A couple of weeks ago I took all three kids, plus two friends, to the climbing gym. This in itself was not that unusual. We practically live at the climbing gym. What was unusual about this trip was that when we arrived Queen Bee and I realized that she was wearing a skirt. To climb. Can you say, “I see London, I see France…”?
Queenie was mortified. She immediately burst into tears and begged me to take her home to change. Um, no. I’m not loading five kids, or even just the three youngest kids, back in the van and fighting rush-hour traffic across town to our house and then coming back across town in even more traffic. No, no, no. Instead, I spoke to the instructors and asked if they had any pants or shorts that might possibly fit the Teeny Queenie in their lost and found. Two staff members disappeared into the back for a few minutes and triumphantly emerged with three pairs of drawstring-waist shorts in their hands.
Queen Bee and I went into the women’s changeroom to try on the shorts. They were all adult sizes, but a couple of pairs looked like they might stay up if she cinched the waist as tightly as possible. Queen Bee, already overwrought at having made the mistake of wearing a skirt to climbing, was not in a mood to wear a pair of baggy, extra-large shorts with a bunchy waistband. “They’re clown shorts!” she wailed, and threatened to stay hidden in the changeroom for the duration of the climbing class.
At this point, Tonka’s natural disobedience came to the rescue. Despite being told to stay OUT of the women’s changeroom, he couldn’t resist poking his head in to see what his sister was making such a fuss about. And when Queenie and I saw Tonka coming into the room, wearing a pair of black soccer shorts that would fit Queenie perfectly…the lightbulb went on. I held up a pair of the too-large shorts and started telling Tonka how cute he would look in these. “They’re baggy! You’ll look like a surfer dude! You should totally wear these and give YOUR shorts to Queenie!” Queenie stopped crying and looked up hopefully. This was a solution she could live with.
Tonka is no dummy. He instantly sized up the situation and realized he had his sister over a barrel. “Five dollah, paper money!” he informed her. Queenie started to wail afresh. Five dollars is her weekly allowance, as her brother knows very well. She was horrified at the thought of handing over her entire allowance to her brother in one go. At the same time, she didn’t want to wear those baggy lost-and-found shorts, either – and climbing class was starting without her. It was an impossible decision, and I wasn’t helping much. Having found the replacement shorts and then the replacement-replacement shorts, I didn’t want to also be part of the negotiations about how Queenie was going to get the clothes literally off her brother’s butt.
Queenie offered a one-dollar coin, a two-dollar coin, and various combinations of quarters and dimes to her brother. He stubbornly stuck to “Five dollah, paper money”, enjoying Queenie’s outraged reaction every time he said it. Finally I suggested that Queen Bee could pay him with a five-dollar bill but he could give her a dollar coin back. That seemed to satisfy everyone. They quickly exchanged shorts, Queenie wiped her tear-stained face with her shirt, and everyone went off to climb. At the end of class Queenie put her skirt on again, Tonka got his soccer shorts back, and the clown pants were returned to the lost-and-found at the gym.
My five-year-old made his older sister pay him $4.00 to wear a pair of baggy shorts for two hours. I don’t know exactly what that boy’s future holds. But somehow I feel certain that he’s going to do all right for himself.