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Effortlessly Average

Sort of half-heartedly leading the charge into mediocrity since, oh, let's say around 1987 or so.

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Location: Roaming (additional charges may apply), Argentina

Proof that with internet access and a powerful laxative, even insipid people will blog; the place where your excellence and my mediocrity collide; where my Karma whips ass on your dogma.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Alexander Only Had To Subdue The World; I Have Children

Alexander the Great had it easy. All he had to do was conquer the world.

But being a parent? Now that’s hard. Let’s review a case in point:

The other day, FlyBoy phoned me at work to say that someone needs to ground his siter, The Puffinator, his older sister by 16 months.

According to him, The Puffinator was sitting on the couch with the long, green pillow I like to watch TV with. She got up to go to the bathroom and get a cup of ice (she likes to suck on it while she watches the Disney Channel). However, she got distracted by something and didn’t make it back for about a half hour.

FlyBoy claims to have been upstairs playing his PS2 and came downstairs to hang out with his sister. He sat down on the couch in the spot both kids share as their favorite. He picked up my pillow, now cool from sitting there for several minutes, and settle down for a fine episode of That’s So Raven.

After a few minutes The Puffinator returned and wanted her spot back. FlyBoy insisted that he’d been sitting there for an hour and that it was vacant when her came downstairs, ergo the spot was now his. Actually, “ergo” was my word; FlyBoy's words were more along the lines of “step off, you loser.” The Puffinator then became enraged and began shouting all manner of derogatory remarks to him, threatening him with severe bodily harm if he didn’t give her the pillow and the choice spot on the couch.

This is the way FlyBoy tells it.

The Puffinator's story is significantly different.

According to her, she was only away for about 10 seconds and he was lying in wait like a panther for her to vacate the spot so he could pounce on it. She kindly and rationally asked him to return her spot, but he flew into a diatribe about her not owning the couch and as far as he was concerned she could go jump in a lake.

So here I sit at work, listening to both children shouting over each other while insisting, no, DEMANDING that I come down like an anvil on the other. Nothing short of capital punishment will satisfy.

I suspect the truth lies somewhere in between.

Now keep in mind this little tiff is over a spot on a couch that is big enough to have it’s own zip code or affect the weather and a pillow that is only one of the approximately 465,824 we have in the house.

My job is difficult because each child seeks immutable justice. My options seem bleak and it seems clear that whichever choice I make, someone’s not going to be happy about it. Now if the so-called “guilty party” is unhappy, I can live with that. My concern is making the innocent party suffer. I could force Bryce to give it back and move off the couch, but what if he’s right? Salem does have a tendency – from time to time – to boss him about and expect more from him than she thinks others should of her. Forcing him to give the pillow back and move from her spot would validate her behavior.

On the other hand, I could tell The Puffinator that she did get up and therefore lost her spot, keeping in line with the “you got up, I got down” philosophy that each child seems to follow on a routine basis. But what if she’s right? FlyBoy does demonstrate the apparent ability to manipulate time, which would suggest that The Puffinator wasn’t out of the room nearly as long as FlyBoy claims.

Or I could take the easy way out – for me – and tell them to just “work it out.” Yeah, on the one hand I’d pat myself on the back for this kind of approach to problem solving because, in my mind, it helps them solve their own problems. But let’s not forget that these are children of 10 and 11, so the proclivity is high that the “working it out” route will devolve into who’s the strongest or best able to deliver a blow and we don’t want to teach the kids that might makes right.

And what must my co-workers think, hearing me on the phone nearly shouting in an effort to compete with the child on the phone, who is now conducting a shouting match with his sister while trying to carry on a conversation with me at the same time.

In the end I chose the time-honored approach parents take when they realize there is no easy answer and shouted “For Chrissake that couch is the size of Texas and we have about a million pillows in that house so you two stop arguing or I swear I’ll throw out both the couch and all the pillows and you can just experience what it’s like to sit on the floor! NOW STOP YELLING AT EACH OTHER AND BE HAPPY OR ELSE!”

I think I may have also mentioned something about starving kids in China.

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