You have to be careful what you teach your children because it might come back to haunt you in the strangest of places, like the aisles of the local Walmart, for instance.

In the case of my oldest daughter, she taught her children to be thieves and the end result was mayhem in the cereal aisle. Not just any kind of thieves, mind you, she taught her children to be nose thieves and mouth thieves.

Although I don’t entirely know why, my daughter started trying to persuade her children at an early age that she could remove their noses from their faces. She would do so by giving their nose a soft pinch and then showing them how their nose was now held between her forefinger and middle finger. She would pinch their nose and then tell them “got your nose” and show them what they thought was their nose but was in fact her thumb impersonating their nose.

It was a cute trick and the kids laughed whenever their mom stole their nose because she would always give it back. But that is where mothers are different from children. Because mothers will use a trick to delight their children and children will use a trick to terrorize their sibling, which is what the “Steal Your Nose Trick” mutated into.

If you could steal a person’s nose, then certainly you could also steal their mouth, and if you could steal their mouth, then surely you could steal their entire head, which is what my 4-year-old and 2-year-old grandsons decided to do whenever they had the opportunity, they would steal each other’s body parts.

Now sibling body part theft is all well and good when it is done in the relative calm of your own home because you can, for the most part, yell at your children to give back his brother’s head and be done with it. But when you are in the cereal aisle of the local Walmart, ordering a child to put his brother’s nose back on his face will have a tendency to alarm other shoppers.

When my 2-year-old grandson suddenly reached up and tweaked his big brother’s mouth, he began to cry the Walmart cry, which is just like a normal cry only several decibels higher.

“What’s wrong with you?” My daughter asked her wailing son.

“Ashtun stole my mouth,” my 4-year-old grandson, Gavin, told his mother.

At this point, my daughter did something that was doomed to failure even before she began. She attempted to talk reasonably to a 4-year-old boy crying the Walmart cry.

“If Ashtun stole your mouth, how are you talking?” she asked.

Gavin paused to consider the complexities of her question and finally came up with a solution.

“With my spit!” he said and began to cry all the louder because his little brother seemed on the verge of throwing his mouth down the aisle.

It didn’t take much longer, perhaps two confused stares by passers-by, for my daughter to do away with the reasoning approach.

“Ashtun, you give back your brother’s mouth right now.”

Ashtun slapped his brother’s mouth back into place and while leaning close enough to slap his brother’s mouth back into place, Gavin reached up and stole his little brother’s nose … and promptly ate it.

And great weeping and wailing in the Walmart cry echoed down the canyons of cereal.

Furious and still crying that his big brother had stolen and eaten his nose, Ashtun stole back his brother’s mouth and tossed it on the floor and then stole his nose and right ear and threw them over the cereal aisle, and Gavin again began to scream as he stole Ashtun’s mouth and stuffed it inside his shirt.

My daughter began to laugh at this time, she reports, but I wonder exactly what kind of laugh was it? Was it the hee hee laugh of one amused at the antics of your children or was it a Jack Nicholson haa haaa haaa heee heee heee that made people wonder about your sanity. My daughter, for her part, isn’t telling, but I have noticed a twitch in her eye that wasn’t there a couple of children ago.

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The boys’ father, having heard the Walmart cries of his children from the other side of the store, found his family and after having explained to him what the problem was, carefully went about the process of picking up his children’s body parts scattered across the floor of the store. He returned Gavin's and Ashtun’s nose, mouth and ear, and the boys were quiet and relatively happy.

For about 10 seconds, when they both started to cry again.

“Now what?” My daughter asked.

“You gave me Ashtun’s mouth and nose,” Gavin wailed.

This is the point at which I think my daughter’s eye twitch became more pronounced.

James L. Davis is a husband and father of seven who lives with his family in Spanish Fork, Utah. Contact him at