Thursday, July 16, 2020

Buddy

Zoë came slumping down the stairs, rather suspiciously trying to hide some things from my view. So naturally I followed her.

"What's wrong?" I asked. "What do you have there?"

"Just my crown...and some scissors," she blubbered, letting the pink crochet crown and a pair of similarly pink scissors fall from her hands. I'd crocheted the crown for a little girl from long-ago, back when we lived with Grandma and Grandpa in Orem. Pink yarn for a pink-loving girl (was it for Rachel or Miriam?), buttons pulled from Grandma's button collection (my collection was in storage elsewhere).

"What...happened...?" I asked. "Did you cut it?"

"I didn't want to, but I had to, but I couldn't, so Benny did."

"I'm afraid I don't follow..."

"Benny made me!" she wailed.

"Ben-ja-miiiiin!" I hollered.


I've been hollering that name a lot lately, but, as has been happening a lot lately, there was no response, so I hustled up the stairs to find him.

"Benjamin," I said again, approaching his bedroom door.

He snapped his little pirate treasure chest shut and hid it behind his back.

"What?" he asked.

"What do you mean, what?" I asked. "What have you been up to?"

"Nothing."

"What did you just put in your treasure chest?"

"What treasure chest?"

"The one behind your back."

"Oh, this one."

"Yes, that one."

"Nothing."

"What nothing?"

"I didn't put anything in it."

"You're sure you didn't, oh, cut some shiny buttons off of Zoë's crown—the crown that I made years ago for your older sisters to use with their dress ups, the crown that Zoë wears on an almost daily basis—and pop them into your treasure chest (along with all the coins from my belly dancing scarves that I collected on my travels and which your younger siblings will now never get to enjoy because they no longer jingle...because you cut all the coins off of them)?"

"Oh...uhhhh..." he stammered.

"Hand them over," I said.

"Uhhhh..." he again stammered.

"Right now," I said.

"Uhhh..."

"Right. Now. Otherwise I will confiscate the entire treasure chest."

"That would be stealing."

"That would be confiscating. Stealing is taking your younger siblings piggy banks and emptying the money inside into your own piggy bank, as you did just the other day. Confiscating is when an authority figure takes contraband and puts it aside for safe-keeping until they can think of an appropriate punishment, as I did to you just the other day when we discovered that you'd stolen all your siblings' money."

"Fine."

"Thank you. Oh, look at that. Buttons. From Zoë's crown. What a surprise. And how did they come to be in your treasure chest."

"Zoë gave them to me."

"She...gave...them to you. And that is why she came down the stairs crying? She said you made her."

"I didn't make her. She wanted to do it. I just had to help her cut them off because she couldn't do it on her own. Like, she couldn't work the scissors. So I helped her cut them off. But she wanted to do it."

"I don't believe that for one minute."

"Well, it's the truth."

"It's a lie and you know it. What did you do to make her give you the buttons? She's very upset about it."

"Nothing! I didn't do anything. I told you. She wanted to give me the buttons."

"And I'm telling you that she didn't want to give you the buttons. For now, I am taking these buttons back so I can fix her crown. And I have a few questions for you to answer. What are you allowed to cut with scissors?"

"Paper."

"What paper?"

"Scrap paper. Or good paper, when I'm making a special project. Or cardboard boxes from the recycling. Or..."

"Good. You seem to understand that rule. Should you ever use scissors to cut clothes or toys or your sister's hair or...?"

"No. I can only cut paper and the other things I already told you that I'm allowed to cut."

"So even if Zoë wanted you to cut buttons off the crown, the crown is not made of paper, right? So this would have been something that you should have not cut (or should have at least asked permission about prior to cutting), right?"

"Right."

"Fine. Thank you. I expect you to come up with an apology to me and your sister. Then you can go play a good game. Whatever this was—and I still don't feel like I've been told what it was—it wasn't a good game."

He mumbled an apology and went downstairs to play LEGO (which is an infinitely better game than whatever was going on previously). Later I went to check the mail and found that a book I'd ordered had finally arrived. The kids have been interested in learning about medieval history, so I'd gotten a book for them on the subject—the DK Eyewitness book, Medieval Life. I knew the kids would be excited about it so I went downstairs to announce its arrival and was, of course, immediately flooded with requests to look at this and that and the other in the medieval village they're building down there. Everything was lovely, of course. So I told them that and then I said, "By the way, Benjamin, a book on medieval life arrived this afternoon. It's in the music room if you want to read it first."

Then I came upstairs and started tidying up a few things from our school days (which have felt rather overwhelming so far; it's been about three weeks and I keep waiting for them to get easier and they just...aren't yet...at least not with a certain individual (you might be able to guess which one just by reading this post (frustration levels are running high))). Benjamin wandered up the stairs with his head bowed and he crashed into me with a hug.

"I'm so sorry," he sniffled.

"About what?"

"About everything!"

"It's okay," I said, stroking his hair. I couldn't see his face, which was burrowing into my side, his arms still wrapped around me.

"It's not!" he said. "I lied to you!"

"I know," I said gently.

"I told Zoë that if she didn't give me the buttons from her crown that I wouldn't be her buddy tomorrow."

"That wasn't very nice."

"But it's true that she couldn't cut them off herself. I told her to do it but she couldn't so I told her to bring me the scissors and crown. And I cut them off."

"Thank you for telling me the truth."

"I don't deserve that book!"

"You can still read the book," I told him. "I just need you to start making wiser decisions."

That is a line I used several times today. Being someone's buddy is like currency at our house—currency that is now outlawed. Andrew made the pronouncement that "everybody is everybody's buddy." So that's the end of the story. There will be no more threatening to not be somebody's buddy or coaxing siblings to do something with the promise of being their buddy.

I don't know what Andrew will do about his "shopping buddy" system, but I suppose the coronavirus has just about taken care of that, hasn't it. Andrew hasn't had a "shopping buddy" in months.

Buddies, you see, used to be an easy way to convince the kids to do anything they didn't necessarily want to do (like go shopping with Daddy so that Mommy could have an hour or two without having Alexander clinging to her, for example). It's really only been a currency for a short amount of time; it was invented when Zoë didn't want anything to do with Andrew and continued on with Alexander, who also didn't want anything to do with Andrew.

(Those last two babies were a huge hit to his daddy self-esteem, I'm telling you!)

The other kids were fine with him. I mean, they liked me more (obviously—I had the milk) but they liked Andrew well enough. Zoë and Alexander didn't want anything to do with anybody besides me. Their babyhoods were...very taxing. So Andrew invented "shopping buddies." One-year-old Zoë/Alexander might not choose to go anywhere with regular ol' Daddy, but going as Daddy's shopping buddy?! That was enticing.

It expanded from shopping to watching movies or reading scriptures or whatever. Andrew would say, "Come be my movie buddy!" or "Come be my scripture buddy!" and I'd get to not be covered with children for a minute. It was a wonderful little "trick" but then the children started using it as leverage (ie. "If you don't give me your cookie then I won't be your buddy!") and things got ugly.

So no more buddies over here, I guess.

Hopefully the whole buddy-as-leverage thing will die out before we ever go swimming or hiking (another time we assign "buddies" in our family) and we can start using that word again.

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