The Good One is skating on a sheet of ice that is as thin as my granny panties. I’m probably going to start calling him The Perpetually Grounded One or The One Whose Brain Comes Up With Ideas That Are Stupid On A Grand Scale.
Two very enlightening conversations occurred in my house this week, both with The Good One.
Let me set the scene for the first one. This conversation isn’t so much a groundable offense as it is something that makes me realize that I have royally jacked up something in this child’s raising because I have no idea where he comes up with the ideas that rattle around in that giant noggin of his. (Unlike my big giant head which is a mansion of genius-y ideas and general smartiness, his is a bounce house of crap, which is probably true of most 9-year-old boys.)
The Good One likes to spend money. He’s very much a lover of stuff. I’ve tried to encourage him to see the value in activities and things that create memories, but he’d rather have a dollar store frisbee. When he goes to Chuck-E-Cheese, he’s more excited about the bouncy ball and pack of Chiclets he buys with his tickets than he is about the two hours he spent playing games with friends.
The three days following The Great Gem Tree Fiasco of 2012 were the most difficult of The Good One’s life. There were many things he had planned to use that $120 on and apparently none of them were imaginary gems. Once he got that money back, it was like he had won the lottery and he really couldn’t wait to go buy something. (If The Good One ever won the actual lottery, I’m fairly certain he’d end up poor as dirt and living in a cardboard box within a year. So, you know, I’m doing a real bang-up job of teaching him the value of money.)
He had been begging me to take him to the store for days so that he could buy two sets of Legos he found online, and I finally said yes. Then we had this conversation:
Me: Remember to grab your wallet so you can buy your Legos.
TGO: No, I’m just going to buy them on IOU.
Me: Excuse me? You’re going to what?
TGO: I’m going to buy them on IOU. I’ll work it off in chores.
Me: First of all, the fact that you know what an IOU is at the age of 9 means I’ve already failed as a parent. Secondly, you’re not buying anything on IOU. You already own enough Legos to build an actual village, so if you want more of these overpriced vacuum-jammers, you’re spending your own cash.
TGO: But I don’t want to break my $100 bill. You’ve let me do it before.
Me: Yes, that was because I didn’t want you to break a $100 bill on a pack of gum. I have no idea what has led to this belief that I’m offering some sort of work/toy-purchase program, but those Legos are going to cost $30. You will spend your own money or you’re not getting them.
TGO: [Incredulous sigh.] Fine.
Me: [Thunk.] (That’s the sound my big giant head makes when I bang it on the kitchen table.)
Now, in retrospect I realize that the reason he tried to pull this stunt is because he knows that I’m terrible about keeping up with chores and he knew he’d basically be getting two new sets of Legos for the cost of emptying the dishwasher twice.
But then we had this conversation last night:
[Scene: Kitchen after dinner. Virginia Slims Man and I are chatting at the table. The Beast is otherwise occupied, and The Good One gets up and starts walking toward the living room to watch T.V.]
Me: Hey, before you go anywhere I want you to vacuum the —
Me: Wha — wha — you — did — what? (I’m pretty sure I had a mild stroke as I could not form a coherent sentence. And I smelled burning toast.)
[Virginia Slims Man and I look at each other in disbelief.]
Me: What did you just say?
TGO: [Turns to me and, while giving me the sign language sign for “no,” mouths “No.”]
Me: Did you just tell me no? [To VSM] Did he just tell me no? TGO, you did not just tell me no. You get your butt in this kitchen right now!
TGO: [Walks to the kitchen.]
Me: Why did you tell me no? Were you trying to be funny? (I was almost hoping he would say yes. He’s managed to pick up my sarcastic sense of humor but doesn’t always use it properly, so I thought maybe this was just a little Sheldon Cooper-y thing he was doing.)
TGO: No, I wasn’t trying to be funny. I just don’t want to do whatever it is you were going to ask me to do. (Not even smart enough to lie to me.)
Me: (Now, I felt relatively certain that I was about to break out with a severe case of Tourette’s. My right eye started twitching and I wondered to myself if CPS would care if I threw a plate of chicken tacos at him.) Well, son, do you think I want to pick your dirty underwear up off the floor and clean your pee-coated bathroom since you are incapable of getting your urine into the big, shiny toilet bowl? You have just made the biggest mistake of your life. You think you don’t like doing chores now, you just wait. First of all, you are grounded. Secondly, you will do your chores every day without fail. If you miss a day, you’re grounded. You will make your bed every morning. You will wipe your bathroom sink down every day. You will wipe every last drop of pee off of your toilet every time you use it. You will clear the table and wipe it down after dinner. You will vacuum the kitchen floor every night. You will unload the dishwasher every time it is clean, and you will not complain. You will change your brother’s dirty diapers. You will pooper-scoop the yard until the blessed day that damn dog spontaneously combusts, and when that day finally comes — praise the Lord — you’ll clean the dog guts out of the grass. You will …
Okay. At this point I had completely lost it. My head was flammable and my temples were throbbing so hard that I’m pretty sure my husband could actually see them pulsating. I was no longer being rational and was just rattling off anything I could think of for him to do.
TGO: I’m sorry.
VSM: [Sympathetically] Dude, you screwed up big time.
Me: [Walk to the bathroom to stick my head under the bathtub faucet to douse the smoke that is billowing out of my ears.]
So, is there a moral to this story? Not really.
I guess I’m just a cautionary tale about the dangers of keeping a half-assed chore chart. If your child realizes you aren’t organized enough to maintain a proper chore chart, he’ll try to swindle you and then he’ll talk back to you and make you want to throw tacos at him.
Okay, that’s the moral to my story: Children are smarter than we give them credit for and they will use our weaknesses against us to the point that we will consider pelting them with Mexican food.
Try explaining that to a family court judge.