Whatever I said, the children did what they felt like doing. We all wanted what we wanted, but one of us wanted it more. What did I have to stop them with: beatings? Cookies? They’d laugh at me, throw toys in my face from when they were two. I lost control, got desperate.
“What can I give you that would make you be good?”
“It would have to be big.”
I didn’t have money for big.
So I’d lie on the floor and pretend I was dying. And here’s the thing: it would take a minute like this, choking sounds. The five of them would crowd around me like I was a playground fight. Then quietly the girls would go to the mountain of dishes in the sink that threatened to bury me, the boys would vacuum and dust before the dirt closed over my head. And when they were finished and I’d come to, there would be a moment when I was an expensive gift, something they’d been wanting.