We're a couple weeks into the new Staggering regimen, and the results have been amazing. Illuminative. A refeshing respite from the nonstop noise of single parenting (or temporary independent co-parenting, or whatever I'm supposed to call it now). Subway rides home with both boyspawn are dependently rife with conversations like this:
TwoBert: Daddy! Today? In reading workshop? I was reading? And I spelled "fish"! Because S-H makes the SH sound like SHHHH!
Robert: And like "SHut up."
Robert: That's cool. It's like SHHH and Shut Up. It's like telling someone to shut up TWICE.
Me: Can you relax for a second? Your brother was talking.
TwoBert: YEAH I WAS TALKING ABOUT FISH!
Me: So what other words did you spell?
TwoBert: Well, um....
Robert: Dad, did you know that John Wilkes Booth was an actor?
TwoBert: [face purpling] DAAAAAAAD!
At which point I threaten to ban all video games1 from the household, and peace prevails. My children would have been good boys, if there had been someone to threaten to shoot their DS's every day of their lives.
1 [I went to a Nintendoggle in Seattle last weekend. Remind me to write about that.]
Now that I have 90 minutes alone with each boy each week, I can finally turn off Pardon The Interruption and settle in for a little Charlie Rose. And I can learn things. Like the time a couple of kids tried to jackmail2 Robert's Oreos.
2 Jackmail: To blackmail someone with intent to take possession of something forcibly. Is this a word? Not yet. But the way the OED is expanding3, look for it by Christmas.
3 Chillax? Seriously?
The conversation started simply enough. We were munching pizza, taking shelter from the Zombie Winter That Will Not Die, when he casually mentioned that two classmates told him that if he didn't give them his Oreos, they'd tell his teacher he'd kicked them and said the f-word. Perplexed, and unwilling to start trouble, he handed them over. At which point I managed to convert my "Oh No He Di-int!" reflex into a more-calm discussion about how we don't negotiate with terrorists.
I was torn about this, because as much as I wanted to nip this in the bud (preferably without knocking those kids' heads together like coconuts), I also wanted him to fight his own battle and let them know that this bullshit would not stand.
Then we hit upon the idea: When in doubt, prank 'em!
Of course! They want Oreos? They can have 'em! And when they bite into 'em, they won't be ready for that huge dollop of Tabasco sauce in the filling!
Tabascoreos! This was going to be good.
When we got home, we began the experimentation. And we learned things. We learned that the best Oreos to use for this are the mint ones, because the filling is soooo breathtakingly artificial that it peels away perfectly from the cookie. It's very easy to cut a clean, cylindrical hole, and it's a bit thicker, so it holds more contraband. And when you combine that mint flavor with other stuff, it tastes completely nasty.
We tried lots of Other Stuff besides Tabasco. We tried every condiment I could find. Pesto sauce. (Pestoreos!) Horseradish. Dijon mustard. Mayonnaise with a ton of garlic powder. Chinese rib sauce. We tried tuna. (We thought about getting wet cat food from Mom, who, I was surprised to learn, supported us wholly.) We put together about a dozen of the most unassuming Trojan Horeos you ever saw, and rubbed our palms giddily at the vision of these bullies grimacing in revulsion and sprinting for the water fountain.
Then I thought about it.
Fully formed grownups can't go around sneaking hot sauce into a kid's mouth. It's just wrong. (Besides, the Tabasco ate through the cookie and left us with a muddy doughnut-thing.) Plus, kids are now allergic to everything. Name a condiment, and you can find someone in your kid's class who goes into anaphylaxis if he comes within 100 feet of it.
You can dream it up, you can cackle like witch over a cauldon, you can play out the punchline in your head a thousand times, but you just can't do it. You can't you can't you can't. Crap. Adulthood is for suckers.
In the end, we did the sensible thing. I told him to call their bluff and go about his Oreo-eating business, secure with the truth on his side. And he did, and they did, and it all blew up in their faces, and they had to write letters of apology, and their parents were called, and they got theirs. And now everyone's friends again, because boys like to give each other the business, then hug it out and go play freeze tag.