Monday, February 15, 2010

Chivalry is not dead. It's just resting.

I interrupted my son’s borderline obsessive keyboard piano playing to tell him how much I appreciated what he had done for his sister.

I had just heard the tale about a conundrum that my little family had found themselves in when they were out for a recent dinner at our favorite beach eatery. It was just the three of them, I was busy working out saving the world and curing diseases and writing a novel. My husband had picked up the kids after school, and they took the dumb dog for a romp at a leash-free park near the beach. Afterward, they decided to grab a bite. This particular place is great not just for the food, but also because it is very family and beast friendly. There is lots of outdoor seating at picnic tables and they provide the water bowls and the tolerance necessary to keep the dumb dogs and their humans happy. The food is not fussy and the beer is cold and microbrewed. What’s not to love?

The one thing that stinks about this place, literally and figuratively, is the bathroom situation.

You have to walk through the lovely, welcoming interior with its comfy couches and warm wooden barstools and baskets of games like rock’em sock’em robots and checkers, and continue past the kegs and the chalkboard and the kitchen door right out to the back alley. The back alley is gross and creepy and accessible from the street, and that is where you go when you have to pee.

So, my husband and my boy and my girl and my dumb dog were sitting outside at a picnic table, and my girl announced that she had to go to the bathroom. My girl fancies herself to be part camel, so by the time she says that she has to go, it is a true emergency.

My girl likes rainbows and puppies and smiley faces and swirly hearts. My girl does not like back alleys.

My husband was encumbered with the dumb dog, who outweighs our boy by a good 50 pounds and could easily tear the roots off of any attempt at tethering. My girl was desperate, and so her chivalrous 10 year old brother not only walked her to the back alley, but escorted her INTO the ladies room! I was quite touched to hear of this act of heroism by my boy – this boy on the cusp of adolescence with all of its corresponding rules of behavior.

So I tapped on his shoulder to get his attention when he was playing the keyboard with the headphones on, and I thanked him for being such a good brother to his little sister. He smiled and accepted my gratitude, gave me a hug, and said: “She’s going to give me ten bucks!”


Part of me found this hilarious, and of course it made perfect sense. He would never go into the ladies room, let alone go out of his way to provide assistance to another human, especially his little sister, unless the promised reward was magnificent. Ten bucks.

My husband and I both recoiled at this tacit agreement that had been negotiated, and said to each other that it was ridiculous. My girl should not have had to bribe her brother, he should have helped her just because she needed his help. It’s what families do. Ten bucks? She started to backpedal: “I wanted to make it like 2 or 3 bucks, but I didn’t think he’d do it!”

But she had made a deal, and when the family conversation started to get heated, he argued: “You swore to God!” And I could totally see her, intent in her conviction that it was well worth a crisp Andrew Jackson to get him where she wanted him – where she needed him – into the ladies room with her.

We were at a stalemate - my husband thought the deal should be nullified on principal, but I felt that my girl needed to be somewhat accountable for the promise she had made. It was a scene so chock-full of juicy character building possiblilities, we could have made a lifetime movie.

In the end, the kids worked out a compromise. My boy was rewarded with a box of thin mints, the cost of which was split between my husband and my girl. Later that night, I ate a few more than half the box of cookies.

Everyone wins.


Pat W said...

Great tale...what would be do without family drama?

right there with 'ya in PA said...

what I love is the innocence of the time he won't be so forthcoming and will have a little more money is his pocket :)

somehow the lessons learned are not always the same as the lessons taught. one day i'll share the story of making my son return $$ to kids who were overpaying for shirts that he was writing "vote for calvin" on during a school council election. I couldn't believe kids were buying them, school found out and said it was against the election rules, and an art teacher had to go into the school after hours to pull out some of the shirts that were going to be worn on a fieldtrip the next was crazy and comical all at the same time!
I'll tell him that there's money to be made as a bathroom escort :)

Mom C said...

Oh, I love this. And I know the bathroom of which you speak - I think I would have offered Jimmy 10 bucks accompany me.... love mom

Rita.the.bookworm said...

Yeah, we have a rule that the kids are not allowed to pay each other for any services unless pre-approved by us because of experiences like this (well, not exactly like this, no back-alley bathrooms have been involved).

I would have made the girl exempt from paying him because of the situation. However, I would have made good on the payment myself, because it was what was agreed upon. Given that situation, I think it's reasonable that she expect an escort to that creepy bathroom and if her dad was unable, then her brother should be compensated for being that escort. He's just barely old enough to be holding the "man card" (as it was called by our royalty), so you can't expect him to lose it so soon by escorting girls to pubic bathrooms for free, lol.

Me, You, or Ellie said...

Jacquie, this is so funny. 10 bucks? Really? Clearly your girl will be broke and your boy rich when they are adults. Although he does have the unfair age advantage over her at this point.

Good for her for getting what she wanted though, on credit :-)

And good for you for diving into that box of thin mints. As Ellie would say, it's a win, win, win. (I'm leaving the fourth "win" out, as your husband ended up paying $2 for no services and did not eat cookies).

Kathi D said...

Never would have happened in my family. I never had 10 bucks, and my brother Bob always had money, because he saved all his and mine ran through my fingers as soon as I had it.

Me, You, or Ellie said...

Oh Jacquie. I love this. I've been to that toidy with your girl and we have *clutched* eachother's hands on the way back there. Plus when you get there the toilet's gnarly! What gives?! They used to have a perfectly fine loo *in* the restaurant.

Your girl should remind your boy that she unpacks for him on vacation. And *packs* for him *for* vacation.

Yeah, you're right; he won't care.

I LOVE it.