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Tidy Up

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“Give it back, Henry!”

“But it was in the way!”

“No it wasn’t!”

Helen sighed, putting down her report. The summer holiday started yesterday, and already Henry and Ashley were arguing like cats and dogs. Whatever Henry had, Ashley wanted, and whatever Ashley wanted, Henry took first. Helen suddenly found a new appreciation for teachers.

“Mom! Henry keeps taking Betty!” Ashley tattled, running into the office.

“No I didn’t, she left Betty in the kitchen and I was taking her back to Ashley’s room!” Henry explained, following in her wake.

“My room isn’t down in the lab!”

“I’ve heard enough!” Helen yelled. “This ends now, or we’re all in for a very long summer. Henry, hand over Betty.” Henry sulkily gave her the toy gun Ashley adored. “Ashley, what have I told you about leaving your things out?”

“I lose things by leaving them in silly places,” she said, eyes down, voice as sulky as Henry’s actions. “But it wasn’t silly. I was going to go back!”

“Next time,” said Helen, giving Ashley back her gun, “take Betty with you. Henry, it was very nice of you to tidy up after her, but Ashley has to look after her own things, the same way you do.” They both nodded. She smiled and pushed away from the desk. “Come here,” she told them, arms open.

In tandem, both ran into her arms, hugging her and each other. It might be the start of a long summer, but Helen couldn’t wait for each moment with them.