Sunshine and Laughter (Part X)

Start from Part I


Today’s non-supersad alternative is a redone summary of Book I. Now it’s Kendra and Shu gossiping about the past twenty years while utterly failing to sit in chairs. And yes, it’s a summary, but also a heaping amount of new content! (Fair warning: if you’re early on this, I haven’t quite gotten the screenshots done yet. It’s Saturday night and I’m still making and testing poses. So unless you’re down with a wall of text, you might want to wait a day.)


Mira, Héctor. Mira el camello.

Hector wasn’t entirely sure what differentiated el camello from la llama. They were both beige, slightly sweet, bloblike, and crunchy. But he didn’t have the means to tell Mamá that animal crackers weren’t the pedagogical tool she thought they were—you had to have prior knowledge of the animal’s shape to guess what features the blobs were trying to approximate—and so his strategy was to figure out what she was pointing to and put it in his mouth.

¡Bueno! ¡Un camello!

Hector was coating the amputated back legs of el camello in toddler spit. The remaining cracker, he bashed into particles against the high chair. This was all exploratory. Through multiple trials, he could conclude that objects of this type shared important properties: they tasted like a dimly sweet cardboard box with a flavor that lingered in the back of your mouth, smashing them to smithereens against a hard surface made these satisfying crumbs, and Mamá wouldn’t take them away if he put them in his mouth. The crumbs weren’t bad to eat either. There were more crackers in his bowl than he could count—more than six—and if Mamá was going to name those too, he was doubting his ability to keep up. With the dexterity of an arcade claw game, he picked up a fresh one.

Claudia tilted her head to figure out what the hell animal this one was supposed to be. “Esto es un elefante.” Probably. Like, it had a trunk. She couldn’t name any other non-extinct proboscideans. Closing her mouth, she tried to make a trumpeting sound through her nose.

that is a FACE

Adults making odd noises was the true apex of comedy Hector felt it to be, and in virtually any other context he’d erupt in the kind of giggles people get their cameras out for—but for such behavior to follow his mother’s go at making mealtime an educational experience lessened its magic, or would have stunk of pandering if he had four more inches on the height chart and mastery of the See-‘n-Say under his belt, and so his frown remained right-side up. Building on the theme of his exaggerated downward expression, he let his mouth fall open and twitched with those gasps in the back of the throat that precede full-blown sobs.

“<What’s wrong, Hector?>”

Everything, dammit, not the least of which was his inability to understand it. This never happened when Dad was around. Dad’s noises were funnier, for one, and he didn’t do whatever this el camello trash was. Basura. Let crackers be crackers.

in the bilingual See-‘n-Say, the duck goes quack quack and el pato goes cuac cuac, but this is another context where you kinda already have to know what’s going on because instead of a guy trying to imitate animals they’re using actual animal vocalizations, which lose information when transliterated into any language

She guessed he might be done with the high chair. “<Do you want to get out of the chair?>

Hector lifted his arms up. Not a frantic gesture, or an excited one, but one that clearly communicated, without ambiguity, his desire to be lifted. So that’s what Claudia felt she should do.

Subtle animal-communication sounds get the short end of the stick as far as toddler education is concerned. Like you’ll never see rabbits on any of those onomatopoeic animal-noise guides for example, and they make plenty of sounds, including but not limited to foot-stomping tantrums because you’re trying to brush them, grunting because you’re trying to brush them, ripping-up-rental-carpet noises at 3 A.M., and shredding noises because they’re processing junk mail they stole off the table, which is a felony. Dogs and cats and whatever else carnivore pets other people love make more than one sound; is there a See-‘n-Say on earth that addresses that? Confuse those kids early or else they grow up to be adults who are totally unable to admit there are things they don’t know. Hey, based on experience with older students, do you think if nonverbal toddlers could talk, they would say “why do I have to learn all this stuff, like donkey goes hee-haw (burro goes iii-ahh), if I’m never going to use it in real life?”

It wasn’t until Hector’s feet hit solid ground that he realized what had happened. Indeed, while he did want to get out of the chair, he also wanted to finish the rest of his animal crackers. And not on the floor, either; he had to be seated in the chair where he could make a mess on his own personal tray. He wanted her to let him out of the chair but also stay in the chair. What was Mamá not getting about that? The result was, no sooner had Claudia loosened her grip on Hector than he flopped into a heap and commenced his meltdown.

“<Why—what do you want? I don’t know what you want. Do you want the crackers?>”

She moved the bowl of crackers from Hector’s chair to his howling face with a fluidity Hector could only envy. But he wanted them in the chair! He screamed louder.

“<Here, Hector. Here are your crackers.>”

Claudia was at a loss at how to make the flailing ball of toddler limbs stop being that. It looked like she was totally blanking out when she stopped pushing crackers in his face and began to strategize, using logic being her first mistake, and was about to put Hector back in the chair when a sharp squeal from the other side of the room interrupted her.

“Give it back! It’s mine!”

Of all the fashion choices in CT, young Kendra’s statement knee socks with the blazer is the one we want to catch on most, and the second choice would be owning seven colors of the same pair of glasses and matching those to your pants

The conflict that caught her attention because the utteree’s verbal communication skills, you know, existed. She leaned in close to the sim whose frantic motions served to highlight his early-childhood rubberiness. “<I’ll be right back, precious.>” And for reasons she couldn’t articulate, possibly because there were none, she made a statement to Hector she’d only reflect upon later that night when sleep escaped her, which was “Hold that thought.”

Past the bookshelf, she saw Charlie reading a book without a care in the world with Kendra stewing next to him. The front cover proudly displayed a skinless figure stood in profile. Claudia’s face fell. Not the textbook thing again. She had no clue why getting both kids their own medical textbooks was apparently a problem they were dealing with as a family now. Glancing sideways at Hector, who was still sobbing prone on the floor, she caught herself melting with relief at the prospect of having a child whose problems she could relate to.

“Mom! Charlie won’t give my copy of Gray’s Anatomy back!” Kendra’s displeasure caused her to involuntarily rise from her seat, then decide to sit back down again, only instead of resuming her conversation from her original post she moved one seat to the left, taking the edge of the couch. This prompted Charlie to scooch over to the middle, though Claudia wasn’t sure why since you’d expect he would want to put some space between himself and his sister, like a trench. She took the last remaining seat.

“Kendra, keep it down. You’re being loud.”

“And you’re not going to say anything about that?” Kendra jabbed her arm toward Hector, who was sticking to the tantrum plan. To emphasize her statement, or perhaps because she was the one who wanted space, she got up from her spot on the couch and moved to the chair on the far end of the living room. No one followed her this time. “He keeps stealing my book! Every day! It’s my book!”

A reminder that my shitty builds w/ their shitty decorating were never intended to be public, so let’s all just have a good laugh at whatever’s going on here

Charlie put the book down to glare at his sister. “You’re just looking at the pictures!”

“You’re just reading the words!”

“Charlie, it’s your sister’s textbook.”

“But this book is so interesting! There’s so much stuff about the lymphatic system they don’t teach in school!”

“But I’m using it as a reference! I need to know where the eye sockets are so I can draw the eyes in the right place! And it’s my book!”

“Why don’t you just draw the skull and eyes ten feet apart like in your other drawings?” At this, he leaned back so that the most direct line to view his sister from was down his nose. “Hmm?”

lmao what is this douchiness i love it

Before Kendra could assert that the book was indeed her own seventh birthday present, Claudia interjected, a feat for how diplomatic and gentle she tried to make her tone. “Kendra, your brother wants to be a doctor. Doesn’t it make sense to let him borrow it for a little while?”

“Mom, what are you talking about? It’s my book!”

“Don’t talk back.” While she was well aware of the logical issues with appeals to authority, rhetorical strategy kicked the bucket sometime between the third kid becoming a tantrum puddle and the second kid making an argument centered around repeating the same three words, and repeating them loudly at that. She had to go for more of an authoritarian tone, to show she was above getting caught in a bogus debate the kids would never let her win, be a wall for them to thrash against for a bit before accepting their fate. “Be nice, you should learn to share.”

Charlie was about to go for some quip along the lines of “sharing is caring,” but thought better of himself. The fallacy still bugged him somewhat. There had to be a way to get what he wanted without introducing fuzzy stuff like authority and emotional blackmailing into the mix, and lighting a fire under his sister, while fun to watch, wasn’t great for him image-wise. So because he’d caught himself in a tiny doubt whirlpool due to almost proving Kendra right, that he was being a jerk, he instead said nothing. And then that in turn made it look like he needed Mommy to fight his battles for him, causing the doubt whirlpool to expand and further jumble his thoughts. Then Kendra’s outburst brought him back.

By ‘seventh birthday’ I—you know, Sims live on radically different timescales than we do, but saying that a couple has been together for “weeks” doesn’t have the same punch for us, so once again assume I’m performing the requisite mental calculations to go from stunningly efficient Sim time to long-ass human time, including whatever inconsistencies arise from rotational play. Kendra really only has seven birthdays in her whole life.

“What do you mean I should share? It’s. My. Book.”

“But Kendra, in this house we share our things.” From Claudia, whose gentle tone had developed a pleading edge. Charlie successfully kept down the sharing-is-caring jabs again.

The book’s true owner was clenching her teeth in a way that gave her mother anxiety about an orthodonture-filled future. If she could move to yet a fourth seat even further left, here’s where she would have done so. “Oh, come on! Mom! You’re only doing this because Charlie is Dad’s favorite and that’s what he’d tell me to do if he was here!”

“Kendra, your dad doesn’t favor Charlie. He loves you both equally.”

“Then why are you letting him use my things? How come I’m not the one asking for his things? If I wanted to play with his telescope you’d say no!”

Claudia could’ve said the telescope was full of little bits you could break if you’re in la-la land pretending you’re a space alien and so she had a perfectly genuine reason for restricting its use to taller family members, but she couldn’t let herself get defensive. She closed her eyes. It wasn’t so much that Kendra had precocious insight into her parents’ marriage as that she’d been on the butt end of this textbook argument god-knows-how-many times. In cases where Dad was home he delighted in conjuring increasingly elaborate reasons for Charlie to borrow the book, and Kendra would never hear the end of it if she dared to question them. There was no calling out Dad on anything, as far as Kendra was concerned. And Charlie had no reason to. Where Claudia herself fit in to this issue, she wasn’t sure, but she couldn’t accept Kendra’s behavior. She could question Mom but not Dad, the little hypocrite. They’d reached an impasse.

That subjunctive tense was incorrect on purpose because it’s a kid speaking. You know me

That was quite the accusation from Charlie’s perspective. It wasn’t something he wanted to endorse; he was feeling the shakiness one does when they’re at the top of the pecking order and won’t admit they like it there. His mother and sister seemed to be waiting for the other to say something lighter, possibly more defensible, giving him time to think. “Ok ok, how about this.” Charlie mimicked the cocky gesture people make when they’re putting an idea on the table, giving the metaphor life by spreading both hands over an actual table, only this one was in mid-air because the coffee table was too far away and low. “I only need the book because I don’t know all the terms yet. I’m using it so I know what to look up.”

“And I can’t look up anything online from my drawing table.”

“Right. So maybe we could move to the study, you have the book on your drawing table—“

“—Because it’s my book—“

“Yeah. So you have the book on your drawing table, you have it open to wherever you want, and I’ll just bookmark this page and figure out which word I should look up next. How does that sound?”

Claudia’s eyes popped open not unlike a jack-in-the-box in a horror movie. Nothing brought a parent back to life like hearing their kids come up with a compromise—freaking yes, no extra effort required, plus you get a dopamine hit from having raised a reasonable sim. “Kendra! That sounds great! What do you think?”

Kendra thought any chance of getting in the zone she had was ruined, or would be ruined every fifteen seconds when her brother had to open his bookmarked page a crack to check spelling on some word no one had any business coming up with. And yet compromises were generally a happy-ending thing, as far as children’s books were concerned, and she’d gotten two older-and-wiser-nyah-nyah types to at least budge on something. So whatever. “Fine.”

What I don’t see portrayed often in fiction, not to say it hasn’t already been done, is our tendency to repeat the same argument 300 times during a conflict, including after the conflict has already been resolved. So that’s why the author who deletes information if it’s inferable from context told all you marvelous people eighty times that it is, in fact, Kendra’s book

Charlie didn’t question his luck, so as not to jinx it—if such a thing as a jinx existed, but it doesn’t, at least he thought—and gestured with his thumb toward the study. “Right, Shall we?”

“Ok.” Kendra wasn’t usually this terse. Maybe she’d tired herself out from all the yelling.

“I’m so proud of you two for figuring it out!” She leaned forward to address the single shoe and eight animal crackers she could see. “<One moment, and then Mommy will be back.>”

Kendra stopped, putting enough distance between herself and Charlie to allow the study door to close. “How come you never speak Simlés with us?”

It was one of the innumerable mistakes she’d made with the older kids. But she wasn’t going to say that. “I didn’t know if you would want to grow up with two languages. Do you want to learn?”

“Yeah, it’s cool. Shu switches between Simlish and 模擬市民語* like every other sentence when he talks to his dad on the phone. I wanna do that, too.”

“That’s fantastic! But we’ll talk about it later. I have to take care of something with Hector first.”

Nearing the study door, Kendra muttered to herself. “‘Course you do.”

*Apologies for the silliness caused by this particular language-naming scheme: it just says “Simlish” in Chinese. I’m assuming Simlish has different regional dialects based on the gibberish in those World Adventures songs we’ve all heard way too many times and naming them as such. So it’s not Simlish=English and every other language is weird, more like Simlish is just English for Simlish and other regions just say Simlish in their own dialect. But you do run into uniqueness issues that way.

Claudia had been vaguely aware that the noise in the dining area had stopped. Hector sat with his back to her, marching un leon across the floor in honor of its fallen brethren. The bowl was wrong-side up and its contents were all which way across the floor, as Claudia expected.

“Héctor.”

He turned around at her voice, a grin spread wide across his tiny face. Claudia remembered the lat time someone smiled at her like that. Down to the day. Down to the second. It was her mother’s smile.

“<Ah, little Hector.>” He continued beaming at her, and for a moment his joy burst through the walls and outshone the sun itself. Her eyes watered as they adjusted to the light. Bitterness and teasing and fights, those were her normal. Those were what she could handle.

But this feeling of kindness, strange and new, is what finally brought her to tears. “<You’re going to run the world with a smile like that.>”

Hector has more emotional brow action than the rest of his family combined

His eyes, so full of potential. Unstoppable.

“<Shh. That’s better. Mommy’s here. You’re like me, right? You won’t drift away.>”

She brought his tiny head to her shoulder, lowering her voice to barely a whisper.

“<You’ll be the one who loves me.>”


BONUS:

(psst, anyone who works on the game)
(hello, thank you for the game)
(love the fake books)
(in case you’re actually reading this, here’s a compound adjective without a hyphen)

10 thoughts on “Sunshine and Laughter (Part X)

  1. This is really heartbreaking. Claudia is so out of her element, and the kids are all misunderstood and over burdened. Hector had a big heart, but it’s too much for the kid to bear the responsibility of taking care of his mom’s emotional needs. I’ve been reading articles about gaslighting and narcissists lately. Claudia really found herself in that mess, and it’s not setting herself up to be the kind of parent that can provide a really nurturing home, though her kids are all quite amazing, strong, and resilient. But what’s Claudia’s joy?

    How come they don’t buy Charlie his own anatomy book? It feels like the parents are invested in this power struggle. It’s not right for anybody.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ding ding ding ding on the narcissism! I’d say there’s certainly gaslighting in this one and it’s also tied into FLEAS. But there’s enough to process here, Claudia-wise, that I’ll leave you to your own exploration.

      Ding ding ding on the book! It’s almost as if someone *wants* the kids to fight and is using the book’s price/special-treat status to justify not solving the problem in the obvious manner.

      Like

      1. Exactly, re the book and the wanting to fight. Way too much manipulation in that family! Claudia needs out, and not by laughing her way out of the situation.

        Like

  2. I fully admit to going to the redone summary first for laughs and I have to say that not only will I carry “meat wall” with me to my grave as a treasured phrase, I don’t think I could possibly love Chantel anymore. Yes, Shu, you do have to clearly state that she did not injure anyone purposefully to get to you.

    Chantel is everything my dark little heart desires.

    Okay, now this chapter ::takes a deep breath:: I think it is wild to watch Claudia unwittingly teach her children the same harmful patterns she has with Mike. This is how cycles of abuse continue. All this fretting she did about when to leave and how it might hurt the kids but there is the secret: when you stay with an abuser it hurts the kids.

    I 100% agree with Cathytea, having only one book is a choice. So is elevating the needs of Charlie over Kendra. Mike never listens to Claudia, Claudia subconsciously teaches Kendra that her voice doesn’t matter either.

    I just about spit out my drink at the rabbit sounds joke. But also, if there is a warrant out for the rabbit’s arrest I the people who own him know they are harboring a fugitive.

    I worry for Hector. The sheer level of attention he was getting from Claudia made me feel a little bit suffocated. “You’ll be the one who loves me” does not really inspire my confidence in Claudia’s parenting abilities (obviously Mike is in the equation too but he is trash and it’s clearly not a thing he is deigning to really get involved in).

    Like

    1. MEAT WALL! MEAT WAAAALLL! (https://simscommunity.info/2020/05/09/the-sims-4-eco-lifestyle-new-gif/)

      Man, I am just tickled by your fondness for Chantel. I’m hoping that in the distant future, every character will be someone’s favorite. Except Mike.

      (also just in case you missed Pts. 8 and 9, Pt. 9 is super important: https://willoughbywhippetsandtibetanspaniels.com/2020/06/21/sunshine-and-laughter-part-viii/ & https://willoughbywhippetsandtibetanspaniels.com/2020/06/28/sunshine-and-laughter-part-ix/)

      Yepppp at the analysis. This is messed up in so many ways, and I think those three are the big ones.

      I’m more worried about the debtors getting the bunnies ’cause the little paper shredders are on their fourth or fifth credit card application.

      And hmm, is there a way for Mr. Shallot-Liu to get BBD!Bernard’s dismissive message through the grapevine, or is he working with the absence of a response? Either way, the resurrected snark machine’s got a snappy comeback. I’m imagining the ‘grapevine’ that lets these two communicate is magic-based in BBD’s universe and heavy-meta-based here.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I read everyone’s responses this time. I wondered too about Claudia’s reaction to Kendra because while sharing is nice, it isn’t the main focus. It’s her book and she should have autonomy over her things. This merely teaches Kendra he voice is lesser to Charlie. He got some points back for compromise but I think he should’ve apologised. Also dislike that he knows he has the advantage /privilege over his sibling and is abusing it.

    I’m also in disbelief that having one medical textbook was deliberate to foster their environment. I assume it was for money reasons or they haven’t thought about it. So i was expecting Claudia to say “we’ll buy another one.”

    That final part is heartbreaking too, but I think Claudia is setting herself up for disappointment. Its a beautiful smile and innocent, but uh.. to base all her hopes on a toddler. Its wishful thinking and I hope she finds a way to love herself without resorting to those around her. But I can totally understand her reliance on her family for her self love. She is giving them so much of herself 😦

    Ah and.. this is unrelated but ive been trying to translate this for my story i hope you dont mind I hijack this comment and ask you. Could you help me with ‘慎刑司’? 😅

    Like

    1. True on all counts. I wanted this chapter to have hints of what you predicted, that Mike’s behavior might influence his kids (and Claudia herself!) and am glad you said something about it.

      Interesting take on the book—the J.-E.s have $2 million in the bank, so the justification they might use would be that the textbook is a special thing they got Kendra for her birthday, and may be planning to get Charlie the same book on his. If they give one kid something as a gift and give the other kid the same gift so they don’t fight, that could also be seen as favoritism. That’s the reasonable-sounding justification. They may have ulterior motives they aren’t even aware of, but I’m deliberately keeping it fuzzy.

      Oh dear. To be honest, I can only recognize 1k characters, which is not enough to be considered literate. It looks like ‘Penal Department’ or ‘Department of Corrections,’ but that’s drawing from my limited knowledge.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks that’s really helpful thank you! I like Department of Corrections. One day I’ll get round to correcting it. Am lazy to start up the programs at make the edits now. XD

        Ooh and you’re right. I’ve never thought about it that way (favoritism part). I suppose then it boils down to what equality looks like. Do we give everyone the same treatment and call it equal or tailor the treatment to their needs for it to be equal? If they do have ulterior motives I won’t be able to guess it because I can’t imagine having any ‘motive’ on children. I’m assuming you don’t mean it in a bad way, but it does sound shady as if they were conducting a social experiment on their own kids.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s a good point. I’m not sure how to define equality here, so I can’t really give an opinion either way. So I’m happy to listen to your take on it.

        Don’t get him a book, and the fights continue—and because Charlie is the favorite, Kendra gets hurt. Get him a book without waiting for a special occasion, and Kendra’s present isn’t special anymore, so she gets hurt. It’s lose-lose for Kendra unless the fights stop, which requires Charlie and Mike to change. And why would they? It doesn’t benefit them. It takes a lot of work and they lose authority. Charlie’s shown evidence that he cares for his sister, so he’s not hopeless, but is he doing enough?

        About the social experiment: in narcissistic family structures with multiple children, the abuser tends to choose one child to be the favorite, or Golden Child, and another to blame for everything, called the Scapegoat. (There’s another role, Lost Child, where the child just gets ignored by the parents.) Most narcissist parents will deny up and down that they’re doing this; they may not even be aware of it themselves. For them it’s not abuse if it’s “normal.” And even if one of the parents wouldn’t enforce the same toxic dynamic if they were never exposed to the abuser’s parenting style, they can end up enforcing this dynamic without realizing it as well. My apologies if you already knew this; that’s what inspired me here.

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