The confrontation began at 7:23 when my son Adam strolled out to the car to discover that his brother, Andrew, was in the front seat. I’m not exactly sure what ensued following that discovery, but I know that 10 minutes later when I went out, there was an argument ongoing, with Adam in the backseat.
They typically take turns in the front — one day one kid, the next day the next kid, and so on, with a break on weekends. Everyone should be even, right? Except for the fact that the uneven number of weekdays means that one child — the child who is clearly more important than his brother, the child who should never to have to clean his own room or put up his own clothes, the child who clearly deserves at least four times as much allowance as he currently receives — gets the front on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (that’s three times in one week) while the other child — the unloved, forsaken orphan who is forced to cook the meals, scrub the floors, and sweep the chimneys — gets the front only twice, on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
But the next week, the roles are reversed and the orphan becomes the king, and so on. You get the picture.
The problem arose last week in the form of a snow day. That means that on Friday, Andrew’s turn to be in front, no one went to school, so he didn’t get his turn. Which led us to Monday, both claiming the front.
A disaster of course, a complete catastrophe, both children with questionable rights to the front seat. And what happened? The Chief Diplomat of the family — me — swooped in and saved the day.
I’ll spare you most of the details, but we worked it out with Andrew in the front two days this week, Adam in front two days, and Steve (aka Dad) and I each taking a child on the leftover day so that technically, both children will get the front three times this week. It was a masterpiece of diplomacy, and it smoothed everything over completely until Andrew pointed out that he was nearing 12 years old and would soon have undisputed legal rights to the front seat (you know — the airbag warning — no one under 12, etc). At that point, I threatened to throw them both out of the front seat forever because I would be perfectly happy having the front seat all to myself.
When I was telling the story to Steve, he complimented me on my diplomatic skills, and it suddenly occurred to me that after mornings like this, even world peace would be easy:
“YOU! Israel! Back on your side of the line! No — you can’t bring settlers over and you can’t throw bombs on Palestine. Put your bombs up. No. Not in your pocket. I said up. In your closet where they belong and shut the door. No. No! I said to put them up! And come out of your room. You can’t stand in there by your closet all day.”
“And you! Palestine. Quit complaining. I know it’s not fair. But whoever said life was fair? You think I want to be arguing with you guys about a strip of bombed-out desert? You think I really care who gets it? No, all I want is some peace and quiet and maybe some chocolate.”
“All right. That’s it. I’ve had enough. Neither of you gets the Gaza strip! It will just stay empty. Anybody who gets even close is going to have to his nternet taken away. That’s right — no Facebook for a year. And then what will you do with yourselves all day?”
“And Iran and North Korea — I see what both of you are doing. No, don’t look at me with those silly grins. I know exactly what you’ve been doing, trying to play with Mom and Dad’s toys. That is not OK. They are not appropriate for little guys. They are on the top shelf for a reason, and I expect you to leave them alone. Do you want Santa to come this year or not?”
But of course, all this leaves everyone in a bad mood, which, as Chief Diplomat, I realize is just creating future problems — anger and resentment swirling under the surface, threatening to erupt at the most inopportune moment — so the best strategy at this point is diversion.
“I’ll tell you what. If you can all be good and quit arguing, we’ll have a sleepover. We’ll get out the blankets and put in a movie and pop popcorn, and I’ll make oatmeal cookies! It will be great! You know you love my oatmeal cookies!”
See, after parenthood, everything is easy. International boundaries and nuclear weapons? Piece of cake. … or at least an oatmeal cookie.