Monday, January 25, 2010

There's no such thing as free rent

When school was canceled recently*, I had two options for what to do with the kids:

A. Ignore them
B. Play with them

By a vote of 2 to 1, we went with option B**. The skies were darkly threatening, the rain was coming down in sheets, and an entire day stretched before us. Two faces looked at me expectantly. Had I been serious when I'd made the offer? Was this yet another cruel Mommy bait-and-switch where having fun somehow turned into no TV, homework and a shower? As I finished up the last of the morning chores, they were following me around in breathless anticipation. At last I turned to them, hands on hips, and spoke:

Me: Alright guys. We're going to play Monopoly. And we're going to play...
Them: (exploding with excitement and high fiving each other) YAY!!!!
Me: (holding up my finger for silence)...until someone wins.
Them: Whoa.
Me: That's right. We are going to attempt to do something that has never before been done in the history of our family. No time limits, no tantrums. We will go as long as it takes. We could still be here when Daddy comes home. In fact, I bet we'll be here for days. But we will finish this game.

Their eyes are like saucers and I see my daughter's lip trembling.

Me: And what I need to know, right here, right now, is -- are you with me?

They glance at each other. A quick, decisive nod passes between them.

Them: (solemnly) We're with you, Mom!
Me: OK then. Let's play.

Phase I: Getting Started

Her: Who's the banker?
Him: Mom's the banker.
Her: How come Mom is always the banker?
Me: Because it's fair that way. Hand over the money.

Phase II: Collecting Property

Him: Mom, you have like $6 left. Why are you mortgaging everything to buy Atlantic Avenue? I have the other yellow one anyway, so you can't get a monopoly.
Me: That's for me to know, and you to find out, Mr. Smarty Pants.
Him: You're crazy.
Me: Just roll.

Her: Hey! I'm collecting the railroads. Can you not buy that one?
Him: I kind of feel like buying this one. In fact, I think I love this railroad more than life itself.
Her: Mom!
Me: You can always trade him for it later, honey.
Her: I'll give you a thousand dollars not to buy that railroad.
Him: Sold!
Me: Sweetie, the railroad only costs $200. Plus, he doesn't even own the railroad, and you can't buy it until you land on it yourself.
Him: Mom! Shut up!
Her: A ha! Thanks, Mom. OK. I'll give you $800 not to buy that railroad.
Me: Sigh.

Her: (Screaming and running around in circles, waving the deed in her hand) I got Boardwalk! I got Boardwalk! I got Boardwalk! I RULE!!!
Him: We're doomed.

Phase III: Trading

Him: I've got Marvin Gardens up for grabs. Anyone except Mom interested? I thinking of someone who has Tennessee Avenue, perhaps?
Her: No. I want the Electric Company.
Him: I don't have that.
Her: Then we have nothing to talk about. Move on.

Her: Mom, I'll give you all my properties for the Electric Company.
Him: NO! She'll get like two monopolies and take all of our money! Don't do it! Stop!
Me: Honey, I can't take all your properties. How about if I just take the red one, the light blue one, and the orange one?
Him: Thank the Lord!
Her: But you can have the pink one that I got from him, because I don't like pink. Just take it.
Me: Thank you, honey. But I feel bad not paying you anything, so here's $100.
Him: I can't believe this.

Me: OK. I'll give you North Carolina for Marvin Gardens, plus free rent on the reds for two turns.
Him: Done!
Her: What? FREE RENT?!? There's no such thing as free rent! You can't do that!
Me: Yes, you can.
Her: I never heard of that. DAD!
My husband: I am so not playing this game.

[Seven and a half hours have elapsed since we started. It is very dark out. We break for dinner, sleep, and school the next day. The game resumes that afternoon.]

Her: (having not only accepted the concept of free rent, but fully embraced it) I'll give you $500 and free rent for the rest of your life on all my stuff if you give me that railroad.
Me: Honey, you can't win the game if you don't ever charge your brother rent. There's only two possible sources of income for you, and he's one of them! Plus, if he only has to pay me, he'll never run out of money. Don't you see?
Her: You'll still have to pay me, right?
Me: Yes.
Her: Then it's fine. Are we good here?
Him: Heck, yeah!

Phase IV: End Game

Me: I want to buy 12 more houses.
Them: Mom! Why are you doing this to us?
Me: Because I have to go pee.

Him: I landed on Boardwalk...but wait! It's free for me!
Her: (Gives him a high five)
Me: That is so unfair.
Him: Just get my 200 bucks ready. I'm about to pass Go.
Me: That's right. And land smack on my hotel on Baltic Avenue, which is most definitely not free for you.
Him: That fleabag? I'd rather go to jail.
Me: You should be so lucky.

Her: Six, seven, eight, nine...Community Chest!
Him: How does she do that!? I have every one on that side and she gets Community Chest again?
Her: I won a beauty contest, too. That'll be $10.
Me: When I landed there, it cost me a fortune.
My husband: (passing through) Serves you right, bloodsucker.

[We recess for basketball practice, sleep and breakfast the following morning. The dishes have been rinsed, and the game begins again.]

Her: Four, five, six...Chance.
Him: Sigh.
Her: Get this! I'm Chairman of the Board!

Me: Let's see. Illinois with three houses is $330. Thank you for stopping by!
Him: (Turning in despair to his sister) Now do you see why it wasn't a good idea to give her the red one just because it clashed with your green ones? It's killing me!
Her: I'm sorry! I didn't know!
Him: Well...just...never mind. Mom, you're evil.
Me: I'm not evil; I'm just a good property manager.

Phase V: Victory

Him: That's it, I'm done.
Her: But wait! You can't lose! Here...have all my money and stay in. You don't even have to pay me back! We can still beat her, but I can't do it alone! PLEASE!
Him: I'm too far in the hole, and Mom's like the landlord from hell. She's everywhere, and she's not afraid to charge us. Face it. We're toast. Let's just stop now and go to In N Out.
Her: (wailing) Noooooo!
Me: (patting her back as I put away my stacks of money) I'm sorry, honey, but the game's over. Just think how much fun we had, plus it took me three whole days to win. That's a record for sure. So, how about if I pay for the cheeseburgers, and everybody has a shake, too. OK?
Her: (sniffling) OK.

Her: (in the car on the way to lunch) Can we have a rematch when we get home?

* Because it was raining. LA is already an object of ridicule in the rest of the country, and now this? My sister's entire class of college students was rolling in the aisles in Michigan.
** There was a third option, "shoot them", but as convenient as that sounded while they were screaming at each other over piles of discarded clothes and leftover breakfast plates, I quickly dismissed it as impractical. Not only is there some kind of waiting period for a handgun, but I'd be kicked out of carpool. I have a really good carpool.

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