Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Microscope Incident

We recently went through a minor crisis that I have come to think of as "The Microscope Incident". It started out innocently enough with ds2 wanting to learn how to use our new field microscope and ds1 wanting to share in this learning experience. It sounds like the recipe for a fun family learning experience, right? Well, it was. . . Just not the one I envisioned when I saw the microscope waiting on the living room table. And not necessarily fun.

It turns out that ds2 not only wanted to learn how to use the microscope, but he also wanted mommy time. So, here we are in the living room, and I am faced with an impossible decision. Do I honor ds2's desire to have me all to himself, or do I honor ds1's desire to learn how to use the microscope immediately? No matter which one I choose feelings will be hurt, and hurt feelings are never pretty.

I opt for a split second decision based on what I believe to be a logical (albeit speeding) train of thought. Ds2 had the microscope first, and in our family sharing is a choice. Therefore, ds2 does not have to share the microscope. Ds1 can wait. What ds1 heard when I pronounced this judgement was "Mommy loves ds2 more." This is a realization I gleaned after the fact. At the time, I simply thought he was being irrational. I sat in stunned disbelief as I listened to his tirade. "It's not fair. I'm never helping you with the dishes again." Etc.

At this point, I had no idea how to handle this explosion. Somehow I missed the session on handling nuclear meltdowns all those years ago in my new mommy class. I did what any other self-respecting self-preservationist would have done - I fled the premises. I went right out the front door and shut it behind me.

In the two minutes it took me to gather my wits, I realized he's right - it's not fair. I went back inside and calmly explained that it was not fair of them to place me in the middle and force me to make a decision that was not mine to make. I informed the boys of their options: one boy at a time on the microscope or both together, and I calmly left the room. I proceeded to unload the dishwasher. Before I put three dishes away, d1 (who was never going to help me with the dishes again) quietly started putting dishes away. After we finished the dishes he informed me that he and his brother had decided to work together with the microscope.

As a parent, I am sometimes invited to take part in the "Who Does Mommy Love More" game. I have learned that this is a game I cannot win. I don't like games I can't win. I think next time I am invited I will politely decline.

1 comment:

coolmetric said...

Nice job. You did a smart thing getting out of that situation. You are correct. No parent wins in that situation and we all have to face them if we have more than one child. It always amazes me how much children (any child) can comprehend. After spending the weekend with ds1 and ds2 recently I can easily see the changes in them. They are much more likely to work out their differences than to escalate into battles. Not so much the case in the past.

Presenting the problem to them and requiring them to work out the solution was an excellent way to handle that situation. Perhaps more parents should try that method.