On the walk home from the bus, I told J the disc for the Wii Fit Plus was missing. No sooner had I revealed this detail that J developed, in quick succession, an interest in visiting the management office, a desire to check the mailbox (I waved a travel brochure we’d received in front of him,) an urge to observe cloud formations and the construction site behind our row of townhouses, and a hurry to get home that can only be described as “I really have to GO!” or “There’s something I need to do at home NOW!” To slow him down, lest he get overheated, overexerted or clumsily try to hurry up the stairs and trip, I told him I didn’t care where the disc was, I just wanted it found.
With that, I let the matter go and J came home to his usual routine of updating his weekly board, putting away our jackets, hanging the keys (which he asks for signing and saying I WANT KEY OPEN DOOR PLEASE,) starting his snack, requesting his soda and informing me that he is going to change his clothes. The Great Gonzo, without being asked to intervene, came up and asked me if I’d found the disc because it was not among the ones he’d brought up from the basement. J must have overheard this exchange of information. I told TGG not to worry about it for now, and I went to change into my “at home” clothes, and to gather laundry. A while later, after J had had his snack and we’d taken laundry downstairs, TGG and I sat in J’s room looking through his stacks and binders of DVDs and CDs to no avail.
It wasn’t until my husband came home and asked “well, no sign of the disc?” that I figured the amnesty I’d offered had been either unnecessary or declined in name of something grander. TGG walked past me and said “are you sure it’s not in the machine?” I said: “it isn’t. It wasn’t there this morning. Regardless, J’s going for a brisk walk as soon as Dada changes.” And from the bottom of the stairs came a loud AHEM! and there was TGG, disc in hand, crouching in front of the Wii console.
Now, any loyal reader of Agatha Christie, Josephine Tey and Ellis Peters will tell you that this makes TGG a suspect, and I’d agree with you except that, once we got to the top floor and mentioned to J “you’re off the hook. We found the disc. It was in the machine all along!” a giggle (with something of a Vincent Price quality to it) followed the click of the door’s closing.
In putting together his snack box, I was more measured than usual. This is not, I would like to point out, punishment; J has been handsomely regaled with snacks, but the problem is that he has been wanting to snack in the middle of meals. I know the feeling. It’s called PMS or eating out of boredom or emotional eating. It is stopping now. Today he is getting, as he did yesterday, a reduced allotment of snacks and I expect his whole pork chop dinner to be consumed. And once the clock hits seven, no more food. Period. Don’t worry: the child is getting sufficient calories each day, and they are not empty calories (aside from the soda we’ve negotiated with him and that’s going to get watered down.) He gets plenty of food, but J wants to manipulate us into giving him what he wants…
That J has discovered the effect his haka has on the floorboards and glassware stored on shelves is adding to the melodrama. I can see the wheels in his brain turning: ooh, did you hear that? That’s the clinking of glass! That’s also the clanking of dishes. Are THOSE your good dishes? Is it me or does the TV look a little wobbly on that NEW piece of ANTIQUE furniture you just brought into the house????? Without even making eye contact, I repeat NO for whatever reason I’ve been using it and, with a sound that resembles Charlie Brown’s AAAARGH!, J stomps up the stairs. The respite doesn’t last long so I have to regroup, and my husband (who has come home to find himself enmeshed in the conflict of the ages) sighs and asks how long this has been going on; seventeen years, I tell him, well…almost 21 if you count the other kid. I smile and JINGLE…stomp stomp stomp stomp…COOKIE? The Greek chorus says NO. (Count to three slowly.) COOKIE? NO! (Deep breath.) COOKIE? NO! Stomp, stomp… J! Stomp back. I am NOT going to say YES just because you want me to; I will say YES when I want to say yes. Understood? J closes his eyes and clinks Slinky, puckering his lips and slowly turning towards his room. Understood? Hem and haw, shuffle, stomp, and BYE!
My husband asks if that is it. I hold up my hand, signaling that the next few seconds are pivotal to the resolution of this argument. From behind J’s closed door Seals and Croft sing “My Fair Share” from One on One. Steps from TGG’s room to J’s and the door opens: Dude, she’s totally NOT going to give you the damn cookie if you play the Robby Benson card. The music changes to something from Paul Simon’s Graceland and the door closes with a jingle. I put my hand down…THAT, I tell my husband, is it.
An hour or so later, without further ado, I walk up the stairs and hand J a bowl with the cookies. I say “would you like some cookies?” and he glares at me ever so briefly before deciding to accept my benevolence as a pleasant surprise. If he had one of those stock market tickers installed on his forehead I’m sure the word of choice would not have been THANK YOU. But he smiles, accepts the cookies and thanks me, and as I walk out and close the door, I am followed by Billy Joel’s “My Life“…with emphasis on the “leave me alone.”
I will keep this in mind when we’re doing our run with the Wii this evening… 🙂