Here’s what I know for sure: No amount of begging, cajoling, or threatening will motivate my kids to behave quite like the bad fortunes of a sibling.
To wit, Efram spent most of Friday afternoon and evening in the doghouse (Sidney who spends her life trying to figure out what we are talking about, also wants to go to the doghouse. She also really wishes she were able to hold her horses). Efram doesn’t spend much time there, but when he does, a certain older brother and younger sister spring into action. Bennett and Frances, who both refuse to do chores they haven’t thought of themselves (really, I don’t need you to spontaneously clean the freezer or rearrange my makeup drawer) set the table for Friday night dinner:
You may not be able to see this clearly, but there are place cards as well as napkins daintily shoved into glasses. Last week when I asked them to set the table they left the silverware in a pile in the middle of the table, and heaped all the napkins on one of the chairs, only three people got glasses, and a place was not set for yours truly. But this week, Efram was in trouble and truly nobody shines like a sibling trying to get a leg up. The two of them were falling all over themselves to be of use to me, like obsequious bell hops: “Is there anything else we can do to help Mummy? Wow, this dinner smells delicious — did you make it?” No the chicken soup fairy flew in and shvitzed in the kitchen while I got my nails done and read People.
I could exploit this. I know some parents who employ the divide and conquer approach to parenting — play the kids off each other and you’re guaranteed a modicum of loyalty. Sadly, I may be a really good yeller (I finally came to terms with this during our trip to Colorado: “Why are you yelling at us?” You know why? Because I LOVE YELLING! YELLING WORKS! YOU’RE LISTENING NOW, AREN’T YOU? AND YOU KNOW WHAT ELSE? IF I CAN’T YELL I AM GOING TO START THROWING THINGS AROUND, SO SUCK IT UP AND LET ME SHOUT A BIT!), but I don’t have an ounce of Stalin in me. I’d rather they all gang up on me than watch them work against each other.
For example, tonight I threw down a plate of tuna fish and a bowl of grainy crackers. Instantly the whining started:
“I don’t like these crackers. I prefer the shitty buttery ones that are bad for me.”
“Is there mustard in here? I can see mustard. What’s that yellow stuff?”
“Not interested in this. Not in the slightest. What else is there?”
What else? Nothing else. This isn’t a bloody diner. You can’t have a menu and peruse the rest of your effing options. I huffed and puffed, but blew nothing down. Eventually, as I am wont to do, I lost. I marched my ass down to the basement, found some shitty crackers and threw several boxes of them at the short people crowded around the kitchen table.
I then spent 4 minutes listening to them all agree on how rotten I am. That nonsense was quickly replaced by 90 minutes of conspiratorial giggling and good, clean fun. I really don’t know what it was about, but if I could finally get them on one side by roaring my terrible roar, gnashing my terrible teeth, and rolling my terrible eyes, then I’ll do it.