|This is the ONLY time during the course of this drama that nephew showed any emotion, which is a little concerning.
IMO, he is plenty old enough to know right from wrong and knows that stealing is wrong. He never showed any emotion about the situation until BIL told him his b-day party was cancelled.
Nephew is dealing with a new sister being born, and he is probably being ignored at home. I think he stole the money to act out in frustration.
Be careful, Mama. These are the kind of words I've learned to eat in my mama years.
My typical 7-year old wouldn't have a clue about the money. She also wouldn't touch it because that's the way she is. My non-typical 8 year old would have had some clue about how much money it was at that age but wouldn't really have "gotten" that it was wrong to take it. Out on the table? Community property. That's how their minds tend to work. I would have been upset. Even more that he took it (and now I'm talking about my own child) and didn't give it all back. That he shared it? Kudos to him.
It's hard. And 7 years old really is still a baby. In our long lives, these are the early early years, when it's okay to make mistakes and everybody still loves you, and that love is what helps us make better decisions next time. Don't get me wrong, I have very limited tolerance in my own children's misbehavior, but this wasn't misbehavior I don't think. It was a bad choice, then shame and fear probably kept him from further admitting to wrong.
I know you don't like hearing this but I agree with a pp who asserted that the money shouldn't have been left out. I find that most things my kids do that I dislike could have been avoided with a little foresight on the part of their parents. Yeah, it's your house, yeah, it's your money, but when we're sharing space, even for a little bit, we take care with our treasures. I certainly don't leave bank statements out when family members come over because I don't want anyone to have a clue about what we may or may not have. It's just too personal for me. And this is the same idea. Not that you put it up because you think he's a thief. You put it up because he's 7 and things are exciting and he's bright and curious.
Again, I agree with others. Love him. Hug him. Forgive him, and take on a bit of the responsibility so that his little shoulders don't have to bear it all.