"Mom, will you take me somewhere today to spend my babysitting money?" said Serena.
"Burning a hole in your pocket, is it?"
"Yeah. I have $20."
"Where do you want me to take you to spend these 20 dollars?"
"Wherever? You don't care where you go as long as you can buy something, huh? Why not save it?"
She rolled her eyes.
"Mmmk. I'll take you after dinner so I can leave the kids with daddy."
Taking The Others along on a mad spending spree in which Serena was the only participant would not bode well for my sad little wallet.
A good, hard "No." is not programmed into my make-up/vocabulary. Only the softy "no" that eventually turns into a pathetic "yes" at the slightest hint of trouble.
Taking all the children to watch Serena spend her hard earned cash would result in a great deal of whining and begging and it's not fairs. I would then pull out my (already thin) pocket book and make up the difference. In other words, Serena's earning $20 would cost me at least $65 (that's $20 per child and a fashion mag for me which is the worst kind of torture I can inflict upon myself, given I can afford nothing in said fashion mag.)
After that initial conversation today with my tween I noticed she was consistently antagonizing and shouting at her younger siblings.
It was mayhem. It is always mayhem.
I calmly offered empty threats as a solution to the fighting.
"Serena if I get ONE more complaint out of your siblings regarding your behavior I will not take you shopping tonight."
I repeated the phrase 6 times throughout the day. She ignored me on the grounds that she is 12 and I am old. I am old and forgetful and not in my right mind. (She didn't actually say these things. But I saw them in her young, sharp, sane blue eyes.)
Then daddy came home.
There was a scream from the 6 year old.
"SERENA'S BEING MEAN TO ME! WAHHHH HAAAA! SHE SAID BLAH BLAH BLAH BLEE BLOO BLAH!!!!!"
I felt brave with my man home. He would protect me from these wild animals. I called Serena to my presence.
"I am not taking you shopping. I have had enough."
I was Firm. Collected. Strong. Unyielding. An age old Oak in I'm Not A Waitress red nail polish and Summer Lovin' lip gloss.
I was the calm before the storm.
"WHAT! BUT MOM THAT'S NOT FAIR I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS SHE'S LYING YOU ALWAYS TAKE THEIR SIDE I'M SICK OF BEING BLAMED I CLEANED MY ROOM LIKE YOU ASKED AND I CLEANED THE KITCHEN THOSE KIDS WERE BULLYING ME..."
It went on and on for days. She cried and begged and said more words. So many words. All the words. I am powerless against them. Words. So loud. In my eyes. In my ears. Make it stop.
"so... what you're saying is that...ummm...you..." I was weakening.
My husband raised his eyebrows at me. He shook his head.
"If you give in she will never learn, Crystal. Don't give in," he said.
He was rooting me on. I could see. He wanted me to stand my ground.
By this time all the children had gathered round. Mom had thrown down the gauntlet. They were silent for the first time today. Bliss.
They all watched expectantly.
I could do this. I could conquer this mountain!
I WOULD! I WOULD CONQUER THIS MOUNTAIN! I WOULD STAND MY GROUND! SHE WOULD NOT GO SHOPPING WHEREVER TO SPEND $20! NOT TODAY! NOT ON MY WATCH!
I looked at her panicked, tear stained face.
"Serena, I can only take you if you apologi..."
There was a loud groan from the audience. Someone threw a rotten tomato.
Serena's face immediately broke out into the sunniest grin you've ever seen on a person.
"I'll go get my shoes." And she was off.
I sat there. Sheepish. Defeated. Lost.
My 10 year old somberly came over an gave me a tender hug.
"I love you, Mommy. Good job. For a minute there I thought you were serious. I thought you would really punish her. But you can't. You just can't," said Bella The Wise. "You tried hard this time."
Serena stimulated the local economy by purchasing $22 worth of make-up at Target.
"My mom said I'm her favorite," she informed the young tatooed cashier.
"I never said that. I have no favorites. Each of them are my favorite."
The boy with the tats blinked and shrugged.
"They THINK they are your favorite. But I KNOW it. I can feel it in my heart." The last part was said with a tint of protective sarcasm.
I suppose being a Softy Mama Bear has it's benefits.