On the incident of the stolen pears

He probably wouldn’t have done it if the friends had not been there to egg him on. At least, that’s what he told me. He went out last evening with those no-good, dirty rotten boys with whom he hangs around, gossiping about girls and sports and cars and whatever else seventeen-year-old boys talk about. Eventually talk got around to something evil, temptation was everywhere, and they decided to steal Old McDonald’s pears off of the pear tree he has at the back of his orchard. You know, we have three pear trees, here, at home, but this was about stealing, so off they went. Under the cover of darkness they scaled the back wall, took the pears, and fled. Funny thing is, Augustine said that after the fact, he didn’t really want the pears, so they gave them to the pigs at his friend Benny’s place. Auggie told me all of this because he was feeling just a wee bit guilty about the whole incident which left him feeling empty and sad. The thrill of stealing, of being bad, was a momentary high which disappeared just a quickly as it had been felt. I didn’t really know what to do–go the authorities, punish him at home, prohibit his interaction with those boys? I was feeling frustrated because I thought he was a good boy with a strong moral character, and he was acting like a common thief. Had I taught him nothing in seventeen years? What about personal responsibility for one’s actions I asked him, but he said that it was Benny and Tomas, that he wasn’t to blame, that he was innocent. He sat there and hung his head while I scolded him. I told him that he was an accomplice and that he could have said “no” and walked away, but Auggie just looked at me as if I knew nothing of the modern world. He put his ear buds in and turned on his Ipod. He was done listening to me. Yet, I insisted that we talk. He put away the music player and pulled out the ear buds, but he looked at me in total disgust. “We didn’t even get caught, and we got rid of the pears. No one saw us,” he said. I was silent for minute while I let him listen to his own words. “Does it matter,” I said, “that we get caught or not? Don’t you know you’ve done something wrong?” Since there were no consequences of any importance, either monetary or disciplinary, I let the matter go. It was already difficult to raise a young man and communicate successfully with him without putting up barriers of ire and pride between us. A couple of weeks later I saw him turn down an invitation to go out with his criminal “friends,” and I asked him why. He muttered a few lame excuses about being tired, or wanting to study his Latin, but I knew that his behavior had changed–he never missed a chance to hang out with the “boys.” I pressed the issue. He said nothing and walked away. Later, I caught him studying, writing a paper, actually. I have no idea what will become of this young man. Like many his age, his communications skills are poor to non-existent, and he keeps a lot of what he is feeling bottled up inside. We probably won’t ever talk about the pears again, but I wonder what he really thinks about his role in the the pear stealing episode. Whether it was his idea or not, he was guilty of not following his own moral perspective, of allowing himself to be led into a bad situation, and of not acting in an ethical way when he knew something bad was happening. Temptation got the best of him, but I think he realized almost immediately that the pleasure he got from stealing was passing and ephemeral and not at all what he expected.