Dear Dr. Respler,
I’m not sure how to react to a situation involving my 8-year-old grandson. I have a dreidel collection. It’s not vast but I do have some very unusual and interesting dreidels. I started collecting them when I was newly married 40 years ago and whenever a special dreidel caught my eye, I added it to my collection. Whenever my grandchildren come over they always stand in front of the case where they are displayed and ask to hold a few and spin them. I only take out the non-breakable ones.
A few weeks ago on my husband’s birthday, I invited my son and his family to come for a festive dinner. After the birthday cake, when we were sitting around and talking the children asked to see some of the dreidels. I gave one to each of the children and told them that they could take turns sharing them. One of the dreidels is a very small one made of lead, and this one was given to me when I was a child, by my grandfather.
I cherished it and that was the first one of my collection. After the family went home and I finished cleaning up, I went to put away the dreidels and discovered that the little lead one was missing. I searched the whole house and finally I mentioned to my husband that I couldn’t find it. He said that he thought that out of the corner of his eye he saw our grandson put it into his pocket. By the time they left, he forgot all about it.
I don’t know what to do. Three weeks have passed, and I can’t bring myself to ask my daughter-in-law to check his pants pocket. I’m very disappointed in the child. He’s 8 years old and he should know better. My husband says it’s not worth antagonizing my son and daughter-in-law over this, since I let 3 weeks go by. But this is the only one that has sentimental value for me as it came from my grandfather whom I loved dearly. I hope you don’t think that I am “making a mountain out of a molehill.”
This is a hard dilemma as while I understand why your husband thinks that you should just let it go, I also understand that this dreidel is very sentimental to you and you feel that you want to address the issue. The only way to do this without antagonizing your son and daughter-in-law is to call your daughter-in-law and tell her that you are so embarrassed, but you cannot seem to find one of your dreidels and that maybe the boys took one home by mistake. If you do not make it big deal, then she will likely not feel offended or accused. If your grandson did indeed take the dreidel home, he likely did it as a mistake (perhaps impulsively and then he couldn’t figure out how to put it back without getting in trouble).
This probably is not indicative of a larger issue, but either way, it is not your place to address it. If your daughter-in-law finds the dreidel and asks for your help to figure out why your grandson took the dreidel, you can share with her something called the mutual story telling technique. With this technique, you tell a child a story about a situation similar to what is going on and then you ask the child for his/her opinion as to how to solve the problem. Most children have a hard time brainstorming about their own issues, but when given a problem to solve that is not their own, they can come up with solutions that may help you pinpoint the issue at hand.
For example, you can create a story about your friend who has a granddaughter (or daughter, depending on who is using the technique) who is seven and a half years old that was playing with her grandfather’s collection of miniatures and then slipped a small miniature into her pocket and took it home. The grandfather was very upset because it meant a lot to him and he was sad that he lost his miniature. Then ask your son/grandson why he thinks the girl did this and how he thinks your friend should handle the situation. How your grandson responds can help your daughter-in-law and/or you understand what may have happened and can help your daughter-in-law and/or you evaluate if your grandson sees this as stealing. Hopefully your grandson’s input will help clarify the situation and give you an idea of whether this situation is more serious or just a big misunderstanding.
Regardless of what happens, your grandson may be very embarrassed to see you again, so the next time you get together, make sure to be extra loving and caring to him so he sees that you are not upset with him at all. Just remember, whatever you decide to do, make sure to stay calm and not make a big deal out of the situation as you do not want to engender any negative feelings. I wish you hatzlocha in dealing with this problem and hope you get your dreidel back soon.