Finally I connect the dots: The boy wants to go to the store: he can clean off the car! I respond, “Ok, if you clear the car I’ll give you $5.” “How about $6? Then I can get TWO Teck Decks.” This boy is going to be a millionnaire some day.
Later at the store there is the usual brotherly banter as I shepherd my two sons down the aisles of Target. “You moron! Stop whistling!” Whack! “Stop that!” “No YOU’re a moron!” I stop in my tracks, pull them both close to me and say “Look, if you’re going to make a scene, let’s make it a big one, ok? Now, you are both on thin ice. No more fighting and name calling or we walk right out of here. I am not obligated to spend my money on you guys when you misbehave.”
Before I go on, let me tell you that we are famous at Target. One day about five years ago I carried my younger son out under my arm kicking and flailing and yelling at me — and for the life of me I don’t remember what he had done but it really ticked me off and I had to get him out of there before the video tape ended up on the Today Show and I had the pleasure of watching it from my jail cell. My husband had a similar incident in Target with this very same child. I am just paranoid enough to imagine when we go in the door of Target some sensor goes off and the guys watching in security say “Hey — it’s THOSE KIDS again. Keep your eye on them. The phone number to social services is on the wall in case you need it!”
So my little talk about consequences had its usual effect. That is to say, none whatsoever. I think we got about one more yard before it started again. But we were at the toy section now so they split up to find what they came for. Grateful for a little relief I tried to help my younger son find his Teck Deck skate board toy. Little finger sized toy skate boards. I had no idea this has become such a big deal in the world of middle school boys. Apparently also middle school girls based on the pink designs painted on some models. Of course my son is looking for a very specific design, one with extra wheels and miniature screw drivers. The child is short for his age so he needs me to check the upper display for the coolest one. He wants it in the single pack, not the double pack. Of course they are all out. Only the more expensive double pack has his favorite design.
He has a dollar limit based on the chores he did. I know he’s going to push the limit and it doesn’t take long. “If I get this one and this one, it’s only another dollar.” Big puppy dog eyes plead with me to relent. Then he pulls out his trump card. “Daddy always lets us go over the limit.”
About now his brother comes into the aisle and bumps into him and starts telling him which ones to pick. He elbows him in the ribs and tells him to shut up. So I quickly move in for the ultimatum. “If you say ONE MORE THING to your brother that is inappropriate, you will lose the extra Teck Deck.”
We all reach an agreement about how much over the limit I’m willing to go. Within maybe 2 minutes as we’re exiting the toy section I hear “Because YOU make MY life miserable – WHACK.” I stop and give him the evil eye. “Ok,” I say, “There goes the second Teck Deck.” “NO!” “Yes, and if you insist on taking it to the checkout, good luck getting it paid for.” Grumbling all the way he finally says “I didn’t know you’d HEAR me!” The checkout lady smiles at me and we hand her the one extra toy to take back. She says, “Good for you. Most parents just give in.” We share a knowing glance, sisters in parenting.
Surprisingly, there is no further pouting or whining and everyone is happy to have what they got. I think it was a win-win for us today. Breaking even is pretty rare in my average day as a parent. Maybe I’ll get this figured out before they’re out of high school.