A Tale of Two Cars
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the period of constantly fighting and constantly making up, it was the age of wanting it all and not getting it all, it was the era of mine, mine, mine and give me that, it was the season of quiet and the season of loud, it was the summer of fun and the winter of tedious, they had everything before them and nothing before them, they were all going straight to bed, they were all going to stay up forever - in short the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted upon its being received with the utmost exasperation of superlatives.
-Above quote heavily mangled from A Tale of Two Cities
Seriously, we have so many ups and downs throughout the day that my head is constantly spinning. The three children are seven, four, and two, and sometimes they deliberately antagonize each other for what appears to be no reason other than to antagonize each other. Every day is a surprise, as I never know how they are going to interact with each other. Will they play together nicely and share their toys and use polite words? Or will they throw things at each other and knock over each other’s towers and fight over that one toy that really isn’t all that special anyway?
This particular time was a lot like any other. I was working in the kitchen while the two younger children were playing peacefully by the hearth (not really, but it sounds like a nice way to set up a scene. Honestly they were just playing on the hardwood floor of the living room, no hearth nearby), vrooming their cars and building their towers. One would vroom and one would build and all was well. Until it wasn’t.
“It’s mine! Give me that!” said a loud, childish voice, most likely belonging to a two-year old.
“No, that’s mine! I was playing with it!” said an even louder, childish voice, most likely belonging to a four-year old.
I hesitantly peeked around the corner of the hearth (read: I poked my head out of the kitchen and into the living room) to see the commotion revealed before me.
There, with both hands clutching a matchbox toy car, a little blond-haired boy was fighting off a little blue-eyed girl, also using both of her hands to attempt to pry his hands off the car. He had a mischievous, determined smirk, and she had an annoyed, angry expression.
|Photo courtesy of Canva|
“What’s going on?” I asked. I wasn’t too sure I wanted to know, but I knew from experience that if I sat back and ignored it, physical violence would escalate.
“He took my car! I was playing with it!” I look at the pile of cars in front of the four-year-old, thinking she probably doesn’t need that one car.
“Are you sure he can’t play with that one? It looks like you have other cars to play with,” I offer.
“NO!” I get in response. How dare I even suggest such a thing? I mean, the gall.
“Ok, can we come to an agreement on the car, then?” I’ve been trying out different parenting strategies. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. This time we’re testing out compromises and agreements. “What do you think about taking turns?”
“I want a turn first!” “No, I do!” Oy vey. I take away said car and tell them that they can’t have it back until they figure out a solution to their problem.
I hear some frantic whispering, some possible extortion, who knows?
“Mommy, we figured it out. I’ll hold onto it for now and he’ll play over there with these cars.”
“Okay, great! Here’s your car.” Woo hoo for positive parenting or whatever it is when parenting works out. I think that’s positive.
Yet, not two minutes later, the scuffling begins again. I had patted myself on the back too soon.
Envision a repeat of earlier conversation with children, then the taking away of said car again. Lots of begging and pleading and me wanting to uninvent cars all together. Wouldn’t we all just like a nice horse and buggy?
I text my husband at work. Hey, remember that extra car we bought for the cousin? Is that still upstairs? Do you think it would be terrible if I opened it and gave it to the kids?
Your call, Babe, he says. He’s so helpful, I know.
Some time passes. Repeat fighting over car again and again. These kids are stubborn, I tell ya. I think about the car upstairs. Maybe it will solve all of my problems and we can go back to the peaceful hearth scene again.
I text my husband, I’m going to do it.
OK, he replies. He's very supportive.
I run upstairs and take the other, identical car out of the packaging. I make my grand entrance downstairs, sweeping in regally, excited that I may have finally solved today’s dilemma.
“Children, look what I have! Now you can each have your own car! And they are exactly the same, so you don’t have to fight over it.”
“I want the new one!”
“No, I want the new one!”
Needless to say, my plan did not go according to plan. They continued to fight over the new car, even though the cars were exactly the same. I even did the whole mix things up behind my back so they can’t tell the difference and each pick a hand game. It didn’t work. The new (or old, I couldn’t tell) car had invisible marks on it only visible to eyes less than five years old. It must have been pretty special.
So what is the moral of the story I am telling? I have no idea. Maybe it’s that the kids are going to find something to fight about no matter what and next time I shouldn’t open the present we were going to give to the cousin. (Although if you must know, we did find another car-the same one- to give to him, so he is none the wiser.) Perhaps it’s that I should have been more creative in my squabble-squashing strategy. Or that I should have played on the floor with them and modeled how to share (It’s this one, I know it is). Tell me, dear reader, what would you have done?