2010.05.26 Home is where the lunatics are

Written by David Green.

Colleen Leddy is away at library conference where she was chosen to present a program. Below is column from 1996.


Did you hear the wild ruckus at my house a couple of Monday nights ago? It wasn’t a meeting of the Howling Society—the full moon was on the wane by a few days. But my normally sweet and even-tempered Rosie seemed to still be under the influence of that lunar object.

It’s well-documented, isn’t it, that people get wacky during the full moon? The word ‘lunacy’ comes from ‘lunar,’ doesn’t it? And loony is what 10-year-old Rosie was that Monday night.

The evening had started off well. It was a typical Monday night family scene. David at the office burning the 2 a.m. oil, the kids and I in the living room—me proofreading stories, them keeping me from doing it.

Rosie and Maddy were doing cartwheels and Ben was momentarily unoccupied so I offered him the chance to earn money—10 cents for every mistake he could find and for every good suggestion he could give to improve the stories.

It was close to bedtime when Ben requested payment for his efforts. I tallied up his earnings—one dollar, I announced. And then the moon tugged on Rosie’s cortex and off she went.

“How come Ben gets a dollar?” she demanded. “How come I never get any money? You never ask me to do anything. You never give me any work to do. All I get is my allowance for chores.”

I thought she was joking and began laughing. Truth be told, Rosie doesn’t like working. It’s a struggle to get her to do her chores. She balks when we need an extra pair of hands at the Observer. She complains when I ask her to do anything extra. “Why do you always ask me? Why can’t Ben do it?” she whines. And now she’s asking for work?

But then she dissolved into heavy sobs and tears and I knew this was no laughing matter.

I don’t remember what I said next. It was obviously the wrong thing because she launched into a new line of attack. “You always give Ben money. Ben mows the lawn and you give him money. Why can’t I mow the lawn?” she wanted to know.

I told her maybe next summer she would be ready to mow the lawn but that this year she was still too young. Ben had lots of money, I explained, because he’s old enough to work for it. He did extra jobs around the yard without being asked, he sold corn for Kiwanis, he mowed Adam’s yard...

Hopping mad and still in tears, she broke in with a new round of complaints. “I could sell corn. Grandpa always asks Ben to work. Everybody always asks Ben to work. Nobody ever asks me to do work. I never get any money. Adam never asks me to do anything. The only thing Adam ever asked me to do was pick apples and all I got was stung,” she sobbed at the memory of picking wind-fall apples in our neighbors yard when she was five or six and getting stung by a bee after picking only a few apples. And to top it off Ben wouldn’t pay her any of the money he made since she barely worked.

All the while during Rosie’s litany of complaints, seven-year-old Maddy chimed in at every turn, concurring with Rosie’s view that Ben was a privileged soul—capable of earning outrageous sums of money.

Maddy cried along with Rosie mostly out of sympathy, but partly because she was really tired. Rosie, however, was sobbing in earnest and nothing I said could convince her that age was the only advantage Ben had over her.

There I sat at wit’s end trying to figure out how to make things right again. I explained again and again that Ben was older and therefor capable of doing more. I told her that when she’s 13 people will be asking her to do work too. I offered suggestions of ways to earn money now most were met with “Ew, I don’t want to do that.”

An hour later when they were all in bed and Rosie was still crying, I searched my brain to explain this breakdown. It finally dawned on me that Rosie had returned from camp just three days before. Ever since she was little whenever she was gone for more than three hours she would come home and unload—she’d be thoroughly obnoxious and wild. As she got older her time threshold improved. Recently she’d been behaving a bit better after the occasional overnight at a friend’s house, but five nights at camp had taken its toll.

Realizing this I stopped making suggestions and offering advice. Instead I offered comfort, solace and sympathy. Soon she quieted and dropped off to sleep.

Now if I’d been thinking...I probably could have just offered her a few bucks to stop her tantrum—and saved myself the time-consuming job of parenting.

  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
  • Front.chat
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

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