I sat determinedly at the table, trying to chomp through the ample remnants of a family-sized pizza with both my sons looking on. The younger tried to contain a smirk at my effort even as he looked longingly at the slowly diminishing slices. I felt guilty, mean to downright tyrant in stages, but doggedly refused to offer them any. Ever since the two had stepped into teenage, we had entered a solemn pact. Saturday night was to be their 'order night'; they could together order a meal of their choice within a pre-determined budget.
As a casual after-thought, another clause was added to the agreement to maintain fairness. On days when both could not, for some reason, order together, the one deprived could use one half of that money the next day for himself. So far, so good!
For the initial few months all was hunky-dory. Then slowly the deprived party clause came to be used more and more often. The elder one had to go out for a friend's party, the younger one was away for a night spend, one of them had stuffed himself in the evening and hence could not eat to his heart`s content and, therefore, could not waste his chance etc. Months later, the deprived party clause started being misused (read dishonestly used).
As they grew older, their belligerent pubescent hormones would not allow them to settle on one cuisine amicably. The day the elder wanted to eat Italian was when the younger pined for Chinese. The day the younger wanted junk was the day the older could not think of eating anything other than Continental. As I did not encourage such a show of individuality, correctly identifying it for what it was, an ego tussle between brothers, the two adopted a different strategy.
Henceforth, when they could not unanimously decide (which was often), one of the two would, by turn, plead to be recused on the night of the order. This, they realized, had other benefits too. One could order more magnanimously, spending more than what was due as everyone knows the cost of two is cheaper than one. The next day the other could justifiably ask for the same inflated sum as his sibling had spent the previous night.
Tummy ache was the most favoured excuse till they realised they had to contend with khichdi instead. By the time I got wise to their game, their favourite excuse had changed simply to: "Today, I want to eat light." Suddenly, my sons began to have health conscious weekends but alternately! And the food quantities being ordered individually had come to encompass one full meal plus a good amount to be used as tiffin the next day. The pre-determined meal amount seemed a pittance now. My parenting skills were thus fully challenged.
It was then that I had a Eureka moment when I decided to become the beneficiary of the excess food. Therefore, the pizza. The boys exchanged glances; it had become the classic case of the monkey having the last laugh (and bite) from the fight for food between the two cats. Now, they have reverted to the original scheme of things. Discipline reigns, as of now. But it is a matter of time before they outwit me again. The monkey, you see, remains still in his cage, while the cats reign in luxury, plopped on sofas in homes as precious darlings. The superior species wins after all.