"But I already help Dad out with the yard."
"We all do that. Look at my face. Is there anything about my expression that makes you think I'm going to change my mind on this? Let us remember the sad summer from two years ago when JJ refused to do his laundry. Think about the layer of dust on his Xbox controller and how he cried and pouted and stomped his feet."
"It was embarrassing for all of us."
"Yes, it was. Now, you can either be an example to your little brother, or you can provide me with a very humorous story to tell everyone who's ever met you, but at the end of the day, you will still be doing laundry. Which is it to be?"
"Maybe I should ask Dad what he thinks."
Kristine knew that Jaxsen would take Tommy's side—not out of malice, but because when it came to his kids, he was the softest touch around.
"You could and then you would still have to face me." She kept her tone cheerful. "Am I wrong?"
"No." Tommy sighed heavily. "I surrender to the inevitable."
"That's my boy. I'm proud of you. Now, collect your dirty clothes and meet me in the laundry room. You're going to learn how to work the washer and dryer. I have a schedule posted. You'll have certain days and times when you will have the privilege of using the washer and dryer. If you use them at other times, when they're scheduled for JJ or when I want them, you will not enjoy the consequences."
"Mom! Not my skateboard."
Kristine smiled. Both her mother and mother-in-law had taught her that the key to getting kids to do what you wanted was to find out what 'they' wanted and use that as leverage. For JJ it was his Xbox, for Tommy it was his skateboard and for Grant it was being outside. She tried to use her power for good, but she did absolutely use it.
"And on Saturday, you'll change your sheets and wash those," she said happily. "It's going to be great."
"It's not fair."
"I know. Isn't it fabulous?"
"What if I don't care about clean sheets?"
"I think you care about clean sheets about as much as I care about driving you into Marysville to that skate park you love."
Tommy's brown eyes widened in horror. "You wouldn't not take me, would you?"
"Of course not. Any young man of twelve years old who has washed his own sheets deserves to be driven to a skate park."
"Is that blackmail?" he asked.
"I think of it as persuasion."
"I don't want to grow up. It's too much work."
"Interesting. Someone should write a book about a boy who refuses to grow up. It sounds like a great story."
"It's Peter Pan."
"Is it? Shocking!" She pointed to the pile of laundry on the floor. "I will be giving laundry lessons in ten minutes. If you're not there, I will start without you. If I start without you, I will do so with your favorite skateboard in my possession."
"When I have kids I'm letting them do whatever they want."
Kristine pulled her son close and kissed the top of his head—something she wouldn't be able to do much longer. He'd grown at least two inches in the past year. JJ already towered over her and he was only fourteen. In a couple of years he would be taller than his dad. Even little Grant wasn't so little. When he fell asleep outside, studying the stars, she couldn't carry him to bed anymore. She had to call Jaxsen to hoist him up and get him inside.
"I'm sure you will," she said with a laugh.
"You don't believe me." Tommy shook his head. "You're wrong. I'm going to be the best parent ever."
"Uh-huh. I'm looking forward to that first panicked phone call." She lowered her voice. "Mom, the baby's crying and I don't know what to do."
"I would never make that call. I'll be at work."
"Oh, I think you'll be a stay-at-home dad," she teased.
He looked horrified at the idea.
This excerpt is from the paperback edition.
Monday we begin the book The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea.