Last night, Mike and I stayed up to attend a late night dog round up where our kid was head dog rustler. Or maybe it was rodeo clown. I can’t always tell with these things, but whatever. Gainful employment for a twelve year-old boy isn’t always easy to come by.
Not long ago Colin would regularly set up a lemonade stand in front of our house and sit in the summer heat under our patio umbrella, waving at passing cars. I still have a collection of hand-lettered signs stowed behind our bedroom dresser.
The lemonade stand was one of those projects that ended up being momhandled on a regular basis. You know how that works: kid has an idea, mom offers suggestions, and pulls out a few supplies, realizes all the markers are dried out and the paper cups she thought they still had left over from last year’s patio party are gone. She drops everything to go to the craft store and then the grocery store. She stops by the dollar store to find a cute pitcher, and then the sporting goods store for a little camp table, and returns with a metric crap-ton of gear and visions of a budding entrepreneur, to find the kid has moved on to Legos and now has to be browbeaten into setting a chair out on the hot pavement with a shoe box with a few coins, a cooler full of ice cubes, and a pitcher of Crystal Light.
I’m thankful to have mostly moved on from my momhandling days, especially when the project ideas grew more complex. This spring, when Colin announced he and his friend would start a lawn mowing business, I bit my tongue. I didn’t remind him he was currently on strike from mowing our lawn after realizing how little I appreciate grass mohawks and how much a demolished sprinkler or two can eat into one’s profits. I didn’t ask whose mower they were going to schlep around, or what they might charge. I didn’t offer to post a notice on our neighborhood list-serve or come up with a flyer to take door to door.
I have to admit, listing all the things I haven’t done for him and his lawn mowing business is inspiring a little mom-guilt.
Give me two seconds to work through it.…
Since Jack’s setting his sights on employment elsewhere, Colin has taken up his brother’s position as neighborhood dog walker, which means he collects my mom’s retriever every morning after swim team and meanders around the block a couple of times. She’ll also hire him occasionally to vacuum or pull weeds – things I can’t pay him enough to do around here, but then again, I don’t have good snacks like she does.
On one such trip around the block, a neighbor recruited him to dog-sit for the weekend. She offered what I thought was too much money until I saw her two-page set of instructions for her very skittish dachshunds.
When I was Colin’s age, I babysat for a buck an hour. Even back in the day, and without any training or particular fondness for kids, a dollar seemed a pretty raw deal. But then again, “babysitting” only meant I was the one responsible for keeping people from getting kidnapped or burning the house down, and for calling the paramedics if someone came in from the yard missing a limb.
Whatever the babysitting standard is now, neither kid has any interest in it, and I’ve never pushed. I’d much rather help with a lemonade stand than wonder if my child is taking adequate care of someone else’s progeny or just rifling through their cupboards and watching cable.
The dog thing is doable. Especially for a twelve year-old. Or so I thought until I met the twin whirling dervish dachshund sisters Ava and Ellie. After Colin headed down the street to let them out for their evening constitutional, Mike and I waited for about twenty minutes before deciding to check to make sure he wouldn’t inadvertently leave a door unlocked, letting some troupe of midnight ne’er do wells pull up with a moving van and relieve them of their big screen.
What we found was a frustrated kid and two less-than-cooperative dogs. He’d played with them, let them out to pee a couple times, and was trying to cajole them into their crate for the night. They were having none of it.
One barked at us from behind the couch, while the other crept up to sniff and then dart away. I sent Mike and Colin outside, thinking the dogs might be types that were skittish around people with deeper voices, and forgetting that I’m normally prone to raising my own when people don’t immediately fall into line.
Alone with the dogs I offered treats, then lay on the floor, still, until the sniffy one came close enough for me to grab her. I put her in the crate.
The barky one stayed behind the couch. I couldn’t make myself small and soft spoken enough for her to investigate.
I changed tactics and got stern instead.
“Ellie, get out here now. Come. Now. Ellie.”
I pointed at the floor near my feet for emphasis.
She let out one bark. Nope.
This was going to take all night.
I took a pillow from the couch, not knowing whether I’d use it to flush her out and then chase her around the other way, or maybe smother her a little. Eventually one of us would tire and give up. I was pretty sure it was going to be me. And then Colin would have to forfeit his wages because the dachshund owner would return to find the dog had invited all her friends over for a doggie rave, and they trashed the house and emptied the liquor cabinet.
Dogs do love to party.
But then, Ava yipped from her crate and Ellie bolted fast enough from the room that when I rounded the corner to the kitchen I couldn’t see where she’d gone. I started turning off lights. Screw this. We’d take our chances with free-range dog. I needed to go to bed.
The last light was the laundry room, with the dog crate in a corner. That’s where I found Ellie, nose to nose with her sister through the thin metal bars, shaking and eager to go in when I opened the door.
I left the house and Colin locked up. We all walked home together.
“Thanks mom,” he said. “I’m glad you came by.”
Guess my momhandling day’s aren’t completely behind me after all.
Keep those votes coming. Don’t make me come over there and take care of this myself (thank you).