A Modest Success

This morning opened with some Sisterly Drama. Actually, the morning happened without me, because I slept in since there was no school. But by the time I roused myself, Cute W was getting ready for work in earnest and the girls were downstairs in the playroom. And the first time I saw them was when M stomped up the stairs, showing me a handful of her much-depleted personal supply of craft materials with a can-you-believe-her?-angry-face while J remained downstairs, sobbing.

Ugh. And I was still in the middle of my piece of peanut butter and jelly toast. I sighed. I decided to finish my toast first. M disappeared around the corner, J’s sobbing quieted. I chewed my toast and tried to read the paper. I couldn’t read the paper now. I knew what had happened. M wasn’t home yesterday while J and her friend helped themselves to her stuff. They were playing so happily that I didn’t quite notice. Okay, I sort of noticed, but it’s happened before, and often M’s none the wiser. Sometimes J will just go into M’s room to revel in M’s fabulous futon and pretend that she’s a sophisticated 10-year-old, and frankly, I just look the other way. So, I’d messed this one up. M was (rightfully) angry, and J was overcome with remorse. Before I’d drained my milk, J was at the table with me, looking miserable.

She and I went upstairs to discuss it. It’s not okay to use other people’s stuff without asking. . . yada, yada, yada.  It wasn’t even her idea, her friend started it, blah, blah, blah. Well, let’s think about some better choices you could have made, like asking M first or coming to me if you felt uncomfortable telling your friend no. . . etc. Or, instead of just letting M discover it, telling her right away, hey, sorry about what happened, and so on.

This was more painful than it should have been, because J was upset and she kept interrupting me and hiding herself under pillows and begging to please stop talking about it already. Meanwhile, M arrived and decided that she should sit in on the conversation. This was okay with me, because while she thought that her effort should be as co-lecturer (she pointed out that J’s “bystander” testimony reminded her of their bullying workshops, in which the bystander is Just As Guilty As The Bully, and proclaimed herself Victim), I turned it into a reminder that it’s important to recognize and accept a sincere apology. And then I said that I’d work harder on doing a better job of ensuring that everyone’s following the rules about respecting people’s things. It was also an excellent opportunity to tell them that whenever anyone’s uncomfortable with what a friend is doing, you can always say that you have to check in with your Mom and then blame Mom for being the lame, annoying one who spoils all the fun. That that is my job from now through college, anytime, if necessary.

So, we got through that. Actually, before we were quite finished, J was asking, couldn’t she please have breakfast? No, I’d said. Wait, let’s finish this. Then, when I was ready and asked J what she’d like for breakfast, she was angry and unresponsive. And M said, “Well, I’m hungry.” And after trying J a couple more times, I said, we’ll see you downstairs.

Downstairs with M, she asked for French toast, then for pancakes, and I suggested cereal. This is a thing. Cute W is the breakfast guy. He loves French toast–I think it’s gross. He makes pancakes or waffles and I’m less enthusiastic. Part of it is that I pack the lunches and cook most dinners and I just don’t want to labor over breakfast. So we were stalled out, at an impasse, when J arrived in the kitchen, still stormy and sulky. I coached her, fighter style, to punch my hands. She is a physical girl, always has been (since the biting days), so that helps, somehow. At some point I picked her up and held her upside down and shook her to try to dislodge her bad mood, and she finally, finally started laughing, and so did M.

“We were just talking about breakfast, and I have an idea!” I told her. “M really wants French toast and I don’t even know how to do it. It would be really nice of you to make her some French toast.” J is an avid chef, and she’s made French toast with Cute W. “And M, maybe we can be her sous-chefs,” I said. “Wait, what’s that?” M asked. “Like, her assistants,” I explained. “Okay!” M was all on board:  J’s guilt and sorrow had begun to wear on her. Plus, she loves French toast, and now she’d get some.

“Okay, first I need the Joy of Cooking book,” J began. I helped them for a minute or two, but they were better off without me. My walk out of the kitchen felt like a victory lap.

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