This one is my story. Well, it's my daughter Emma's story.
Last week, Emma (13) agreed to sit for the "difficult" family on the block. The girl, 7, is very whiny and has the flounce of defiance practiced to snotty perfection; the boy, 4, is generally of a more cheerful disposition, but he's just as accustomed as his big sister to stone-walling his way into a position of power in the household.
Strangely, there aren't many teens in the neighbourhood who'll sit for them. Emma took them on because there's a particular blouse she wants to buy for herself. (Mum is done this season's shopping for her budding fashionista, whose wardrobe can NEVER be full enough!)
The evening had gone relatively smoothly until bedtime. Major balking began. Emma got Ms. Snark into pyjamas and up to bed by dint of taking the we're-all-in-this-together approach of "parents are soooo unreasonable, but they said this was bedtime, so what can you do?" When the master manipulator realized she'd been out-manipulated, she did a bit of stomping and noisy flouncing about her room, which Emma staunchly ignored.
While Ms. Snark was expressing her outrage in her room, Little Dude was already in his PJ's awaiting his story.
Emma entered his room. His empty room. Hello? He was there a moment before, she knew it. A little bewildered, she calls him. "Lil Dude? Where are you?"
"I'm here, and you can't make me come out." His voice comes from the closet, a couple of inches ajar.
"I was going to read you your story now."
"I'm staying in the closet. You can't make me come out."
Where another sitter might have made for the closet and hauled him out bodily, Emma merely shrugs. "If you like. You can listen to your story from the closet, then." She sits herself down on the end of the bed and reads a couple of stories to the empty air, complete with references to pictures the boy cannot see. She's cheerful and nonchalant. Big Sister's thumpings and flouncings gradually die out. Lil Dude's closet door stays put.
"All right, Lil Dude. I'm leaving. I'm going to turn out the light now, so it'll be very dark in that closet."
Click. The room is suddenly dim, lit only by the glow of the blue nightlight at the foot of his bed. It must be very dark in that closet. "Goodnight, Little Dude!" she chirps to the air. She pulls the door to his room shut, stands in the hall and waits. There's a scramble, a few footsteps, the creak of bedsprings. The boy is in bed. Ms. Snark seems to be asleep. All this without a single raised voice or threat. Emma heads downstairs to some well-earned snacks and TV time.
All this at just turned thirteen. She makes her mother proud, yes, she does.