Monday, December 11, 2006

Christmas Entrapment

So a South Carolina woman had her son arrested last week for opening a Christmas gift early. His great-grandmother wrapped the Game Boy Advance, put it under the tree, and told the boy not to open it. But he did, and he was charged with petty larceny. This was the second arrest for the 12-year-old, who punched a cop in November.

I love news stories like this one. You can't make this stuff up; nobody would believe it if you tried. But like lots of news stories, this one raises more questions than it answers. Here are just two (there are way too many to list):

How can they charge this kid with petty larceny? I can see why the cops agreed to arrest him, seeing as how he recently took on one of their own, but really now -- it was a gift, and the boy's name was presumably on it. I guess they could argue that it wasn't legitimately his until the 25th. I can just imagine the swarm of lawyers who will be all over this one.

And the second question, my personal favorite: What's up with putting out a Christmas gift so early? My favorite source of weekend news, NPR's fabulously funny news quiz show, "Wait Wait--Don't Tell Me," voiced my very own thoughts about this over the past weekend. Paula Poundstone, one of the show's panelists, wondered what on earth the adults were thinking when they placed a present in full view of a child with behavior problems so far ahead of time, whereupon another panelist quipped, "It almost sounds like entrapment."

Way back when, my parents never put any gifts under the tree until we kids had gone to bed on Christmas Eve. After all, the tags said the gifts were from Santa, who apparently learned penmanship from the same teacher my mother learned it from. And he didn't arrive until we were all fast asleep on the 24th, as we very well knew. Hence, no gifts till Christmas morning.

Over the years, my husband and I gradually relaxed that practice with our own kids as they grew older, which worked particularly well since they never believed Santa was real. Still, we figured putting the gifts out too early would have resulted in anxiety and not joyous anticipation. A day or two was plenty.

So…what's up with putting out gifts so early? Maybe your parents (or you, if you are a parent) put gifts under the tree in early December without any problems at all. I'd love to hear what other people think about this...were the adults in this story clueless ? Do you think they made a serious error in judgment? Or am I the only one?


Anonymous said...

You've got to remember that in SC the family tree is often a straight line.

Marcia Ford said...

Ah, yes! I keep forgetting...

maria said...

my parents always put the gifts from relatives under the tree when they came through the mail about mid-december. I remember wanting to open them early, but knew it was probably just another grandma-y sweater-like gift. The really great presents came out on Christmas Eve anyway.

I think the kid got what he deserved. If grandma is going to be cool enought to buy you a GBA, you best be grateful enough to wait for it.

Marcia Ford said...

Maria wrote: "If grandma is going to be cool enought to buy you a GBA, you best be grateful enough to wait for it."

Amen! I could comment every day for a week on this one story alone and never cover all the angles. So many questions, so many opinions, so little time...