My children – who get along so well and play together so much not a day goes by that someone doesn’t reference their kitten-like gamboling – chose the inopportune moment of a friend’s brief visit to fight with one another: yelling, throwing (a rented DVD of Kung Foo Panda), big tears, stomping, a slammed door.
After my friend left I sat my children down to talk about it because a couple of us – specifically, Sophie and I – had residual hurt feelings over the episode. I skipped any lectures and simply asked them to tell me what had happened. When they first started talking the familiar dynamics were in place: Sophie the tearful “victim” and Nels the completely remorseless perpetrator. In a very short amount of time Sophie’s tears had dried and Nels was owning his behavior: they were telling me exactly what occurred, blow by blow (because in truth I hadn’t seen it all). They were in total agreement over the events and not making any excuses.
By letting them tell me what had occurred it became obvious there was no need for me to explain my perspective on their fighting (and throwing). They both identified that it wasn’t fair to distress me with a potentially broken item nor an interruption during a relatively rare visit with a friend. This led – again, with almost no influence on my part – to a discussion about their occasional tendency to fight over the computer (IM time with their father had precipitated the conflict).
At this point my son started describing detailed scenarios for better computer systems for the family. This meant, in his view, each person should have their own. The funny thing is, what he was saying made sense. Both Ralph and I use computers a great deal and our children have grown into these tools as well. After Nels detailed exactly who could use what computer and where they would be set up (and believe me when I say Nels has a hardier grasp on our home technology than I do – just like the children also know how to do housework and laundry better than Ralph does), Sophie said – with no trace of greed or flippancy but with a set in her brow that indicated she’d considered the matter carefully:
“I want my own computer, with games and my own Gmail – and I especially want to paint it light blue.”
At this point our adult negotiations broke down entirely because I finally started laughing. I can’t quite express the mixed bag of emotions I felt – a combination of wonder and nervousness that Ralph and I, as technophiles, were raising little technophiles; pride at my children’s abilities to problem-solve, unaided by me; happiness I’d had the wisdom to avoid a lecture and whining and instead we’d tripped on a completely merry discussion.
I apologized to Sophie for my harsh actions over the fight. And I asked the kids to stay off my computer for the remainder of the afternoon. I am unsure just how much to tell Ralph about Nels’ plans because, knowing Ralph, he’d probably happily make them come to fruition.