Childhood Family

I am not a shoplifter.

Quote number 4,236 that I never thought I would utter to my children: “Try not to look like a shoplifter.”

Yes, there are plenty of things you end up saying to your kids that you never, ever imagined you would have to say in life. For me, those include, “Get the possum off your sister,” “Laffy Taffy is not dinner,” and “Why did you put mud in your ears?”

But the latest was a new one for me. Usually, it’s the oddball actions of my kids that cause the quotes. This time, it was me.

My son got a pair of pants from Old Navy. They were purchased without him trying them on, because the easiest way to shop for clothes for a 12-year-old boy is without a 12-year-old boy there. They were fine pants, except they were a smidge short. He’s at that age where at any given moment, he will wake up and every piece of clothing he owns will be two inches too short. Also, his shoes won’t fit. We are at one of those times.

Unfortunately, when he first tried the pants on — before he told us they didn’t fit — he took off all of the tags and, I can only guess, burned them and then buried the ashes, as the tags were nowhere to be found. As for the receipt? Yeah, good luck with that.

He and I went to Old Navy to see if we could get a new pair of pants. As we approached the store, I told my son that we would walk in the door and find an employee to see what we needed to do. I explained to him that strolling around a store with a pair of tagless pants and no receipt was kinda sketchy, so we wanted to make sure they knew we were on the level.

We entered the store and took one step inside. Fortunately, an employee was right there. I explained to her that I was looking to exchange the pants, and that I did not have a receipt or any tags on the pants. She said it was fine. I was not comfortable with this. I would have preferred a sworn affidavit that gave us the OK to move forward with the exchange, but she insisted that it was OK, and pointed me in the direction of the boys’ pants. I said, “So you’ll vouch for me?” She said yes.

We went back the boys’ section, and there were no similar pants in his size. At this point, Parker then said, “You think I could get something else instead?” I turned to look at him, and he was holding up a Bama T-shirt. So proud…

As I was assessing the situation, the employee I spoke to at the entrance was walking down the aisle. I flagged her down and explained to her that they did not have the same pants in his size, and also asked if we could get a store credit and get something else. She very nicely told me that I could go to the checkout line and do an exchange, and I would get a store credit mailed to me, which we could use for anything. Sounded like a plan.

I turned and went to the counter, where I found a line of roughly 5,000 people, give or take 4,990. At this point, I did something I am not proud of, but that has been done for millennia: I told my son to steal that Bama shirt.

Ha! Just some routine bad parenting humor there. In actuality, I said to my son, “Yeah, we’re gonna let Mom return these pants. Let’s go.”

So we proceeded to walk out of the store. And at this point, I realized that our friend who had been guiding us so far was nowhere to be found. So there we were, walking out of Old Navy, a pair of pants, sans tags or receipt. That’s when I said to my son, “Try not to look like a shoplifter.” Thankfully, he said, “Huh?”

We exited the store, all the while I was loudly announcing, “The line is too long. We will return these pants we properly bought but that no longer have a tag at a later date!” Pretty sure my son was trying to find other families to be a part of during our exit.

The pants are back at the house, waiting to be taken back, most likely by a more patient member of the household. My wife will no doubt take the pants back and have a seamless transaction. And we’ll let our son take that store credit and get that awesome Bama shirt. Assuming he keeps possums off his sister.

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he now lives in Charleston. You can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.


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