I’m really not certain what triggered it this time.
It might have been The Self on a Shelf, 13.
A dedicated member of the Disney Channel Generation, our eighth grader, like most teens, really does believe It’s a Small World After All. And that happy, little world happens to be called “Me.”
Please. No interruptions. Me’s doing her nails.
Make her bed? Do the dishes?
Pardon you, but Me has TONS of homework from her horrible teachers. It will involve a lot of Skyping and texting, so please get out of the doorway. Your head is blocking the wireless.
Then again, it might have been the International Tribunal of Righteous Justice, 10.
When Madame Chief Justice, our fourth grader, is not busy crying, “Objection! That’s not fair!” she files lengthy appeals to parental rulings regarding whose turn it is to take the dog out to poop. Or debating the founders’ original intent behind vague phrases like, “Turn off the TV. Dinner’s ready.”
When presented with a glass half full, in-house counsel tastes said water, gags and points out that her older sister, at 5:30 p.m. at the same age of 10 years, eight months and three days wasn’t given a half glass of water to quench her thirst but a triple chocolate milkshake topped with whipped cream and rainbow jimmies hand-painted by real fairies.
She will not rest until the world is made fair for middle children everywhere.
Or it might have been The Shedder, 8.
Our youngest, in second grade, suffers a severe gravitational affliction. The Planet Earth envelopes the poor girl with five times the normal amount of drag, yanking stuff off her body and gluing it to the floor as she parades through life.
After school I follow her into the house. The 20 feet between the garage and the kitchen contains a trail of inedible breadcrumbs leading directly to her: a lunchbox, a backpack, two homework folders, a single sock, a shoe, a hair scrunchee, a math worksheet, a yogurt top, an unsharpened pencil, another shoe, her toothbrush, a wet bath towel and a hairbrush.
The Shedder traverses the solar system like a giant, leaking Goodwill truck.
If you point out the leakage or foolishly insist she pick it up, the Shedder becomes the Growler. After carefully studying The Self on a Shelf, The Growler smartly concluded that sassy retorts like “I’ve seen better moms down at the Russian orphanage,” – uttered in response to parental demands like “For the thirteenth time, please make your bed,” – just lead to iPod confiscations and other crimes against humanity. So the Growler stalks away, gurgling guttural outrage like a feverish polar bear.
AUGGHRG! BRXXIJIBBIT! WAMSHABAMZOOIE!
In hindsight, it probably wasn’t just one of the beasts. It was all three, working tag-team, that brought the White Board of Doom back to life.
It happens every couple of years. Stressed out mom and dad, just back from work – and then just back from hauling our children to a soccer game, to the math tutor, to orchestra practice and to horseback riding lessons – glance up from folding the laundry, putting away the groceries and vacuuming granola bar chunks out of the back of the minivan, to find our children lounging around the pool and screaming (a la Will Ferrell): “HEY, MA! THE MEATLOAF! BRING ME THE MEATLOAF!”
Our eyes are thrown open. We come to our senses. And we utter the three most terrifying words in the world.
Family. Meeting. Now.
What sweet trembling transpires!
Because coddled children need to be set straight. They need to learn their rightful place in the house.
I learned this lesson from my Irish Catholic father. Confronted by his horde of children demanding he purchase a dishwasher, he growled from behind his newspaper, “Whadda I need a dishwasher? I already got sixa them.”
It was time to reclaim our house from the beasts.
Time, once again, to impose a new world order.
At least for the next three months or so.
If you have young kids, this can be accomplished with a simple chart filled with little stickers.
Because little children really aren’t much smarter than [vulgarity] spaniels.
Heck, little children will even jump into little cages for a princess sticker. (Note to DCF: I don’t actually know this for a fact.)
But sticker charts stop motivating children when they turn 5 or 6. Despite still believing all the Disney characters at the park are real, kids suddenly make an extraordinary intellectual leap and realize the whole sticker thing is a big, stinking, parenting rip off.
And they demand cold, hard cash.
And so She Who Controls the Universe whipped out the dry erase marker and the White Board of Doom (WBD). The new chores were spelled out, a daily checklist was created, and a tiny sum of money attached to each duty.
And if you’re sassy?
You’re fined a dollar.
And if you accuse your parents of being unfair and lacking consistency?
You’re penalized a buck. Unless they’re in a particularly grumpy mood. Then you’ll lose two.
If you shed or growl like a polar bear?
A fifty cent fine.
Unless your parents find your two-day-old dirty underwear in the middle of the dining room immediately after 36 people depart your aunt’s baby shower hosted at your house. Then there will be an additional, random and completely unexpected three buck mortification charge.
And if you growl about that?
Fifty cents more.
And you know?
It actually works.
After just a week, we were living with little humans again.
And so, now we’re good.
At least until they realize they can erase the WBD.
By Chris Barrett, Publisher
For more of Barrett’s writing see http://www.cgbarrett.com<./p>