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Heads I win, tails you lose …

By Tracy Curtis
Tracy Lee Curtis
Tracy Lee Curtis is a humorist, writer and speaker. She writes family humor for the Charlotte Observer. Her column appears each Sunday.

My fifth-grader grins. And motions for me to follow him to the den, where my second-grader stands angry, in front of the TV. They are arguing over which channel to watch.

“Okay,” he says to his little brother. “We’ll toss a coin. Heads I win, tails you lose.”

Ah yes. The ol’ “heads I win, tails you lose” trick. I’m amused. And impressed. His delivery of the line is flawless – no smirk, or hint of a trick. He excitedly tosses up the coin, then eagerly looks to see what it is. Then gives a sort of “ah, too bad” look, as he delivers the bad news:

“Heads, I win.”

My little guy explodes: “Not AGAIN!”

Uh-oh. This isn’t a new game. As a mother who hates to see her baby being taken advantage of, I think it’s mean. But as a woman who can’t get this 7-year-old to just go with the flow, I think it’s brilliant.

Instead of his pitching a fit and getting his way, we can settle matters with a fair coin toss. OK, not exactly fair. Except that he’s being given a chance to catch on to this thing every time the coin goes up.

But he’s not catching on. And he’s getting mad. Internally, his chain is being jerked and he can’t figure out how and it’s getting to him. He hasn’t gotten the first turn, the last cookie or his TV pick in a week. He’s wearing thin, and it’s time to come clean.

Sunday, before church. We’ll confess, go pray and get some brunch. Big brother agrees. Enough is enough, and we call him to the door. But he comes out, shoes in hand, announcing he’s not going to church.

“Well, why don’t we flip a coin?” I blurt out.

Oops. But come on, I don’t have time for his defiance. If we’re late, they’ll run out of coffee.

I elbow Mr. Vegas in the ribs – TOSS IT.

“Heads I win, tails you lose,” he sheepishly mumbles.

Don’t go soft on me, Vegas, they’ll run out of donuts too. He weakly tosses up the coin, and can barely look at it.

“Tails, you lose.”

My baby glares at the coin. Then back up at us. His eyeballs actually quiver in their sockets. He’s knows he can’t win, but he can’t figure out why. But then his face turns red. I think he’s put it together. We take a step back …

“Well, LET’S GO!” And he storms out the front door. And we make it to church on time. Which, can I just point out, is what should be happening, without us having to flick coins all around.

So do we tell him and continue to battle it out all summer? Or stay mum and keep getting our way until school starts?

It’s a toss-up.

tcurtis@charlotteobserver.com
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