Blame first, ask questions later
They were fighting again. I could hear them downstairs. There was a moderate-level crash and then muffled sounds, like maybe somebody got pushed or bumped up against a piece of furniture. It grew quiet, so I knew someone was injured -- not bad en...
They were fighting again. I could hear them downstairs. There was a moderate-level crash and then muffled sounds, like maybe somebody got pushed or bumped up against a piece of furniture. It grew quiet, so I knew someone was injured - not bad enough for the emergency room or anything, but maybe a stubbed toe or bruised elbow. No one was yelling, so it was fair to assume there wasn’t any blood and nothing was broken. At least not anything major like a chair or plate.
I was up in the laundry room, doing what I do there. As I listened to the din down in the kitchen, I did what any experienced mom would do: folded clothes. I knew one of them would be up soon to fetch me. And I waited, with a sense of calm, knowing confidence and perhaps just a hint of a smile.
It used to be that I would have rushed to the scene to be a hands-on, involved parent. I don’t rush anymore. I don’t know why. Maybe I’ve become lazy. Maybe I gave birth to one too many boys. Maybe I’ve discovered the laundry isn’t going to fold itself. Whatever the reason, as long as I don’t hear what we moms know as the "emergency scream," I fold until I’m summoned. Either that, or until my coffee needs a refill.
Thirty seconds later, the 12-year-old appeared in the doorway. The 5-year-old had kicked the 10-year-old in the stomach.
I tried to picture this in my head. I wondered if he was wearing shoes. That must’ve been a pretty high kick, I thought. But who am I to question? Blame first and interrogate later, I always say.
The youngest was in his room, sniffling and a little teary.
"Did you kick your brother?" I asked.
He nodded, looking as forlorn and sad as a 5-year-old can look.
I knew it was probably an act, but I had to give him points for cuteness. They can still get me with their cuteness. I have to work on that.
"You can’t kick your brother," I said. "Correct?"
"Correct," he agreed, staring at his hands.
Guilt proven, it was time to move on to feelings. You are supposed to feel sad when you hurt someone. Even though he was looking the part, I wanted to make sure he understood it. I am trying to raise enlightened men who are in touch with their feelings. Their wives will thank me someday.
"How do you feel about hurting your brother?" I asked.
He shrugged, "Don’t know."
"Do you feel… sad?" I suggested quietly.
I was a little surprised. "How do you feel then?"
He sniffled before giving the obvious answer, "Sniffly."
I suppressed a smile. He was only being honest. I couldn’t ask for anything more than that. Honesty is another trait of enlightened men.
But he wasn’t finished. "And a little mad," he added.
"Why mad?" I asked.
"Because he hit me first."
I could see how that might make him mad. I reached for the Kleenex and handed him a tissue. "Here, this can help get your sniffles out."
Five minutes later the three boys and I were assembled in the kitchen, making a pledge not to hurt anyone in the family. It was a solemn moment. They were all very serious about not hurting one another.
Crisis settled, I filled my coffee cup and returned to the more mundane task of the laundry. I was matching socks when I heard a moderate-level crash and muffled sounds from downstairs.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright and author. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.