For the children, Grandma and Grandpa are second only to Santa Claus for an easy mark. A trip to Grandma’s house is like going to Toys R Us, getting a shopping cart and having five minutes to grab whatever you want. Plus, Grandma has cool stuff, like a piano (upon which to pound) a set of handbells (still jangling in my head) and hundreds of delicate glass, china, and porcelain baubles to be examined (dropped) and adored (dropped).
By the evening of our second day fighting the good fight to keep my mother’s museum-quality-historical-society-pristine-child-free-for-most-of-the-year home safe from the hedonistic joy of two newly spoiled children had me exhausted. So exhausted, in fact, that when K was sent to bed early (early bedtime: consequence for having categorically decried her Grandmother’s homemade cooking as “nasty” and then failing to complete her agreed upon bite quota), I went to bed as well.
She seemed unmoved as I led her up the stairs to serve her time, but I could feel injustice radiating through her tiny hand. She was like a miniature Rosa Parks, her head held high even while escorted to her cell. For K, it was plain to see that she had right on her side.
J, of course, was delighted with the turn of events. He sat at the kitchen table, squeaky clean from his special Grandma “jacuzzi tub bubble bath”, savoring every second he was allowed to stay up beyond his sister’s early retirement requirement. He was enjoying a slice of Grandma’s special lemon cake, the top of which was liberally sprinkled with the sweet, sweet, knowledge that K would not be having any.
Life was good for J.
Once K had finally quit singing her protest songs (screaming) and threatening to march on the kitchen (screaming “Gwandma, come get me!!!”), I retired to my bedroom.
As I began to settle in, I heard agitated voices and then running footsteps down the hall. I could actually hear my warm bed disappearing with each footstep as it made its way towards my door.
J barged in, breathless and flushed with the rosy glow of a child with a new puppy.
“Mom? Umm… K? She drew all over Grandma’s bathroom wall. With a BLUE marker (this particular piece of information made him positively giddy) and… umm… now she’s LYING about it.”
He paused to let the magic of this new information sink in. He was hopping back and forth from right foot to left, positively elated. He’d just won the sibling lottery. He took a breath to stable himself before he gave me the last (and obviously best) bit; the final nail in her punishment coffin. He was vibrating as I watched the power ball bearing his number come to rest in his eyeballs and turn them into cartoon dollar signs.
“And she’s blaming ME.”
My response was slightly less than he’d hoped. This whole episode reeked of a time suck, but since I’ve held on to that Mommy of the Year trophy for seven consecutive years (stop laughing. I make sure those children are DRESSED— in clean clothes mostly— and FED every day. Every. Single. Day.), I hauled myself out of bed and followed my son (who was more prancing than walking) down the hall to the scene of the crime. Stuffed into the bathroom were the husband, sitting on the tub with his arms crossed and angry, my mother, in rubber gloves with a look of grim resolve on her face… and K.
K was sitting on the toilet looking miserable. If the seat had been up, I’d have thought she’d had some bad Indian food.
J, upon seeing his sister’s face, rose gracefully en pointe, for he had been so blessed this evening that the complete history and practice of classical ballet came to him with nary a lesson. He spun and leaped gracefully in the room adjacent to his dejected sister, drinking in her misery like a fine wine.
She looked up at me with full on Precious Moments eyes— tears were welling up and her lower lip was trembling.
K: I didn’t do it.
Me: Well, then, how did these drawings get on the wall?
K: Maybe J did it?
A flash of hope flew across her face. Of course! J did it!
Me: J was downstairs eating his dessert, K.
K: (darkly) I didn’t do it.
Luckily (for her) the marker came off the wall easily.
I took her into her room to put her back to bed.
After I tucked her in she said:
“I’m scared of the dark.”
(It was a good play. It worked the previous night when we had just arrived and the room was a new place to sleep.)
Me: would you still be scared if I turned this lamp on for you?
(Mommy one, K zip)
Me: So why did you draw on the wall?
K: I didn’t do it.
Me: Who do you think drew on the wall?
(Also a good play for a smart four-year-old. She knows how things run around here, it’s not so far-fetched to think Grandma might buy that whopper on the cheap)
Me: Okay then, where did you get the marker?
K: That drawer. (Points towards the desk)
Trickery, skullduggery, chicanery, and worse, douchebaggery on the part of her most trusted allies. She sees it immediately; she is betrayed by her own mother and her own mouth.
Her little hands balled in her lap and her face squinched up like she’d swallowed a porcupine.
Me: Why did you draw on the wall?
K: I wanted to make people.
Me: You know we only draw on paper, K.
K: Yes… But I’m scared of the dark.
Not this time kid.
There’s a perfunctory knock at the door, and J came barging in, his twinkling eyes darting back and forth between K and me, trying to extract from our silence which sort of medieval torture would befall his little sister for her heinous crime to the bathroom wall. The rack? Would she be drawn and quartered? It was all good for him.
J: I’m going to bed, I just wanted a kiss and hug…
Liar. Dirty little Snoopy McSnooperson.
Me: I’ll be out to put you to bed momentarily. You can wait in your room.
He stands there.
Me: So… Go to your room.
J: Okay…. Jeez…
Once we were finally rid of peeping J, I told miserable, sniffling, K that she wouldn’t have been in trouble if she’d told the truth, but since she’d lied, Daddy and I would have to talk it over and she’d have a “consequence” (Consequences: ‘Cause you can’t just beat them anymore) in the morning. The best consequence, I find, is making them wait to find out what their consequence will be.
On to J. I had barely opened the door to his room when he asked:
J: Can I have some more lemon cake?
(This is the question he asked, but his eyes followed up with: because I’m a good child, the one who DIDN’T write on walls with BLUE marker.)
Me: No, it’s bedtime.
J: Well, can I watch TV for a little while before I go to sleep? (Because I didn’t make people in BLUE marker on the bathroom wall?)
Me: No, it’s past your bedtime.
I’m obviously and entirely unreasonable. J sat there before me with an airtight alibi for the time during which his sister perpetrated the crime of the century, and he can’t fleece that lamb for anything except the good feelings that come from watching his little sister get in trouble?
I left him there, contemplating where his plan might’ve gone wrong.
My bed was calling and I was answering. The last thing I remember is stopping outside of K’s door to hear the long exaggerated cry of a child who knows that a parent is within earshot.
Her sentence was one night without dessert. I was pushing for life without the possibility of parole for gross neglect of Mommy’s bedtime, but I was voted down.
When the Mother of the Year people come around again, my benevolence will be noted.