When he was a boy, Mr Coffee stole a packet of segs from a shop. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but the walk home was a killer - every step filled with terror and regret. By eleven years old, he knew he was not a recidivist.
I must have been about the same age when I went to our corner shop with a girl from school, who began to demonstrate her own much more practiced method of shoplifting. I was beyond shocked, and though we didn't use the phrase 'comfort zone' then, I knew enough to know that I was out of mine. As a child, I was terrified and regretful even when I hadn't even done anything. The most exciting thing I remember doing was walking to the other side of my village with my friend Joanne. It was so far away! (Over half a mile!) We came back, giggling uncontrollably and amazed at how far we could reach in the world.
Yesterday I took the Lattes to an activity day for disabled children and their families. I don't usually go to these things, but as my family grows up, I'm getting less able to pretend that our life is completely normal except for the addition of a few pieces of equipment. The sun is out, and everyone is heading to the park and to the beach - but the other nine-year-olds are getting independent, nipping to the shops and hanging out with each other. Their mothers aren't lifting them onto the swings or taking them to the toilet.
At this activity day I was chatting to a service provider of activities for children with additional needs. The ultimate aim, he said, would be equality to the point where disabled children got to hang around on street corners. And I said yes. Yes. YES. I want my child to be able to hang around on street corners.
Eldest has access to a range of meticulously planned activities with helpful and caring adult support. Though I'm very grateful for the opportunities offered - filling the after-school hours without resorting to TV and shouting is a challenge for any parent, special needs child or no - there is something overly wholesome about the thought of it. I don't worry that she won't get chance to go horse-riding, or play sports, or learn to play an instrument (that opportunity includes abandoning the instrument that you're learning to play - another important rite of passage for most of us). I worry that she won't hang about, having fun with friends, doing nothing, with every chance to get up to no good.
It might seem strange, to parents who worry about these things, to hear someone calling 'bring it on' to boundary-pushing behaviour. But freedom is where we find out who we are - what our limits are, when we've pushed them a bit too far for comfort. It's where we learn what it's right to be afraid of, and what's not worth worrying about.
And where we realise, if we're lucky, that we're not cut out to be a thief.