Saturday, July 26, 2008

Secret Ballot

Every time my husband or I sit down to eat we are converged upon. Instantly there are four little open mouths crowding in, each angling for position. They look like sad little starving baby birds, beaks wide, chirping:
Noah: That sure looks good!
Ruby: Whatcha eatin'?
Violet: Can I have some?
Hank: Bite!

It doesn't matter if they've just eaten a five course meal. It doesn't matter if they have full plates right in front of them with exactly the same food on it. What's on our plates is much more interesting and palatable. We are eating manna and they have been served pig slop.

Tonight my husband Matt decides that the children are going to eat out of the fridge and we are going to get fast food. Now I know what you're thinking but we're not total monsters. We'll wait until they've gone to bed.

Matt makes each kid their preferred dinner. Chicken nuggets, salad, leftover chili or raviolis, whatever they want. While they're eating Matt and I stand in the kitchen and talk in code about our dinner.

Matt: (whisper) I want a hamburger.
Me: (whisper) Where do you want to go.
-Kid walks into the kitchen.-
Matt: What about CJ's?
Me: There's BK.
Matt: Is that what you'd prefer?
Me: No, I like CJ's quality better.
Matt: That's fine. You go to the place and get the stuff. Get a piece of paper and I'll write down what I want.

By now the kids have caught on that something secret is going on. It is their job to find out what. Matt and I sit down, in full view of the kitchen table, and start jotting down our secret notes.

Ruby: Aren't you guys going to sit down and eat with us?
Noah: Yeah, aren't you? (Noah's the oldest and more experienced with his parents' evil ways. I suspect he already knows. He plays along any way. He's a good boy.)
Me: (pushing out my lower lip) No, we're too sad to eat.
Violet: Why?
Me: Well, we're running out of money and Dad and I are voting on who has to go to the orphanage.

Now now everyone, don't choke on your Cheetos. I've been threatening to drop my kids off at the orphanage doorstep for years. It's a standard (so far) un-enforced threat. They've all seen Annie and know the songs by heart. From time to time they have actually requested, usually from the timeout corner, to go live with Ms. Hannigan. My answer? "Sure, go ahead, hope you like cold mush!"

Me: You guys could make it easier on us. We need two volunteers. Who wants to go to the orphanage?
Noah, Ruby and Violet: (in unison) NO!
Hank: (parroting, half a second behind) NO!
Me: Well ok, Dad and I are writing down our votes right now. We're deciding who's going and who's staying.
Ruby: Can we see?
Me: No, it's a secret ballot. But I can tell you, the kids who are the quietest have the best chance of staying.


Me: Ok Dad. Let me see your top two votes.

He hands me the paper. I read it and nod in agreement. The kids are stifling giggles but also desperate to know who's "leaving".

Me: Hmm, exactly who I voted for too. So we've decided who's leaving for good. (Long pause for effect)
Violet: Who is it?

Vi's starting to look a little concerned. She maybe a little too new to this family to fully get the joke. I decide to pull the plug.

Me: It's ok honey. We're just pretending. You know that no one is going to the orphanage.
Matt: Ok, time for bed. Everybody go pee, brush your teeth and lay in your beds. I'll be up in a minute.
Noah, Ruby and Violet: (in unison) Awww!
Hank: (parroting, half a second behind) Awww!

Ruby's still desperate to know who was voted off the island. She knows that it was a game but she also knows her parents well enough to know that we actually wrote something down.

Matt: Never mind. Go to bed.

She sulks off never to know if her name was on that paper. I stick the secret ballot into my pocket and duck out the backdoor once everyone is out of earshot.

I'm in the drive-thru at Carl's Jr before I pull the secret ballot out of my pocket and re-read it:

Super Star w/cheese

Just below that, in smaller writing:
Top two votes for orphanage
1. Dad
2. Mom

Yep, exactly who I voted for too.


  1. It's amazing how life changes..... the first time I saw my newborn daughter I thought, she is my world, my life, my light. There is nothing I would ever deny her.

    ....aha how times change, I bit her hand over the last piece of sushi. I guess I found that one thing I would deny her.

  2. Aaahhh honey, you make me feel so proud. Just knowing all my positive parenting skills were instilled upon you and your sister makes my heart soar. All those years of hiding the Lucky Charms, Jr Mints and Diet Pepsi have finally paid off.

    It is every parents God given right and duty to "mess with the kids". Now that the children are growing up you must step up the game plan. The day you buy all of them clown dolls will be the day this old womans' soul will be at total peace.