'When my daughter was 13, my clothes started going missing. Then I bumped into a friend at the school.'

As told to Ann DeGrey.

I'm a single mother with two beautiful daughters, aged 13 and 16. My 16-year-old, Emily*, is an introvert who loves reading and painting. She's calm and thoughtful. My 13-year-old, Lily*, is quite the opposite—a big personality, always energetic and full of beans. I've always been proud of my girls and the young women they're becoming.

Life has been pretty good lately, both girls are thriving at school and getting on very well with their friends and each other. But something strange has been happening. A couple of months ago, I started noticing that some of my things were going missing. At first, it was small items like a bracelet or a scarf, but then it escalated to more expensive things—designer clothes, handbags, and even some jewellery. I couldn't understand what was going on, but I had an inkling it might be Emily borrowing my things. She's at that age where she's starting to take an interest in fashion and might want to try on my clothes and accessories. But I knew I needed to talk to her about it and make sure she gave me my things back—I was worried she was lending my stuff to her friends because, when I searched her room, I couldn't find anything.

I confronted her, but she was adamant she hadn't touched any of my things. She seemed horrified that I'd think that she would share my taste in clothes and, being a curvy girl, she said my clothes would be too tight on her, anyway.

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We had a good laugh about it, I apologised, and we moved on. But I couldn't shake the feeling that maybe she just didn't want to admit it. I even mentioned it to a friend at the girls' school, who has a daughter Lily's age, just in passing, to see if she had any advice.

To my surprise, my friend told me something shocking. Her daughter had come home with a designer handbag and said she bought it from Lily for $50. My heart sank, and a sickening feeling crept in. Could it be my Lily taking my things?

I confronted Lily that evening, dreading the answer but needing to know what was going on. She started crying and admitted she had done "some bad things". Yes, she had been taking my things. And yes, she had been selling them to her friends at school. I was stunned. My 13-year-old was running a mini-business right under my nose, selling my belongings!

I was furious. How could she do this? Not only was she stealing from me, but she was also deceiving her friends. I demanded to know how much money she had made from this "side hustle" and where it was. She led me to her room and showed me the stash—over $1000 in cash hidden under her bed. I couldn't believe it.

I told her she had to return all the money and get my stuff back. And, if she couldn't get my things back, she had to find a way to repay me. There was no way I was letting her get away with this. I made it clear how serious her actions were, not just for the betrayal of trust but also for the moral and legal implications.

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Over the next few days, I reached out to the parents of the girls who'd bought the items. Some were understanding; others were upset and a couple of women giggled. I apologised and made sure they got their money back if they returned my things. It was a humiliating experience, but Lily needed to face the consequences.

As a single mother, this experience has been a tough one. It would have been a lot easier if their father lived with us and backed me up on why this was such a bad thing for Lily to do. I've always tried to instil good values in my daughters, teaching them the importance of honesty and integrity. I never imagined that Lily, my spirited and lively girl, would do something like this. It's been a wake-up call for me too. I realised I needed to pay more attention to things that were going on under my roof. 

Lily and I had many long talks after this incident. She's a smart, sweet girl, and I know she understands now why what she did was so wrong. We're going to work together to try and find an honest "side hustle" for her – upselling clothes she finds at op shops. She's also taken on a casual babysitting job, looking after the neighbours' kids, to earn money legitimately. This incident, as painful as it was, seemed to have sparked a sense of maturity in her, so at least one good thing has come out of this incident – and I'm sure we'll both laugh about it in the near future!

*Names have been changed due to privacy.

The author of this story is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons.

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