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Every mother knows what a loaded question is. It is delivered by the manipulative child requesting some favour they know is out-of-bounds and, unless couched in certain loving ways, with a tone of reluctance and built-in remorse, hasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of being successful. This is a variation on the ‘playing one parent against the other’ routine. In houses of divorce, since the other parent is not around, the game  is altered to suit the circumstances of the household. I have been dealing with these loaded queries for years but have noticed that, with age and experience, comes sophistication.

These days, with Crazy D and L’il Sis in situ, such entreaties seem to pop up on a daily basis. They usually begin with: “Would you mind if I just…?” or “How would you feel about…?”

They know going in that I am not going to like whatever is about to be proposed but they also know that it’s two against one so I am likely to capitulate.

L’il Sis started the ball rolling before she moved in with me. “How would you feel about me turning the front room into my sewing room?” This would be the room that I had planned on turning into my office. I had gone so far as to purchase a lovely new desk for it, installed new California shades, and sold one piano to make space for my office accoutrements. (I say one piano since I had two. It matters not that nobody in the family plays piano. One was inherited from my parents and one was, let’s call it what it was, a trophy from the divorce. A bit of a sticky issue.) So did I mind that she was taking over my space? Yes, but she needs it more than I do. No matter that I won’t be able to put my framed degrees and recent newspaper publications on display. If I’m being brutally honest, the only ones who might see these triumphs are The Pig and Mrs. Beeton(the pink parakeet) and I suspect they would not be impressed. Mrs. Beeton might land on the frames and shit all over them, The Pig might be inspired to eat the frames, but that’s about all I could realistically expect from them in the way of praise. So perhaps no great loss.

“If you must,” I agreed wearing my best woe-begone expression. “I’ve always fancied myself something of a ‘starving artist working in a dark, cramped garret anyway.”

“Mom, you live in a well-lit four-bedroom house with your own bedroom suite and a community pool across the street! And last time I looked, you were starving ’cause you chose to eat ice cream and popcorn for dinner. And I might point out, it was PREMIUM ice cream at that. Spare me the crocodile tears. You know you like your current office set-up!”

“It’s true, I do. I’d probably feel lost in a REAL office. And since there’s no door, the dogs love to come and sit with me. They wouldn’t know how to react to an actual closed door. They’d probably take it personally.”

“Not The Pig…she’d bust it open.”

“True. She has boundary issues…” As I say this, I catch a glimpse, out of the corner of my eye, of The Pig wrestling a corn chip bag recently stolen from the cupboard. She has managed to remove the plastic clip meant to close it and keep the chips fresh and has eaten, it appears, much of the contents of the bag.

When Crazy D begins a request with the words: “Mom, would you mind if I just…” it usually means he’s about to put yet another piece of equipment or furniture in the family room to obscure even more of the television screen. Or ‘store’ another gear bag, set of skis, pair of boots, plastic bucket of crap somewhere I’ll trip over it. Again, he knows he’s won before we even begin negotiations. I’m too weak to argue at this point. I’ve always been an advocate of the ‘don’t sweat the small things’…not my fault the things are getting bigger and bigger.

Gill used a different approach when she lived here. She couldn’t be arsed (her phrase) obscuring things with niceties. She just barged forth with demands: no talking before the first cup of coffee, no interruptions when she was writing, dinner must be at 6, there must always be a pot of rice cooked and at her disposal. I resented her approach initially but came to appreciate its honesty. No wrapping shit in a fancy wrapper, no sweet talking to cover the F-bombs, no pretensions whatsoever. Just give her what she wants. So much simpler in the end.

Sometimes, however, with the current arrangement, I attempt to make them work for the prize. “Oh, I don’t see how that could possibly work,” I begin. “Unless…” and then I list MY exorbitant demands. It keeps life interesting.