“Is now a good time to talk to you about something I’d like?” Miss9 asked me tonight in what I can only describe as a sweet, lilting, totally unrecognisable voice.
I was stunned. Usually this child plonks her demands into a conversation in much the same way Russia ingratiated itself into the Ukrainian way of life.
“Yes,” I said, waiting for the verbal bombs to drop.
“Because,” she said, after taking a deep breath, “I want fifty dollars to spend at Best & Less. You see, I need more clothes. There are these couple of items I have my eye on – shoes and hats and dresses – and they’re really beautiful and not very expensive.”
Writing this, the questions which spring to mind which didn’t are:
1. When did she go to Best & Less to see these items? I certainly haven’t taken her, and I haven’t heard Tracey mention going there recently. I can only assume she’s started reading the junk mail.
“Do you need more clothes?” I asked. “I do the washing so I know there are a lot of pink things in this house.”
If she wore glasses this would have been the moment she looked over them, skeptical I could be so naive. Still, even with the disadvantage of 20-20 vision she managed to pull off the right vibe.
“Dad,” she said, shaking her head. “Pink?” Queue eyeball and deep, deep sigh. “Anyway,” she went on, “a girl always needs new clothes, especially with the changing of seasons.”
The what now? To be fair to myself, I really only deal in three ‘seasons’ – summer and winter and nice. It’s always either nice, or too hot or too cold. Probably because of global warming, that can change daily, not seasonally.
But I wasn’t really thinking this because I was so thrown by this wonderful new approach she was using. That being not all in-your-face at me.
“Then I guess,” I said, not quite believing the words coming out of my mouth, “we better look at getting you some.”
“Thank you, Daddy,” she said, giving me a kiss and turning to walk off.
“Hold up,” I said. When we broke eye contact it was as though a spell had been broken. “The way you just asked me for stuff…,” I said, pausing to think of a way to put it, “…that was awesome. No yelling. No demanding. No screaming, no crying, no tantrums. That,” I said, “was really nice.”
“Thank you,” she smiled.
“Have you, by any chance, been taking lessons?” Because she’s never, ever, ever, ever, ever been so calm and courteous and logical. No is always so easy to say when a primary school aged kid is screaming blue murder and it’s all your fault. You really don’t want to make them happy when they’re making you miserable. You want to make them suffer too.
I meant my question as a compliment and a bit of a joke. I just wanted her to know how lovely it was so that maybe she’d do it all again one day. As I just showed, I’ll pay.
What I didn’t expect was what she said next.
“Yes, I have.”
“Been taking lessons,” she grinned. “I watched a Youtube video on how to get your parents to agree to things.”
Which was when I realised I’d been played. It felt like she’d spent the previous nine years lining me up for this sting.
As I saw it, there was nothing for it but to react in the same way any parent of seven loud, overbearing, demanding, banshee-like kids in my situation would.
“I want you to go back into that room,” I said, pointing to the family room where she’d watched this vid on my computer, “and I want you to make sure everyone watches it. All your sisters. Your brother. Everyone.”
I’ve embedded the video here for you to show your kids. I’m still seeing fifty bucks and a bargain.
“Raising a family on little more than laughs”
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