Pizza, Mouldy Muffin, Rotten Egg, Horrid Hot Dog…and the little characters match their names in a truly revolting way. A kindergarten boy’s dream come true!
It had all come together and this ‘game’ that he loved to play so much with his friends started to make sense. Suddenly, I recalled my poor, sweet boy cutting out all of his own little characters…. a hand-drawn hot dog, a pizza, a muffin and a bunch more that I couldn’t quite recognize. I felt awful. The other boys at school are bringing in these super cool toys to play…and my baby is drawing and cutting out his own so he can play with them and fit in. What warmed my heart was also recalling that a) Not once did Mr. C ever ask for us to buy him these toys. He was quite satisfied to be solving his own problem and making his own and b) In all of his stories of playing ‘Grocery games’ with his buddies, not once did he mention them saying anything negative about his own, handmade characters. What sweet these kids are (even though they love incredibly disgusting toys!). I really wanted to buy him a set of these Grossery Gang guys to bring to school the next day but resisted the urge since I had already said we weren’t buying toys on this trip.
Plus… I believe in Christmas magic.
It just so happened that Santa Claus was making a visit to all of the children of the staff at Daddy’s work just a couple of days later. Word on the street was that Santa was going to be bringing each child one early Christmas gift. The overjoyed look on Mr. C’s face when he opened his very own Grossery Gang set from Santa is one I will never forget! His smile was beaming and his entire body was tingling with excitement! Not only that but he was SO excited to tell Hubby and I that Santa read his list! Santa knew he wanted a “grocery game” and we didn’t even know what it was!” Amazing.
As for the missing, miniature green creature that Mr. O scooped from daycare? We found it a couple weeks after it went missing nestled under Cole’s mattress. It flung out when I was changing his sheets. Mr. C excitedly brought it to school to return to Roger… but came home with it… He said that he tried to give it to Roger but Roger kept saying that it wasn’t his…so he said Mr. C could keep it! (I was suspicious too…but as it turns out, his story checks out!)
Perhaps grocery games aren’t so precious after all!