Today Arlo had a friend come over after school, a nice kid that comes over a lot. First they all played outside because it was sunny, then they were inside, then outside again. And through it all: BICKERING. YELLING. CRYING. Someone’s feelings were hurt and then it was PAYBACK TIME and then the PAYBACK made the other kid’s feelings hurt and it was not at all manageable by them (sometimes it is!) so I had to keep stepping in. At first I was good.
“Sounds like you’re having some trouble,” I said calmly. I like to channel Clippy in these situations. How would CLIPPY phrase this, if god forbid he could talk. “Is there something I can help with?”
“HE SAID AND HE DID AND THEN AND HE AND THEN AND”
“Maybe it would help if you sat over there for a few minutes until you feel better.”
After continuous repetitions of this, there was a turning point. I went around the corner from good to slightly bad.
“You guys are too loud. TOO LOUD. Too loud. Stop it or you have to come inside.”
“BUT HE AND THEN HE AND I AND THEN HE”
“I don’t care. I already warned you. I can hear you from inside the house and that’s too loud.”
“DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?”
After a while, the friend went home and it was just me and my kids again and we came inside to find it was 5:22 — the time of day when I make dinner and they watch some TV or have computer time.
“Are you going to be using your computer?” Arlo asked very politely. Sometimes if I am cooking something complicated (at the moment I am sauteeing onions, so can use my computer at the same time) (and drink a beer), I let them have computer time on my laptop.
“Yes,”I said. “I am.”
He sighed. He huffed.
“Why do you ALWAYS use your computer,” he said.
“Because it’s mine,” I answered. I looked down at the sidewalk and saw that the berries and leaves they had picked and scattered, which I had asked them first not to do and then to clean up, were still scattered all over the sidewalk.
“But why can’t you use it other times?” he said, “Like when Eli is at school?”
Oh! You mean the 2.5 hours, three times a week that I spend either cleaning, shopping or occasionally running? Sometimes all THREE? F WORD YOU, KID.
I did not say that. I took a deep breath and had a 50s housewife moment.
“I make your food,” I said, “I wash your clothes. I BUY your clothes. I clean up after you, I harass you to clean up after yourself, I read you stories, I take you places, I entertain and discipline your friends, I explain things to you all day long, I buy groceries, I plan meals, I wash dishes, I take down garbage, I remember the crackers your friend likes and buy them if I know he is coming over, I give you treats, I let you watch TV even when you’re nasty to me and it’s MY COMPUTER SO I GET TO USE IT WHENEVER I WANT.”
I could have gone all the way back to pushing him out of my vaginal canal but I might save that one for a rainy day. There’s bound to be a rainy day.