In some venues, the telling of injustices done and atrocities committed is called reporting. Hearing a serious story being related by, say, Tom Brokaw, lends a certain gravitas and legitimacy to the account. After all, he’s never been accused of tattling on the insurgents. He’s just telling us what the stinkers have done now. However, when one of the boys comes to me with a hair-raising tale of brotherly mistreatment, that’s exactly what it is.
The other night I was outside grilling when two animated faces appeared in the window. Wondering why they weren’t washing dishes as instructed, I listened as a spate of babbling erupted. Finally, over the din I heard the older one say, “He’s only dried one dish this whole time!”
“Well, that’s because he dropped me on my…” began the younger one.
“Thaaaat’s enough,” declared dishwasher number one. In one smooth motion, he clamped his hand over brother’s mouth, slammed the window shut, and they disappeared, bringing the newscast to an abrupt end.
Once the chicken was done, I went inside, intending to get the details from dishwasher number two. Only discharging a firecracker in the middle of the kitchen floor could have elicited more response. Charges were loudly filed, followed by counter charges.
Seeing that little brother was getting his day in court and wanting to divert attention from his own misdemeanors, the crew chief backed up and took one more shot at obtaining an indictment for his sibling. “Well, he was eating Gabey’s fish crackers,” he said, desperation in his voice.
“So was he!” (This from the accused.)
“Oh, you’re quick to point fingers!” the accuser shouted back in typical dramatic fashion.
Detecting that this train was quickly going nowhere, I declared the court to be adjourned and sentenced them both to a lifetime of hard labor, starting with those dishes.
As I see it, part of my job is keeping the father of this tribe apprised of the activities of his offspring. Mothers don’t tattle. We report.
Personally, my husband has seen many different reporting styles in our 18 years of parenting. On a good day, he will receive a narrative about the love and harmony that prevailed. Other days, the account goes something like this, “Aacckk!” On days when the blood pressure is particularly high, he may get phone calls at the office to this effect, “Come quick – save your kids!” And I just cannot believe that he’s the only father who’s ever gotten word that his wife ditched the kids in the produce section and was last seen heading south for the border.
The boys have accused me in the past of dramatizing their misdeeds, making them sound worse than they really are. That is just ridiculous. For one thing, their deeds are plenty colorful in their own right, and secondly, I’m just not that creative. So what if my daily bulletins include some gesticulating, different voices, and a full accounting of all the emotional nuances that were present at the time? That’s just well-rounded reporting.
They have also declared me to be a trouble laugher. Now, that charge is harder for me to deny. For some reason, I get an irresistible urge to laugh when I see their father swing into action. If I’m the bailiff and court reporter, he’s the judge, the jury, and, on occasion, the executioner. He’s the Supreme Court Justice, the John Roberts of our legal system. The only authority that trumps his is the Almighty, and the boys know better than to tangle with Him.
You mothers will know what I mean when I say that there’s just something about a deep bass voice that inspires immediate obedience. Some days I can issue orders until I’m hoarse with no response. Along comes their father and with one pointed finger and a thundered, “Go!” the little buggers are marching in line like Boy Scouts. It’s frustrating.
I remember another mother telling me once that one day when her own three were giving her fits, she dialed up their father at work and, fulfilling her duty as an embedded reporter, filled him in on what their own small insurgents were doing. Just a short conversation by phone with the ringleaders (again, in that deep bass voice) restored law and order.
If my daily debriefings make me the Tom Brokaw of this duo, then I accept that mantle with dignity. From now on, my nightly newscasts for the Chief Justice’s benefit shall conclude in this manner, “That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. Until tomorrow, good night.”