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The Jolly Ranchers and The Mom-Who-Already-Knows

Oh man.  One for the book.

So today is half day at school.  Older Son and I walk down to the stop sign to meet the bus. Little neighbor boy randomly pipes up, “Youngest Daughter was stealing Jolly Ranchers from Mr. P.”   (This very helpful young fellow shows up again later in the story.)

Youngest Daughter, of course, vehemently denies it, Nasty-Attitude-Threatening-Face and all.  Hmmm……looks like the Mom-Who-Already-Knows better get on the horn and verify a few things.

Storm Clouds are Gathering

Everyone heads in to do their homework.  Younger Son and Youngest Daughter have run ahead as fast as they can, but are sweetly starting their homework at the table.  Everything seems eerily innocent and perfect.  Dinner in the crockpot smelling good, laundry caught up, kittens purring…Mom has a weird out-of-body June Cleaver moment.

That alone is cause for suspicion.

Common Core math makes Mom’s blood boil, so she pouts and complains instead of helping.  (Sorry kids, my bad.)

Between hard math and receiving notice that “When you’re done, we need to talk,” Youngest Daughter revives The Face.  Dark storm clouds gather.  Thunder can be heard in the distance.  Batten down the hatches, a meltdown is coming!

Before long, she’s embroiled in an epic tantrum, wailing and flailing and throwing her homework one direction and her pencil in another.  Chairs somehow appear on the other side of the kitchen.  Screaming how she can’t do her homework because she has no pencil, and that’s not fair, and Mom’s a Baster’ for not helping her.  (As a rule, I do not correct the mispronunciation of cuss words.  Gives me something to laugh about later.)

This goes on for atleast half an hour.  She’s red-faced and sweaty, with seriously messed up hair by the time she calms down and asks for help, somewhat nicely.  We get through the math.  It’s not so bad.  We go to the couch to talk.

The Ship is Sinking

Mom speaks very calmly and quietly.  Gives Youngest Daughter a chance to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  So help her God.  She speaks so softly only a Mom-Who-Already-Knows can hear it (did I mention Mom had already emailed the teacher by this point? He knew something was up, but felt sure the Queen Tattler (Middle Daughter) was only an innocent message deliverer.  We shall see how that plays out later.).

Youngest Daughter confesses that yes, she stole Jolly Ranchers from Mr. P’s desk, and yes she ate them.  About five a day, every day this week.  She knows the ship is sinking, so she tries frantically to take the other kids down with her.  She starts screaming and kicking and goes all red again.  “BUT THEY DID IT TOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!”

Now, a child with a history of lying and throwing people under the bus is not easily believed by the Mom-Who-Already-Knows.  But in this case, Mom has a gut feeling.  And all three Musketeers have a history of lying.  So Mom begins a round of private interrogations on the porch with each of the other two Musketeers.  Younger Son, in a rare moment of ashamed truth-telling, enters a plea.  He submits that he did not employ the five-finger-discount himself, but accepted stolen goods knowingly, and ate forbidden foods knowingly, and lied to the Mom-Who-Already-Knows.  Mom’s suspicious of the wholeness of this truth, but discusses the legal ramifications of these actions in adulthood, and how that same principal will be applied in this case as well.  Guilty is guilty.

The Middle Daughter, however, gives Mom a run for her money.  Big eyes, desperate denials, accusations.  Lying abounds.  The Mom-Who-Already-Knows….KNOWS.  Plus, this is a rerun of last year’s Crazy Lying Phase, which seems to happen whenever Middle Daughter’s routine and authority structure are upended…like the start of a new school year.  Mom understands, but has already seen it.  Mom’s over it. 

Eventually Middle Daughter confesses, but lamely tries to blame Mom for not teaching her how to not lie.  Eye rolling abounds (again, my bad.)

The Ring Leader

Turns out Middle Daughter had been the ring leader of all this lying and thievery.  She’s been stealing Jolly Ranchers from her own teacher for a week or more, eating several a day, and bringing the other kids in on it.  Making them pinky swear not to tell.  Although she vehemently denies promising Jolly Ranchers to the whole first grade, as rumors would have us believe.  That was NOT her!

Although she did beat feet to rat her little sister out to the entire population of teacher’s lounge, convincing a room full of teachers, none of whom have apparently ever known a child who lies.

Ironically, each Musketeer has to have this exact conversation:

Mom-Who-Already-Knows: “I already talked to the teacher, you know.”
Guilty Child, giving Mom the side-eye: “What did he say?”
Mom-Who-Already-Knows: “Nope.  You tell me the truth.”

So Mom rats them out to the teacher.  Little Sister is NOT gong to take the fall for everyone, even if she did call Mom a bad name.  Mom includes that nice little neighbor boy’s name in the email, because, shocker of all shockers, he was in on it too.  (What is it with siblings and friends throwing each other under the bus?)

And we all go swimming.  Because it’s the plan, and the other two kids have been good, and these three need to work off that Jolly Rancher Red 40 Mania.

Oh, There’s More.  There’s Always More.

Alas, that is not the end of the story.  Tonight is Soup Night.  And you know what that means for Youngest Daughter.  Starvation.  More wailing and flailing.  Storm clouds.  The Face.

She manages to gag down one bite of potato, fished out away from all the vegetables, and with the yucky broth wiped off.  Although it almost doesn’t qualify, on account of all the drama that accompanies it.  Then she completely disappears for quite some time.

Mom’s radar is up.  Mom goes looking.

Mom finds her high up in a tree.  Not completely unusual.  By herself?  That’s unusual.  Mom calls her into the house.  She reappears as a beautiful angel, sitting on the couch, sweetly and innocently fake-reading a book.  Good ol’ Winnie the Pooh.  Mom snuggles up next to her and asks what she was up to, way up in the tree like that.  She says, “Nothing.”

And her breath smells like candy.

So we trek out to the “hideout tree” and lo and behold there are wrappers everywhere.  All approved no-yuckies candy and gummies this time, but clearly stolen from Mom’s pantry.  Piles and piles of them.  Dropped from the tree, hidden under buckets, stuck in the weeds.  Mom surmises that the only reason she didn’t notice was because she buys giant packages of everything at Sam’s Club.  Takes a lot of thievery to make a noticeable dent in a sumo-sized box of mints.

So guess what’s in store for the Three Musketeers?  A boat-load of hard chores this weekend (to earn money to replace the Jolly Ranchers), plus whatever consequences the teacher/principal feel fit to impose, and a complete absence of anything sweet for the next 10 days.  I’d say there’s enough sugar in those thievin’ little bellies to last a while.  The PB will just have to do without the J.  And there will not be honor-system baskets of snacks in the pantry any more. (my bad)

How’d It Turn Out?

This absolutely true day-in-the-life was originally written two years ago, almost to the day.  Practically nothing has changed.  Sugar addictions.  Crazy Lying.  Calling the Mom-Who-Already-Knows bad names.  Thick as thieves, then throwing each other under the bus.

We now lock up all things valuable, as the Sticky Fingers problem has seeped into other areas.  Mom doesn’t buy gigantic boxes of treats at Sam’s Club.  It’s sad, and a hard life to live.  But it’s typical when you have a house full of kids whose very composition was altered by the early trauma they experienced.  Who panic when they are blindsided by the consequences they should’ve seen coming.  Whose actions and reactions make it sooo hard to get to the heart of the matter.

Are you a trauma mama too?

A Crazy Quilt Mama, just trying to piece together something beautiful out of the scraps and messes of life?  Join me on Facebook – we have a group dedicated to lifting each other up.  Because it’s the kind of thing nobody really understands unless they’re living it.  And because we need each other.

*Disclaimer:  By writing about our experiences like this, I do not intend to make light of my children’s difficulties.  We take their needs very seriously, and we pursue ongoing support from counselors, therapists, etc.  Sometimes my mind processes the events of the day through a storytelling lens, and the words just flow.  And sometimes we need to laugh a little at the absurdity of it all, in order to stay sane.

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