Monday, August 2, 2010

Tattle Free Zone

Last week at breakfast, my daughter began tattling to me about her brother who also happened to be sitting across from me.  Naturally, her brother reciprocated.  "She's putting on too much butter."  "He poured chocolate syrup in his milk." "She took an extra piece of toast.  You're only supposed to have two."  "He's telling on me." "She kicked her foot under the table." "He made a mean look." No one actually waited for me to respond.  I thought I'd nipped it in the bud with a classic Mom glare over my cheerios but no, as soon as breakfast was over it started up again.  

"Mommmmmm, I wanted to play the Wii and he took the remote."
"Mommmmmm, she wants to play the Wii and we're supposed to do our math before we have screen time."  
"Mommmmmm, he's trying to pretend he's the parent."
"Mommmmmm, tell her I'm right."

Now I hate tattling.  It's tiresome.  But it's a fine line parents have to tread because kids are your first best early warning system (see last week's post on skateboarding) of seriously dangerous epic experiments that might be happening outside of your knowledge. 

So I appreciate having a mole network amongst the kids to keep tabs on what everyone is doing.  However, I got tired of being used as the nuclear threat in the perpetual sibling cold war.You know the drill.  Not so innocent random sibling comes to the room and says with breathless excitement and no small dash of drama, "Mommmmmmmm!"  There's an important element of syntax here.  The word Mom has been transformed into a two sylable phrase with two stresses, not to be confused with MoM! MOM! or MaOMMM, all of which indicate something far more expensive and/or dire. Once they have caught my eye, the tattle begins. 

It doesn't matter what the tattle actually is about, the tone is always the same.  "There's a disobedient child. Sic em!"  and I'm supposed to pounce like a rabid dog while they sit back smugly and enjoy the show while quoting lines from Ricardo Montalban in Startrek II about revenge.

If the child tattling is older, the approach is a slight bit more smooth.   I am suddenly the Judge. "Your honor, this miscreant was caught red handed by me engaging in behavior deemed improper by me. What say you? Be sure it's a nasty long sentencing."  Mind you, if I have any words for the prosecutor about his or her conduct in the proceedings, that is soundly ignored.  

So I banned tattling for the day unless it was on yourself.   For at least the first six hours, the kids struggled as good lawyers will, to discern a way to get around the ban.  One of them finally opted for the everyone loses approach.  "We were all downstairs watching TV even though you said we should do our reading first."  "No tattlesnakes.  Are you tattling?"  "Yes, but on myself too."  "So I should take away the TV from everyone for the rest of the day?" I asked.  "Well no but..." Suddenly, the apocalyptic approach to winning the sibling war took on a new seriousness.  I thought I'd made a breakthrough until her brother came up and said, "Mommmm, she broke the rule about tattling by tattling on us."  

That evening I racked my brain.  I needed a solution that hit them where they lived.  I couldn't take another day of being Judge Mom.  Then it came to me;  if they want me as a court, we'll have court fees.   I posted a sign next to the coin jar in the kitchen.  Tattles: 25 cents each.  With luck, the fines will make the habit price out of range in a day or two.    In the meantime tattlesnakes, "Don't tread on me." 


The Ironic Catholic said...


Thou art tagged! (on my blog)

(You can do this on fb if you prefer)

MightyMom said...

what do you do when they tattle to YOU on Dad??

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!