Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Child/Parent Dance and Who Wins at the End

Boy Two is way too much like his uncle.  I just may have to trade him to the gypsies.

Monday started out about normal.  The kids had the day off from their respective schools and Daddy was working from home for part of the day so he could drive me to a dentist appointment, but otherwise it was business as usual.  Boy Two kept having "loud feet" (a term that any family living in a home that shares a wall/floor/ceiling with another family will immediately understand) and going to his room for trying to annoy his siblings and subsequently annoying his parents.

A little before lunch time I poured some juice for the kids as usual and made sure there were three different colored cups for easy identification throughout the day.  Once again, the green cup was the favorite and the first one to grab it was Boy Two.  Fine.  But what bugs Mama is that whoever gets the green cup invariably crows his/her success to purposefully aggravate their siblings, who then whine for the next hour about how "I wanted the green cup!"  Over the course of time, this argument has become a tiny drain on Mama's nerves.  Monday was no exception.  Hence, the exasperated Mother decided to remove said items from the kitchen.  I found all the green cups that we own, made a formal, loud announcement in the presence of all the children, and abruptly disposed of the cups in the garbage.  This settled the argument for Monday, but Tuesday morning the grievance was "I wanted the orange cup!"  Mama is planning a trip to Target to purchase enough cups of a single color to quiet the argument indefinitely.

About half an hour later I asked Boy Two to find his siblings and ask them what they wanted on their sandwiches for lunch.  He is the only one who can be counted on to (a) remember the question, (b) ask both siblings, and (c) return to me with the answers in a short amount of time.  Sadly, I underestimated his cunning. 

The orders as he reported them were: Boy One, apple butter; Boy Two, peanut butter and marshmallow; Girl, Nutella.  So those were the sandwiches I assembled.  I called all three to the table and Boy Two wolfed down his lunch before Girl even arrived - a move I should have caught.  Girl, upon examining the contents of her bread, complained "I didn't want Nutella!"  Mama retorted, "That's what you asked for, so you need to eat it!"  Only then did Mama notice the shadow of a smile on Boy Two's face as he avoided eye contact.  Bingo.

I pulled him into the other room and quietly asked him if sister had asked for peanut butter on her sandwich and he admitted to it, still with a slight devilish gleam in his eye at having gotten away with his scheme.  Drat.  I couldn't have the two kids switch sandwiches, Boy Two had already consumed his!  How am I going to handle this one?!

The old standby, I guess: he lied to Mama about the sandwiches, therefore he gets the ole Toothbrush With Soap treatment.  Poor kid.  He hadn't yet figured out how to spit out the foam and not swallow it.  I suppressed a smile as I thought of the belly full of bubbles that he had swallowed.  Yuck.

Two incidents down.  I naively thought that would be the last one. 

As evening descended on our home the kids began to ready themselves for bed.  I entered the boy's room to put clean sheets on a bed and managed to glance at the little green nightstand between the beds, now covered in someone's pretty scrawl.  Ugh.  How would I figure out who was responsible for this?  (If you already think you know, you're probably right.  Way to jump to conclusions.)

I called the kids in and very innocently began to question them about the elegant artwork.  Everyone squirmed and immediately began blaming each other, something I learned years ago is never reliable.  I would have to draw out the culprit without them realizing I was doing it. 

Keeping up the naive, awed inquisitiveness that I won an Oscar for, I calmly asked questions such as "This is beautiful, did one of you do this?  It's very good!  I can't even tell what this is; is it marker?  Pencil?  Those circles are so precise, are they ripples of water?  Are those letters?  They're very well done.  What do they spell?"  It took me about fifteen minutes of this interplay to really get a good feel for who the real culprit was (fortunately, Daddy followed my lead in this drama) and the artist finally revealed himself when asked "What is this supposed to be, a dragon?"  "No," Boy Two piped up (I knew he couldn't resist), "it's a pirate ship!"  He then proceeded to relate what the other designs were and when I asked in awe, "So you did this?" he suddenly realized he was caught and, remembering the soap from lunchtime, quickly admitted his guilt.  As a reward (?) for telling the truth, he avoided punishment and simply spent the next twenty minutes erasing his artwork (thankfully it was only colored pencil). 

In the realm of parenting, any conflict you don't lose is considered a win.

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