Sunday, December 25, 2011

Suckers, Each and Every One of Us.

Tonight, the dinner party had dwindled down to a smaller crowd.  There was Sky King's Dad, my parents, my brother, and a couple of our dearest friends.  The boys were off shooting their eyes out, and the girls were using Barbie dolls to reenact their own personal battles with each other while simultaneously trashing both our bedroom, and Princess' as well. Parents of the younger children had gone home, probably to put their kids to bed so they could drink heavily in peace.

We had all gathered at one table and we were chatting it up, covering all kinds of subjects: How Sky King and I met, stories from our childhoods-things we did as kids, you know, just chatter amongst friends. We had talked about things we had done recently as well, and a story from our recent trip to San Francisco to take the kiddos to see the decorations came up-some of them had not heard the full version-and it's a doozy:

:::traveling back to approximately December 19:::

We are sitting in a diner, enjoying a mediocre dinner (Sky King ordered breakfast-he knew better-diners just don't do dinner well, and when will I learn this?).  All of a sudden, Sky King says to Princess, "Hey Princess!  I bet you a hundred dollars you can't lick your elbow!".  This got my attention because 1) it was a totally random thing to say, and 2) where the hell is he going to get a $100?  I have a $100 bill in my wallet, but I have plans for it, which do not involve being handed over to a 7 year old on behalf of a man who knows better.  But then, he DID bet her she couldn't lick her elbow.  Which we all know is a physical impossibility. Check this out, but avoid the part where it says it's an urban legend.  We have all tried, we have all failed. So, I'm slightly confident.  However.  HOWEVER.  Princess is bendy. Like, crammed-into-a-crane-game bendy. For a moment (and the rest of the decade) I will ignore the implications of this information-because she is also very outgoing, hug-y and loves to snuggle.  This is me, being not thrilled with the prospect of her, dating.  But I said I would ignore that. So, moving on...Princess has just been told she can't do something.  But if she can, there's an endless supply of cash (because, holy shit, $100 is serious cash when you're 7!) in it for her.  So, she tries.  And she manages to quite easily lick the depression right next to the pointy part of her elbow.  But we all know that is NOT the official elbow. So she tries.  She twists, and turns, and Sky King gives me a look that says, "Wow! Are you seeing this?" and "Holy Shit!  She might do it, and I will have to pay up holyshitholyshitholyshit!" all at once. Princess is working hard, beads of sweat forming. But she's determined: a lifetime supply of gummy bears is at stake.

Finally, FINALLY, she does it.  She licks the very point of her elbow.  And right away, she gets an excited spark in her eye, and she exclaims, "I did it!! I really did it!  Didja see?" and Sky King is all, "Wow.  You really did.   :::pregnant pause:::  Okay, I'll give you $20".  Well, we all know $20 isn't shit.  She's 7, not 2.  You can't be all, "hey, I'll trade you that torn up piece of paper for this shiny snack-size baggy full of nickels" with this one. Remember, she's cute AND smart.  She responds, quite huffily, "No.  You SAID $100.  Pay up."

Well, what would you do?  Probably the same thing my dear SK did: turn to your wife, and say, "Well, I guess we gotta pay her.  You got $100?"

Here's a pic, right before she gets it:

By the way, she eventually did it, multiple times, both coming from the inside and from around the top. The girl is primo circus material.

And here she is, after:

Now, I don't have a pic of the next thing that happened.  It would break your heart. 

She was sitting there, and somehow the subject of peppers, and eating them, came up.  Monkey Boy picked one up off his dad's plate, and Princess said, "I bet you $100 you won't eat that pepper".  Sky King IMMEDIATELY says, "WAIT.  If he eats it, you WILL pay.  I'm not joking..."  Princess says, "Fine".  This is all MB needs to pop that pepper into his mouth, stem and all. I didn't even think he chewed the damn thing. Just, Gulp.  Did I say pepper?  That's what my kids call deli peppers, or pepperocini.  Not only is it incredibly mild for a pepper, but Monkey Boy thinks $100 is pretty freaking amazing as well-he sees ammo and airsoft assault rifles in his future.  Hell, I'm fairly certain he'd eat rat meat for $100.  In fact, I can't imagine too many things he WOULDN'T eat for $100.  After all, he is MY kid. 

He swallows and says, "Pay up" with his hand outstretched. Princess thinks she has him beat, because she pulls her hands from under the table, and has her fingers crossed on both hands.

Well now.

I don't know about you, but in my world, crossies don't count unless you call them.  And no one in their right mind lets crossies count, ever.  Even when Veruca Salt swears to not share her everlasting gobstopper with Mr. Slugworth, we all know that she is fibbing and naughty, and there will be hell to pay.  Crossies just don't count. It's a fucking rule, people.

Here's the dilemma: Sky King and I have 2 options.

2. Explain that Princess didn't quite understand the universal rules about crossies, we can have a do-over, and if she ever does that again, we will hold her responsible.

Bet you're glad you aren't me right about now, right?

Sky King softly says to me, amid the sobs, "She needs to learn this. She will never ever forget this as long as she lives." I can tell you, everything in me wants to give in to Princess-she ain't named Princess 'cause it's cute.  But, I have recently had to agree to work harder with Sky King to hold our kiddos accountable as I tend to be the more vocal parent, but also the one who gives in the most.  I admit it-I'm a bit indulgent here and there, and I let them get away with things that I recently found out drive Sky King to drink.  So, I do what I have to do: I stand beside him.

I quietly explained the concepts involved: Crossies never count, don't bet your brother, stop crying before people think I'm pinching you under the table.  You know, the good stuff. After 15 minutes of tears, I take Princess to the bathroom to settle down, while giving Sky King a look that says, "Thanks for ruining our night.  I will repay you soon.  A lot."

We return from the bathroom, as her sobs have diminished to silent tears. We leave, and I can see in Monkey Boy's eyes that he wants to make it all better (See? He doesn't hate her...). He leans in, and I hear him whisper that he's going to buy a small thing for her with some of his winnings.  She keeps her head down and arms crossed, defeated, but nods and leans into him. We go on with the rest of our night, devastation forgotten amid the lights and bustle of the city.

A few days later Monkey Boy came home from his shopping expedition. He showed off his new weapons, and went up to his sister, handed her $20, and says, "Hey, Princess.  Here you go. You can go buy something with this".  She is thrilled, and jumps in for a rare Monkey Boy hug-he's the hero, and she's cool with it all.  These are rare moments, and I will take them however I get them.  Sky King will still pay, though-that sweet hug just cost me $100.

:::back to the Now:::

Everyone at the Christmas dinner table remarked on how we shouldn't have bet in the first place, and Sky King must have had a drink or too to be so careless (he had) and how mad I must have been (I was) and how they hoped we learned something (we didn't). This led to a discussion about Sky King telling the kiddos crazy whacked out things that have cost us serious cash. 

Sky King protested, and I reminded him about The Candy.  He stopped talking for a moment, searching the recesses of his brain squinted his eyes just a bit, and I saw the flicker of recognition. This prompted the telling of another story:

About 2 years ago in the Fall, we ventured down to Old Sacramento. Old Sacramento is an area of Downtown that is devoted to the history of the area-the gold rush, the establishment of California, Western themes abound.
We wandered around, possibly went to the train museum, possibly just went down to walk around-and have dinner at Joe's Crab Shack-for a chain it's pretty decent, and the kids love it.  Like any good "Old" town, Old Sac has a couple old-time penny candy stores.  You know the ones-you go in and grab a small basket with a rolled wooden handle and wander among the barrels filled with penny candy: taffy of every flavor, sour balls, root beer barrels, bit o honeys, whatever.  And, they usually give out a sample to get you in the door.  We get suckered in, the kiddos screaming, "free dessert!", us relenting because we are weak from over-eating seafood. And, now that I think about it, Sky King may have had a couple cocktails-is this a theme?  I will ponder that one later.

We go in the shop, the kids chomping on their samples.  They start wandering, reading the signs, grabbing a piece here and there. They both look expectantly at us, and we are feeling fun, loose, indulgent.  Sky King says, "Okay.  You can each get some candy. BUT, only as much that fits IN ONE HAND". 
They both run off, excited with the prospect of seeing how much they can grab.

Right about now, you're thinking, "Hey.  That's a damn good idea.  I HATE those stores, and that would be a good compromise, 'cause those places charge by the pound, and have high rent being in a sucker zone tourist area. What could we be talking, 5 pieces for the smaller kids, 12 or so for the bigger ones?".  Don't go there just yet.

Our kiddos are smart. I know, most parents say that about their kids.  I'm not talking Straight-A-stellar-report-card smart, here.  They are more great-plan-to-create-airsoft-rifle-silencers-out-of-kitchen-items smart.  Or, toilet-paper-tube-paint-tape-wine-cork-robot-sculpture smart.  Inventive.  Mindful.  Devious.

At about this time, I have my little wicker bucket-5 or 6 bit o honeys, a few taffy flavors I had never had, I don't know what else. My mind can't quite recall unimportant details, because this is when I notice that Monkey Boy has created a sort of candy base structure that flares out, creating space for more candy. Almost an upside-down-pyramid-at-the-Louvre type structure. And, Princess has seen this. She is following suit.  I immediately alert Sky King, who tries to call foul.  His protests are met with retorts from the kids: "No, you SAID. Whatever can fit in ONE HAND. THIS is ONE HAND."  Sky King, defeated, says, "Hurry up.  you got 2 minutes.".  The kiddos, amped beyond belief, go crazy, and the owner of the shop gets wind of this massive potential windfall, trying to surreptitiously help.  All in all, we walked out of there with $39.47 in sugar. The bag of shame was free.

You see, when Sky King said, "All you can fit in one hand", he was implying "from the barrels" and certainly not from the walls where all the current candy sits-candy bars, Lik M Ades, bags of Swedish fish, giant lollipops, you name it.  And they both used these larger items to build sturdy bases. They even had a few things sticking out from their fingers.

We could have argued semantics, but they kinda had us. Or, had our wallets.  Thanks to Sky King.

What did we learn? Don't bet our kids.  Don't give them parameters without thinking through the consequences. Don't let Sky King have cocktails when we are out and about at dinner.

What did they learn? Hopefully, don't make stupid bets, too much sugar makes your stomach hurt, Mom and Dad keep their word, crossies never count, and pepperocinis are not that spicy.

What did they most likely learn, knowing my history of my own crazy antics, and our combined parental luck? Semantics can get you everywhere, take advantage of people when they are weak, Dad's a sucker, and you can justify almost anything.

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