Tuesday, July 24, 2012

On Contracts and the End of the World

It has been a banner summer so far, replete with a large-scale violent attack (see: Aurora, CO) that makes you question everything from gun control to racial profiling in the media, and a weather-related inconvenience (see: derecho) that gives you new-found appreciation for climate control.

Here in our little corner of the world, we have also experienced one broken arm, two heads of lice, and three sore throats (one necessitating antibiotics). Is it the end of the world? According to my son, it has to be. Witness:

(Scene: Morning in the Jacob household. Children are running amok, avoiding clothes and toothbrushes. Husband is looking for clean laundry. I am on computer but soon give up to pack lunches for children. Sam, age 6, enters my office with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in his hand.)

Sam: Mommy, can I take this to camp today?
Me: Why?
Sam: So I can read it. So I won't be bored.
(long beat)
Me: Sweetie, I think this one is a little tough for you to read on your own. Why don't you take something else to read?
Sam: (whining) Liiiiiike whaaaaaaat?
Me: I don't know. Ask your sister for a suggestion. I've got to go pack your lunch.

Sam: Sydney, what book can I take to camp to read?
Syd: I don't know. Look on your shelf.
Sam: I've read all of those a million times. Can I take Diary of a Wimpy Kid?
Syd: But it's mine.
Sam: I just want to borrow it. J--- is reading it.
Syd. Hmmm. Hold on a sec.

(Long beat, as I reenter the picture and overhear:)

Syd: Just sign here.
Sam: Okay.
Me: Wait, wait. What are you signing?
Syd. Just a contract. It's nothing.
Me: Wait a minute. Let me see that.
Marc: Sam, don't sign anything without reading the fine print.
Me: Don't sign anything from your sister without showing it to me first.
Syd: It's too late. He already signed.
Me: Give me that.
Syd: No!

(Scrappling for paper ensues. I win and read contract, replete with cost of book and ISBN. I immediately tear up contract.)

Syd and Sam: No!
Me: No way.
Syd: He signed!
Me: Now it's null and void.
Sam: I can't take the book?
Me: No. Because you promised that if you lost it, got it wet, or basically breathed on it, you would buy her a new one.
Syd: So?
Me: So?! You don't put a contract on your brother.
Sam: But now I don't have anything to read! You said I couldn't take The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and you told me to find another book. So I found Diary of a Wimpy Kid and now you won't let me take that either. And everyone in camp is bringing books to read, and I won't have one and I'm going to be bored! It's not fair!

(Commence tantrum that lasts 10 minutes, escalates, and involves counting and a timeout. He repeats some variation of the above lines, and ends with the following phrase, repeated over and over, as he is escorted, crying, to the car to go to camp:)

Sam: It's got to be the end of the world! It's got to be! It's got to be the end of the world!

(End. Finally.)

Don't get me wrong. I'm thrilled that he wants to read. I'm slightly perturbed that he is "bored" at camp and feels the need to find ways to amuse himself, but of all the ways he could do so, books are definitely at the top of my list.

But the end of the world? C'mon, kid. I'll see your tantrum and raise you a derecho. Just don't tell Pepco!

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