The situation: my nine year old daughter and twelve year old son will not stop arguing. No topic is too meaningless, no issue too worthless for them; they can make mountains out of molehills faster than I can make a gin and tonic, which is why I had to come up with a plan, quick. Turns out, it’s also going to make me wealthy.
The idea hit me the other day when I overheard this little gem of a convo at the breakfast table:
Niner: Stop looking at me.
Twelver: I’m not looking at you.
Niner: Yes you were.
Twelver: No, I wasn’t.
Niner: Yes, you WERE.
Me (from across the room): Grow up, both of you.
Twelver: Mom, I was not looking at her. I was looking out the window behind her.
Niner (with gusto): No you weren’t; you were STARING at me!
Twelver (with even more gusto): Landry, if I was staring at…
Me: Both of you grow up!! If you want total privacy when you eat, take your cereal into the closet!!
I immediately realized my mistake. Twelver, otherwise known as Literal Boy because of his inability to detect sarcasm, started to get up. So did Niner, who will do anything, anytime, no matter how ridonkulous. I told them to use their mouths for eating and try not to activate their eyeballs.
“Does that sound reasonable!?” I asked in that tone of voice suggesting to them that mom is teetering on the edge of coming completely unraveled. They know this tone. It usually results in very nervous expressions on their faces. I sort of enjoy that, which makes me a little nervous, but continued anyway:
“If there was a way to make money on your arguing, I’d be FILTHY RICH! LISTENING TO YOU TWO MAKES ME WISH I’D NEV…” I stopped short of saying that terrible thing a parent should never, ever say to a child, wondering if my eyeballs were replaced by little spinning dollar signs like the ones in cartoons. I had a twinge of guilt, knowing what I had almost said aloud, but that feeling was immediately replaced with a highly rational thought: I would never ever wish they hadn’t been born, but does that mean I can’t help out some unsuspecting, perfectly happy young couple who enjoy weekends in Napa having hot, protected sex and then returning to their chic, comfortable and most importantly, empty apartment?
That’s when I began to hatch my plan. I would videotape their arguments, have them professionally produced into thirty-second public service announcements and sell them to Planned Parenthood for their next birth control campaign. I’d make millions! The first thing I’d do with the money is put a little into the kids’ college fund. No, make that a lot into their college fund. Then, because college is still several years away, I’d splurge on that ear-drumectomy surgery I’d been saving for. I saw the commercial one day right after an episode of Hannah Montana. There was no subliminal message; in fact, I had my back to the T.V. at the time. All I needed to hear was the booming announcer:
“Parents, do you fantasize about being deaf?” and I was listening! I hastily wrote down the toll-free number on the back label of one of the wine bottles laying next to me. BAM!!
Now, I encourage the arguing. I have hidden microphones all over the house. I look for ways to help them turn minor skirmishes into full-blown offensives.
“Jackson, did I see Landry just go into your room looking for a pencil?”
“What? Where? LANDRY….”
I even began modeling the kind of behavior I want to elicit from my children, just like all of the parenting books describe. I use my husband for this part of plan. To keep things authentic, lest my children figure it out, I didn’t tell him what was up.
“Stop looking at me,” I said to him the other night at the dinner table.
“But you’re beautiful, baby, I can’t help it,” he replied.
I glared at him. He frowned.
“What the hell is that look for??” he half-yelled. Now, we were getting somewhere.
“You know EXACTLY what!” I hissed.
“Well YOU married me so I guess that means YOU’RE CRAZY TOO!!”
“Let’s argue about it!!”