Saturday, April 26, 2014

Screwing With Their Fragile Minds

This blog is like a maze.  You probably arrived here from my essay about rollercoasters, because I didn't want to type an aside that was longer than the rest of the post. Or you found this because you were stalking me. Either way, hi.

This is about me being terribly mean as a way of being nice to my kids.

So, my kids and I have a "fun bucket" that collects spare change and small bills from gifts and odd jobs. We let it fill up and then we spend it, with two rules: 1) whatever we spend it on has to be fun; 2) the kids must choose the fun thing democratically. We began doing this when the kids' mother and I first separated, as a way to keep things light occasionally, during an otherwise emotionally-heavy time for all of us. Also, you may know that separation and divorce are super-duper, wildly, crazy-ass expensive. So this has been a good way to ensure that we have something designated for good times. Generally, we let the bucket fill up for 3-6 months, but sometimes we really let it go.

The kids had declared back in mid-2012 that they did not want the bucket emptied until there was enough money to go to Mt Olympus at Wisconsin Dells.  This is the sort of place I like to pretend I am better than, but, as I
discovered during the separation, fun can be fun too.  And this place is a friggin' orgy of all-American fun, so what the hell.

In early 2013 I began pricing out Mt. Olympus, and then paying attention to the fun bucket.  I identified the magic number, and when we hit it, I booked a stay for us in late June and didn't tell the kids.  Even though they knew it was coming eventually, I wanted it to be a surprise.  But how do you do that?  By being kind of a jerk, that's how. 

So, when the big weekend came, instead of telling the kids what we were really doing, I told them we'd have to do a bunch of driving to pick up a carload of root vegetables that we would harvest ourselves, and that we would be sleeping outside, in a tent that "didn't have too many holes," and that we would be eating lots of raw vegetables all weekend.  As a reward for their hard work and patience, I would make them some delicious vegetable soup (which, by the way, they would never in a million years request).  They seemed pretty upset about that, so I told them that for something fun, maybe on the way back home we could go on a really long hike (also something never requested).

I had explained to them that, unfortunately, it looked like we wouldn't be able to go to Wisconsin Dells until the very end of summer, if at all.  And I am pretty good at being the faux honest victim.  "I really wish we could do this, and I'll keep trying to, but I just want you to know it doesn't look like we'll be able to."  They were clearly disappointed but took it all in stride.

Once we got on the road, I told them that the place we were going was right by Madison (which is not too far from Wisconsin Dells).  I cannot tell you how much edge this gave me.  As we got farther and farther down I-90/94, signs for the Dells started popping up, and with each one, we'd have a little round of "wouldn't it be nice/that would be fun..."  It just added to their horrible longing. 

Now, my good friend Holly just perfectly happened to be going through a personal crisis and she started texting me like mad about 10 miles out of the Dells.  I told the kids I needed to pull off to respond to her.  And oh, lookie here, it just happens to be Wisconsin Dells.  "Sure kids, I'd be happy to drive by Noah's Ark and Mt. Olympus, so we can see what they look like again and remember why we want to go there at some much later point."

"And don't worry.  After I text her back, we only have about one hour of driving left."
The kids were great.  All they wanted to do was have a look at the things they weren't getting.  So I pulled right into the Mt. Olympus parking lot to give them a look, and then acted frazzled for about five minutes for effect.  I made sure to be parked in a high-traffic area where lots of other families were getting out of their cars and going into the park.

Then I asked them to be quiet so I could send Holly a talk-to-text.  This is key.  My kids think spelling errors and poor context are as funny as I do, and so talk-to-text is their bag.  If I tell them I am sending one, they get very quiet and hang on every word, in order to compare what I say against the phone's output.  So I said, very clearly and loudly, "Hi Holly, I'd love to talk to you but I can't right now because I just tricked the kids into thinking we were driving four hours to pick up vegetables but really we are staying in Wisconsin Dells at Mt. Olympus so I have to go do a bunch of fun stuff now."

And then I sat still in the front seat and listened as the silence gave way to waves of giddy cackles emanating from the back of the car, culminating in both of kids happy-spazzing, almost out of control.  I felt pretty dang smug, as you can tell.

So that's it.  This was an aside, in case you gave a damn about what else was involved in getting to Mt. Olympus.  For the rest of that story, go back

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