I refuse to play favourites with my children. In fact, I’m always mindful what one receives the others do too – unless they’ve been shites and I’m going all Punisher on them.
As I lay in bed trying to ignore the sounds of birds chirping their good mornings, somewhere deep in my subconscious I could hear things being moved about. I wilfully ignored those sounds too with a determination born of years of practice.
I regretted this decision as soon as I stepped out of my bedroom.
“Wha…?” I started, then had to pause mid-sentence because my brain was using all it’s internal RAM taking in the scene in front of me. Finally, I continued, “…the actual hell? WHO DID THIS!?”
The ‘THIS’ was a mess Oscar The Gouch would have been proud to call home. There were books and papers and pens and toys and who-knows-what-else spread across the floor and dining table. Even searching the house for Miss5’s missing library book last week I hadn’t caused this much damaged to the bookcase. We’ve had kids’ parties and earth tremors and left windows open in cyclones and had less mess to clean up.
There was a stampede of little feet towards me.
“I said,” I yelled out to the house in general, “WHO. DID. THIS.”
This time I was rewarded with the sound of the toilet flushing.
“What’s wrong, Dad?” Miss12 asked me as she stepped out of the bathroom and into the kitchen.
“Nothing for you to worry about,” I told her. She’s far too sensible to do something so dangerous as to destroy my dining room. “But I think one of your little sisters might have a death wish. Look at this mess!”
“Oh, I did that,” said Miss12 in a nonchalant tone totally at odds with the seriousness of her situation.
“Well, you will undo it,” I told her menacingly.
“Why are you so angry?” she asked me.
I pointed at the mess. It took several jabs of my fingers to cover the lot, which gave my brain time to think of something parental and smarts to say.
“Why am I…!” I stammered, eyes wide with frustration. Then I worked myself up into a galloping rant. “You’re twelve years old now. Twelve. You’re in high school next year. I expect you to show the others how to behave: how to treat things. This is unacceptable. What a disaster area. You will clean this up. Immediately!”
“I am cleaning it up,” she assured me calmly. She even smiled her sweet little smile at me. “I’ve already started to put the books back in neatly.” My eyes shot over to the shelves and, sure enough, the books there were kind of neat and resembled some sort of order. “I woke up early,” she continued, “so I decided to clean up the bookshelf.”
That’s right, my twelve year old woke up early and decided to use the time to help her old man clean up the mess of papers and junk shoved amongst the books in our bookshelf.
And I had roused at her. Like, I think it’s fair to say, a jerk.
So while I refuse to play favourites with my children and it therefore wasn’t possible for me to slip a few sly dollars to Miss12 for tuck shop that day as a reward, I did quietly tell myself I was going to buy lunch for all the kids and then silently punish the other four for not helping clean up the book shelves, meaning I think my sense of fair play got away with it.
My conscience, on the other hand, has a serious case of the guilts.
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“Raising a family on little more than laughs.”