How am I not ruling the world?

(scene opens in a tossed parlor)

Me: For the last time today, sit down and do your reading for English.
Beta: (whining) But I did my reading!
Me: That was for your Merit Badge. Different book. English class. Now.
Beta: (more whining, gravity suddenly triples in effort to reach paperback)
Me: (refuses to be baited, sips coffee)
Beta: (studies book as if having never seen it before) What page was I on?
Me: (temporarily looses vision) What makes you think I would know that?
Beta: (guileless) You’re supposed to be keeping up with my homework so I know what I’m doing.
Me: Find. Your. Page. Read. The. Whole. Book. Tonight.

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Can’t Fool Me

(scene opens in cluttered parlor)

Beta: (warbling scales on baritone)
Me: (not looking up from embroidery frame) That second to last note is wrong.
Beta: (hotly) No its not.
Me: It is. Play it again.
Beta: (warbles, second to last note wrong) I didn’t hear anything wrong.
Me: What valve are you pushing? (looks up) Try pushing the middle one.
Beta: (plays scale through three times, none keeping the same octave all the way through)
Me: I’m waiting.
Beta: (wails) Mom! I’m playing it right! The teacher told me this is the fingering! Its just how my baritone plays!
Me: (sighs, gets up from couch, pulls up fingering chart for Bass Clef on laptop) Oh look. That’s the note you’re trying to play? (points to note) Looks like it’s middle valve.
Beta: (sullen, plays scale, all notes correct, stares at mother)
Me: Seriously. “This is just how my baritone plays?” You actually thought I’d fall for that? Remember this next time I’m not taking you seriously.
Beta: (goes back to playing scales with less warble)

To Try Men’s Souls

(scene opens in tossed dining room)

Me: So how was school? Any homework? (sips coffee)
Beta: Yeah, English. I have to find a word that describes me that rhymes with the sound of my name.
Me: (pause, confused) You have to find a descriptive word that rhymes with your name? Or one that starts with the same letter?
Beta: (instantly exasperated) Rhymes with my name!
Me: (pretty sure he’s wrong) There aren’t going to be any descriptive words that sound like your name, honey.
Beta: (falls apart, verge of tears) It has to rhyme with the “L” sound.
Me: (staying calm, grits out) Rhyme is the wrong word. Rhyme is “bat, cat, rat, prat”. Starting with the same letter is completely different. (Points to computer) Get on Thesaurus.com and look up a word.
Beta: (hysterical) But I don’t even know what word I’m looking for yet.
Me: (slams hands on table) Would you just trust my judgement for once and get on the computer!
Beta: (does so, stares at blanks screen for five minutes, quivering with tears)
Me: (sighs deeply, leans over to type)

(close up on screen shows word “argumentative”)

Me: There. (conversationally reads) Belligerent. Combative. Contrary. Litigious. Litigious is a good word. That starts with the letter “L”.
Beta: (bright and cheery) Yeah! It is a good word.
Me: (stares into the blackness that is her coffee)

Do you even music?

(scene opens in the dining room)

Me: Okay, Beta, welcome to Tiger Mom Summer school. Time to practice scales! Remember, when you see these two signatures these two notes (points them out, clearly marked as #) are always sharp.
Beta: (slumped in chair, cradling baritone horn) How do you play a sharp?
Me: (looking scale sheet) It has the fingerings right there.
Beta: I don’t think I’ve ever played a sharp.
Me: (deep breathing) You’ve been in band two years. How have you not played a sharp?
Beta: (turning red, tears starting) I don’t know!
Me: Clearly your band teacher has not been putting you through your paces and I have failed you as Nightmare Tiger Mom. We’ll begin with your first scale and it looks like I’m learning Bass Clef with you.
Beta: (begins to weep, plays soggy scale, waits for death)
Me: (finds center, remains calm) It might be an embouchure problem. You’ll have to do lip-ups. Every day you’ll need to lay face down and pick yourself up with only your lips.
Beta: (laughs through his tears)
Me: Okay. Good. Now, again.

Too Much Creativity

(scene opens in tossed parlor)

Gamma: (fresh from school) Mom! I have to make a machine for school tomorrow!
Me: Wha..? Why?
Gamma: I…(self aware pause) I didn’t finish it in class. Maybe draw it?
Me: Do you have to make or draw?
Gamma: (mental processing) …both? I need a machine that makes my life easier with snacks.
Me: (can’t even) With what? Snacks?
Gamma: Whatever we have in the house. Its a machine about snacks.

(scene cuts to cluttered dinning room)

Me: There. You have styrofoam cups, bendy straws, tape, scissors, and this aluminum tray you brought home from school. Have at.
Gamma: Whee!(proceeds to cut everything into confetti)
Me: Uh, what are you making?
Gamma: I’m just cutting.
Me: What about your snack machine?!?
Gamma: (surveys carnage) Oh. I forgot.

This again?

(scene opens in cluttered parlor)

Alpha: (sawing his way through Dona Nobis Pacem)
Me: No, you need to hold that note longer.
Alpha: (scowls, saws through it again)
Me: What’s the key signature?
Alpha: One sharp. That’s F#?
Me: Yes. Sounds like you’re playing all of them sharp.
Alpha: No I’m not! You don’t know how this song goes!
Me: Seriously. (Sings Dona Nobis Pacem perfect Catholic School acapella) Why do you think you’re ever going to win a music fight with me? I’m not even anywhere near the moderately competent musician my school ever released into the wild.
Alpha: (says nothing, goes back to sawing, only half the notes sharp)

Not a Rickroll

(scene opens at dinner table)

Beta: My music teacher told me that I needed to watch 4:33.
Me: (processing) What?
Beta: 4:33. Both he and the orchestra teacher were laughing about it. It’s a music video.
Me: Oh! Yes. (starts laughing) Of course we can watch it. (calls up the orchestral version of John Cage’s 4’33)

(minute goes by)

Gamma: When are they going to start playing?
Beta: For real. They’re just sitting there.

(second minute goes by)

Beta: I don’t get it. Why is this funny?
Gamma: They’re not playing.

(third minute goes by)

Gamma: This is boring! Where’s the music?!
Beta: (extreme suffering) I don’t get it! Tell me why this is so funny!
Me: (calls up the sheet music for 4’33)
Beta: (incredulous) Rests. The whole thing is rests. Why the hell would anyone write a piece of just rests!? And why wouldn’t anyone think that’s funny?
Me: (starts giggling)

Basic Math

(scene opens in afternoon dining room, argument in progress)

Me: (exasperated) You’re racking up a list of missing assignments! Where are they? Are you eating them?!
Alpha: (sullen, stomps out of the room, comes back with piles of papers) Here they are!
Me: (shocked) You had them this whole time? Why didn’t you turn them in?!
Alpha: (darkly) I couldn’t figure out these problems. (points to various problems on different pages)
Me: (trouble processing) So…you couldn’t figure out a single problem out of twelve and so you didn’t turn it in?
Alpha: (defensive) Yeah.
Me: (voice from the grave) So, instead of getting five 80% homework assignments turned in, you opted for five zeros.

(long pause)

Alpha: Yeah. I’m doing them all right now, aren’t I?
Me: (resigned) Honestly, I don’t care if you do them or not, but you’re turning in all these worksheets in tomorrow and you’ll be lucky to get 30% on them for being late. But better than zeros. Goddamnit, Alpha, some is better than none when talking about grades and money.

Taken on faith

(scene opens up in tossed dining room, everyone on laptops)

Beta: (sounds of frustration) That doesn’t make sense!
Me: (getting up from chair) What’s the problem?
Beta: I’m doing powers and it keeps telling me I’m wrong! Six to the power of zero! It isn’t six or zero, so what is it?!? Khan Academy is broken!
Me: (stares at screen, recalls distant memory, types, computer makes victory noise)
Beta: (outraged) A one?!? How is six to the zero power a one?!
Me: I don’t remember why it is, it just is. (sits back down)
Alpha: Math is stupid.
Me: Math is the Universal Language, but sometimes language doesn’t make sense.

Lingual Angst

(scene opens in cluttered dining room)

Me: (types word into Google translate for correct pronunciation) Okay Gamma, first spelling word: Calabaza.
Gamma: (scribbles it down, shows mother)
Me: ….Couv? Try again (hands back paper) Ca-la-ba-za.
Gamma: (tries again)
Me: …Trqb? (temper rising) No. Try. Again. Ca. La. Ba. Za.
Gamma: (hurriedly marks paper)
Me: CLBZ? Do you not hear vowels?! What’s a vowel?
Gamma: (nervous) Person, place, or thing?
Me: (flips table) Go to your room. I have to write a letter to your teacher.

Don’t Be That Guy

(scene opens in sewing room sweatshop, violin practice off screen)

Alpha: How was that? Am I all done?
Me: (puts down bodice) I think you could play a little bit longer, but it sounds good. I have to talk to you about something.
Alpha: (approaches hesitantly)
Me: Have you talked to Girlfriend recently?
Alpha: (wary brave face) Yeah. A couple of times.
Me: (tactfully lets it pass) We need to discuss the “Care and Feeding of the Girlfriend”. They’re not like houseplants where you talk to them once a month and everything is fine. Put your violin away then go upstairs and call her. You don’t have to plan anything, we’re probably busy this weekend, maybe you can meet at the park on Monday, but just tell her “Hey, thinking of you, wanted to see how things were going over your summer.”
Alpha: (tension ratchets down) You think so? Okay! (volin snaps into place, pounding upstairs offscreen)
Me: (licks finger, hash marks the air for a win)

Just eat it

(scene opens in cluttered dining room)

Me: Alpha, Merit Badge University is tomorrow, you have to finish reading the source material.
Alpha: But its Friday!
Me: Remember when I wanted you to do these all last week and you argued with me? Sit.
Alpha: (plaintively) Can I at least have a snack?
Me: (fetches cup of orange jello and spoon, puts it on the table)
Alpha: (begins to read)

(time passes)

Me: (wanders over to check progress, find the orange jello neatly turned out onto the table, like a jiggly ziggurat) Zombie Jebuz, Alpha, you poured jello out onto my table?! Now it’s going to get all sticky and gross! Put it back….
Alpha: (leans forward and inhales the entire construct in one quick slurp)
Me: (Stunned silence, followed by helpless laughter) That had to be the most disgusting and the most hilarious thing I’ve ever seen. Don’t do that again.
Alpha: (strains in mute eye watering humor, trying not to suffocate or spit jello all over the room)