Monday, March 28, 2011

The favor you didn't ask for.

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Having a kindergartner in the house is like having a mob enforcer who wants to "help" you until your kneecaps are broken.

"I'm going to read you a story," she screams at her sisters. "Now SIT DOWN!"

I'd like to think her behavior is the result of her own machinations. She's queen Bee, after all---the oldest, smartest kid this side of our playroom. But the reality is that Momma has been encouraging her to be my third arm for sometime now.

"Bee, could you open the (child-locked) pantry and help your brother and sisters pick out cereal?"

"Bee, could you go see what Roo is crying about? Tell me if he's bleeding."

"Bee, could you hold the steering wheel a moment while I text a friend about a Target sale, take a sip of my latte, and program the Tom-Tom?"

I haven't asked her to babysit (yet), so back off. And remember, now that you're all accusey face, she wants to do most of the things she does. She enjoys, no, relishes her role as a capable person. Shower by herself? She'd love to. Help organize the troops into a playdate formation? It would be her pleasure.

But what happens when Mom hasn't asked her to help? When her brother has been put in timeout and I've already given him the stern finger of motherhood, as soon as my back is turned I hear her start to admonish the boy about the proper use of Whack-A-Mole mallets---whacking moles not our dogs. I need to intervene with an ages old "I'll be the mommy today."

She's been known to help out with sage advice to her sisters as well as, hmmm, the neighbors. I guess when you're used to calling a few shots you're not certain where the boundaries of your influence lie. In the case of a six-year-old those boundaries are less than 12 inches from your big toes. It's a small domain, watch that you keep inside it, kid.

I could go to great lengths to try and explain the finite domain of her power. I could tell her that she's like the queen's regent at times I am "indisposed" (which only sometimes means "tipsy"). I might pass her the scepter of power ("Go tackle your brother before he brings that pudding into the living room."), but only upon my word.

I could explain all of that. Yet, why micromanage when I'm fairly certain the would-be subjects---mostly her sisters---will teach her a few object lessons. They are already adept at sneaking into her room at night and stealing her American Girl doll. They hoard fruit snacks in their closet so they won't have to share them. They have already learned that with any authority figure, parental or sibling, they are best off asking forgiveness rather than permission.

I wonder what will happen when she learns to make them offers they cannot refuse?

She's genetically inclined to lead a family of thugs. Her mom's a Jersey girl of Italian-American descent. Rumor has it we are all mobbed up. I think that means we always leave the gun and take the cannolli.

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