Monday, December 08, 2008


Last year instead of getting the cheap, $2.99 advent calendar from Trader Joe's I got a substantial advent calendar from Crate and Barrel that is a sturdy cardboard concoction in the shape of a Christmas tree. The tree is formed of a stack of tiny drawers and each drawer represents a day. When you open the drawer you find your treat. It's so cute I saved it and this year I stuffed each drawer with a piece of Halloween candy or a note with something on it like "You get to ride in the front seat for two days" or "You get to choose dinner" which I hoped were things of value to my children and of course congratulated myself on the incredibly clever, cheap, green use of things we already had in the house.

Yesterday, Lilly (10) pointed out that there was nothing in the drawer for day 7. Hmm, that's funny, I was pretty sure I had systematically filled each drawer but sure enough it was empty. I threw a quarter in there and forgot about it.

This morning however, the mystery was solved. Several of the drawers were open and there were candy wrappers all around the advent tree.

"Atticus! Did you eat all the candy from the advent calendar?" Lilly roared.

He shrugged as only a 15-year-old boy can and said shamelessly, "Yeah."

"Dude," Jeff said, "You got a problem. That's like something you do just before they send you to rehab."

Atticus tried a diversionary offensive tactic, "Hey, those things are like $4.00, you couldn't have bought a new one this year?"

"What the hell does that have to do with it?" I asked. "I'm reusing it because I can not because I'm cheap. And, hey, eating the candy from the advent calendar sounds familiar. Oh yeah, that's what Billy Bob Thorton did in 'Bad Santa'. Nice, you're Bad Santa."

"Whatever, I just didn't want to eat frozen candy. I meant to replace it with the other candy from the freezer. "

"But you didn't," Jeff pointed out.

By now Lilly had gone to the freezer and found the frozen Halloween candy and refilled the tiny drawers. As she did this she spoke in her parent-voice to her brother, "Now Atticus, you are forbidden from taking anything from the Advent calendar. You have to learn there are consequences for your bad behavior."

"Yes I see the consequences--my little sister will lecture me and my parents will make fun of me. I can live with that."

And that, my friends, is the problem.

Clearly Atticus needs better parents. Just the other day I asked Lilly to help me put away a complicated building toy he'd left out for weeks. "Didn't you ask Atticus to do that?" she asked skeptically as she started to help me dis-assemble the tiny pieces.

"Yes, but he'll take forever to get to it," I said realizing how lame that sounded as soon as I said it.

"You would not train a dog that way," she said calmly.

"You're right," I admitted and we left the project there and he did indeed eventually put it away.

There's a lesson in all of this. Something about parenting and dog-training but I'm not really sure what it is.

I'm hoping that Lilly will explain it to me later when she tells me how to punish a puppy who eats all the candy in the advent calendar.

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