Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Names Omitted to Protect the Guilty

I don't know how it all began.

Frankly, I never do.

I heard shouts from the family room, unpleasant pitch and tone accompanying the name of one of my beloved children.

I rose from my computer, not ten feet away, to investigate the commotion. I entered the room just in time to see a white Wii controller fly from the hands of one son and connect with the face of the other.

I had been talking with a friend during this exchange, and I tried to minimize the skirmish as much as I could without completely turning into Mad Mom in front of her. I turned off the TV and sent the kids downstairs, hoping that it was Wii battles that had made the boys turn into little monsters.

Ironically, my friend wasn't the only visitor in the house at the time. Five other neighbor kids were here, and when banished to the basement, they had all started a round of Ninja Fight. I don't know exactly how to play Ninja Fight, but I know it involves a lot of intermittent yelling, throwing soft balls, and sneaking up on foes.

Not two minutes after I'd sent all of the kids to the basement for a self-regulated riot, I could hear one son's screams reverberating up the stairs--a scream full of pain and tinged with injustice. Through his simultaneous attempts to inhale, shriek, and accuse, I pieced together bits of the story--"Dad's white pole," "not fair," "I didn't do ANYTHING!" "hate him."

This was it. Mom had been pushed too far. With my friend still present, I reached down for my son's face, forced him to look me in the eye as he sobbed, and instructed him to go downstairs, send his brother upstairs and all of the friends home.

He knew they had crossed the line when he heard, "send all of the friends home." Renewed accusations of "That's not fair!" and "It was all his fault!" echoed from the stairwell as he descended to the basement with the horrifying news that play was over for the day.

My other son made it up to my presence, and as soon as he rounded the corner, he turned on the sob story of his own--"I was ambushed" "He MEANT to hurt me" and the tried-and-true "But it wasn't my fault!"

I may not know how it all began, but I can give you a step-by-step explanation of how it all ended.

After all the friends had left (including my own), I headed up the stairs to where the culprits had been imprisoned. Both boys were sent to their beds--one atop the other--where their forced silence brought glares of hatred for me and for each other. In a deadly quiet voice, I lectured them. I voiced my disgust at the way they had treated each other. I asked them if they were embarrassed, and when they each shook their head no, I expressed my humiliation at their behavior.

Down came their sentences. Along with no friends for the rest of the day, each boy was to go downstairs, grab their journal and a writing implement. They were to each write four separate pages in their books: 1) an entire page of "I will not fight with my brother"--no abbreviations allowed, 2) an entire page of what they had done wrong in the situation, 3) an entire page of what they should have done differently when they felt like they'd been wronged, and finally, 4) an entire page of what they love most about their brother--and it had to be sincere. There was to be no talking to each other, no touching each other, and if these two requests weren't followed, then both boys would be sent to bed at 7 pm. No exceptions.

You'd think I'd sent them to Alcatraz for their crimes.

They were completely silent. They did finish pages of writing. They did soften in their attitudes towards each other.

And within the hour, they were begging to watch a movie together and stay up late eating ice cream.

I know that one day, these two little dudes will acknowledge all the time the deep love they feel for each other. They have the rest of their lives to be buddies.

For now, they're still learning how lucky they are to have a brother.

Good thing I already know.


  1. You are my idol. I used to make them sit on a couch and hold hands for an undetermined amount of time, but that should never have been used as a punishment. I LOVE your idea.