Wednesday, September 18, 2013

There are times when I really wish I had the wisdom of Solomon

When you have multiple children, one of your chief roles as a parent is to serve as mediator for arguments, disputes and disagreements of all kinds.

Most of the time this is a fairly easy job. One child hits another? Punishment is duly meted out to the hitter. Two little ones want the same toy at the same time? You immediately devise a system of sharing while extolling the virtues of compromise. Someone uses someone else's hair straightener without asking? It only takes a few seconds to figure out who's in the wrong.

But then there are times when my children come to me with a problem I simply can't solve.

Case in point: Child A and Child B approach me to resolve the question of who should have control of the living room TV for the next two hours. Child A will argue that she wants to watch a movie and Child B has been playing Xbox on the TV for the past hour.

Which seems pretty clear-cut. You take the TV, Child A, because it's rightly your turn. Enjoy your movie.

But not so fast. Child B will counter that his sibling had the TV for two whole hours yesterday, so he still has at least one hour of television control coming to him. Which also seems fair.

And suddenly the jury is deadlocked. Both parties make convincing cases, and I have no idea how to rule here. It's at this point that I have three options:

(A) Make a judgment call and recognize that one child is going to feel slighted (and perhaps rightly so)

(B) Sit with the two combatants and negotiate a deal

(C) Slowly sneak away and hope that my wife will step in and solve this riddle

More often than not, I choose "C." Which I realize is unfair to my overtaxed wife, but "A" and "B" both involve a level of effort to which I'm not necessarily willing to commit.

I also enjoy it when one of the kids blatantly does something wrong to his/her sibling, then argues that the sibling did the exact same thing to them yesterday or last week or whenever.

While this may be true, I point out that just because he/she did it to you, it in no way allows you to do it back to them. This is not how our justice system works, yet this concept repeatedly baffles them. My children are the ultimate purveyors of "an eye for an eye."

Then there are the habitual offenders in our house. And here I'm thinking specifically of my 15-year-old son, Jared. He constantly teases and torments his little brother, Jack. I tell him not to do this, and he stops. But he does it again the next day. I smack him and/or administer some other form of discipline, so he stops. Then he does it again soon after.

This goes on and on. Whatever I do to him, whatever I take away from him, it seems to have no long-term effect. Jared is evil, and his evil nature forces its way to the surface whenever he's in the presence of his younger brother.

Which is a shame, really, because in those times when Jared gets along with Jack and does things with him, Jack loves it. Little boys desperately want and need the approval of their older brothers, and I see that in Jack, yet Jared continues his evil ways.

Short of having him thrown into prison - which I HAVE considered, it should be noted - I'm not sure how to get Jared to stop acting this way. I'm hoping he grows out of it soon. And by "soon" I mean "by the time he's 30." But I'm not holding my breath.

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