Leveling Up

(scene opens in trashed pandemic parlor, sound of ice cream truck in the background)

Gamma: (shouting, waving a fist full of dollars) Ice cream man! Mom! Please!

Delta: (quick to join in) Mom! Ice cream man!

Me: (giving up the protracted battle) Fine. Go. Don’t run into the street.

(smalls race out of the house. Carrot sits at the table, head in hands. Five minutes of pure silence passes.)

Gamma: (burst through door) Mom! I have ice cream!

Delta: (runs to table) Gamma bought me ice cream!

Gamma: (proud and wistful) I have finally bought ice cream from the ice cream man.

Delta: (matter-of-factly) Gamma feels very grown up right now.

Me: (sighs) I can tell.

Regrets? I’ve had a few…

(scene opens in morning parlor)

Me: (comes downstairs to collective cheers of MOM!) Hey guys. Beta, come here.

(scene changes to kitchen)

Me: (opens fridge, hands Beta large styrofoam cup) I thought it was going to be a can or 1-liter, but it’s a root beer. I ordered cheese fries last night and got you a rootbeer ’cause the pizza places never have them. It might be flat. Sorry about that.

Beta: That’s okay, mom. I’ll –

Alpha: (suddenly appears) Did I hear someone say cheese fries?

Me: (hands Alpha a styrofoam box) Here’s the last of them. I couldn’t finish them all.

(Gamma and Delta run in, chanting “Cheese Fries!”)

Me: Christ! I’m not awake yet! (rubs face) Alpha, could you share a little of your fries? Like I’m sharing with you?

Alpha: (resigned) Sure.

(twenty minute montage of arguing over cheese fries and lamenting not enough cheese fries and wanting moar cheese fries)

Me: (head in hands over cooling coffee) For the love of… I should have thrown them out. Why do you make me regret the things I do for you guys?

Gamma: Because we like food.

Delta: Because I’m five.

Beta: (smugly slurping root beer) Wow, when did he get self-aware?

Me: He’s always been more self-aware than the rest of you. Maybe you guys could go somewhere and let me have my coffee in peace?

At What Cost

(Scene opens in mini-van, three of four children at top volume)

Husband: (pulls three dollars from his pocket) Okay! Hear this! I have a dollar for everyone who can keep their mouth shut until we get home!

Beta: Ok.

Husband: (drops one dollar) Beta’s out.

Beta: (outraged) …what! Wait! WAIT !THAT’S NOT FAIR I WAS JUST ACKNOWLEDGING I HEARD YOU! (proceeds to complain for the next twenty five miles)

Gamma: (hums to herself)

Delta: (stone silent)

Me: (laughs silently for the next thirty miles, pulling a rib muscle)

With a side of whimsy

(scene opens in chaotic kitchen)

Beta: Stop it!

Me: (struggling with traffic control) What?

Beta: Every time I turn my back he drinks my drink! (holds up empty mug and 2 liter of Hawaiian Punch)

Alpha: (washing dishes, evil laugh)

Me: Then take it to the dinning room and pour.

Gamma: I want to drink blood of my enemies too!

Beta: (snotty) It’s not blood it’s fruit punch.

Delta: What fruit punch?

Me: Its a bunch of fruit juice all mixed together (takes 2 liter) Although this isn’t really fruit anything. (gets glasses)

Gamma: Blood of my enemies!

Beta: (hotly) It’s not blood!

Me: Blood of my enemies, Beta. Get it right. (pours two more glasses)

Tactical Advantage

(scene opens up in cluttered dinning room)

Me: (head phones, trying to write)

Gamma: (head phones, preparing for online virtual classroom meeting)

Delta: (comes into kitchen from outside, runs through crying)

Beta: (Follows in, comes to parlor) Good job, Alpha. That was all your fault.

Alpha: (playing Destiny 2) Wut?

Me: (removes headphones, gets up, finds Delta hiding behind door crying) What’s going on?

Beta: We were playing bridge battle. He touches the grass and says, “This is water and I’m Jesus” and runs across it. Alpha taught him that. I told him I wasn’t playing with cheaters any more.

Alpha: (guilty smile)

Me: (laughs, picks up Delta and hugs him) Good job.

Evidence of learning

(scene opens in apocalyptic parlor, boys playing Minecraft)

Gamma: (stomping in dramatically) I finally found the charger in my room! It was hiding from me! It hates me!

Alpha: (resigned) That is statistically impossible for being an inanimate object.

Gamma: (hotly) It’s hyperbole, Alpha. I’m not stupid.

Gotta stop it early

(scene opens in messy kitchen)

Gamma: (excited) Beta! I’ve been watch Minecraft YouTube! I know more Minecraft now!

Beta: (sweeping the floor and shitty about it) Oh yeah, how many blocks does it take…

Me: WE WILL NOT HAVE GATEKEEPING IN MY HOUSE!

Beta: (pouts)

Me: Hey Beta, do you know Dr. Who?

Beta: (pauses, lies badly) No.

Me: (knows his game) Try again. Hey, Beta, do you know Dr. Who?

Beta: Yeah.

Me: Oh yeah? Name them all.

Beta: (guilty grins)

Me: Oh, I guess you don’t know dick about Dr. Who. (gives the “understand?” look) That’s what it sounds like. Don’t. Do. It

(looks at the camera, breaks the fourth wall)

Me: Parents, don’t let your kids Gatekeep. It’s a dick move.

Interpretations

(scene opens in cluttered basement)

Beta: (narrating Minecraft) And a door here and then move some blocks. I should put in some bookcases too.
Me: (ignoring him, ironing pattern pieces)
Beta: Mom! I’m building Gamma a panic room!
Me: (vaguely) That’s nice of you.
Beta: Where she’ll never find it.
Me: (pause) That kinda defeats the point of a panic room, maybe? In a panic and can’t find the panic room?
Beta: I’m going to hide in it the next time we play and scare her! See? Panic room!
Me: You might be a bad brother.
Beta: (evil laugh) I know.

Devil’s Details

(scene opens at breakfast table)

Me: (wearily drinking coffee)
Beta: (off screen, sounds of animal outrage)
Me: (sighs) Beta. Slither hither, please.
Beta: (stalks into the room, hunched in pouty outrage)
Me: What’s going….
Beta: (interrupts, begins a twenty minute rant of the evils of little sisters, exceptionally and unnecessarily detailed, beginning with unimportant side stories of happenings that started a week ago)
Me: And then she threw rock, you threw paper.
Beta: …wut?
Me: (sighs, puts down coffee) Hey Beta, did you have any homework you needed to finish?
Beta: (pauses uncertainly) I think so? Maybe? I don’t remember.
Me: (voice hardens) Don’t you think its a little odd that you can accurately detail every single supposed crime of Gamma – down to the expression on her face – and the immense torture you’ve been under the entire time, but you can’t remember if you did your homework last night?
Beta: (starts to crumble, sheepish grin) Uh…
Me: Get out. You’re not allowed to talk for the next 20 minutes.

So it begins

(scene opens in tossed parlor)

Gamma: Mom! I want to go play with Christopher! Or Malia!
Me: (exhausted) Okay. Be home by 3 and if no one is home, come back right away.
Gamma: (rockets out the door)
Delta: Metoometoometoometoo! (runs over with shoes)
Me: (sadly) No, honey. Gamma is going to play with her friends. You’re too young.
Delta: (infinite sadness) Too young?
Me: Yes, too young. You can’t go.
Delta: (infinite sadness + tears) Want Gamma! WANT GAMMA! WANT GAMMA! (runs to screen door and pounds on frame) NEED GAMMA! I NEED GAMMA!
Me: (hides face) How comes kids only love the siblings that won’t play with them?

I’ll show you weeping angels

(scene opens in empty parlor, deep cleaning in progress)

Me: (sweeping under couch) Gamma! Come here and get your books! (repeat several times, turns to look)
Gamma: (perfectly still, posed on a footstool)
Me: Gamma, come here please.
Gamma: (no response, immobile)
Me: Gamma! (grabs arm)
Gamma: (resists while keeping pose)
Beta: (with derision, from dining room) She says she can’t move while I’m looking at her. (stare intensifies)
Me: (incredulous and with murderous intent) Maybe you could stop looking at her.
Beta: (callously) Fine. (breaks eye contact)
Gamma: (bright and spritely, turns to mother) Did you want something mama?
Me: The tears of the innocent.

Double Dippin’

(scene opens in dim basement)

Me: (abstractedly, playing Zuma) Gamma? Would you like to join Boy Scouts?
Gamma: (over the top shocked face)
Me: You don’t have to, I just wondered if you’d be interested. They’re letting girls join.
Gamma: (in heavy sarcasm) I’m the only girl in this house, what do you think?
Me: (ignores inappropriate sarcasm levels) I don’t know, that’s why I’m asking.
Gamma: I’m the only girl in this house! I want a hundred sisters! I’m obviously going to stay in Girl Scouts!
Me: (sigh) Okay. I was just wondering.
Gamma: (heartbeat) Wait! If I join Boy Scouts I can have a hundred brothers and a hundred sisters! Sign me up!
Me: (wonders if she has that much time and organizational ability)