My children are arguing.
Not exactly breaking news, of course. Kids fight. It’s one of those givens in life that are about as surprising as the sun rising in the morning or a hot day in July. Blame it on summer vacation. I think they’re just tired of each other.
I’m not sure what caused the conflict; I just got home from work and caught the tail end of it. Something to do with Legos, from what I gather. Or an errant water balloon. One of those. Or maybe it was something else all together. You never can tell with kids. Kids can argue about anything.
I get caught up to speed by my wife, who doesn’t really know what the conflict is about herself. She was in the kitchen fixing dinner at the time. There was just a thump and a scream, followed by yells and accusations. That was enough for her. She sent both of the kids to their rooms to calm down.
I walk down the hallway to their bedrooms to say hello and gauge the amount of weeping and gnashing of teeth and find the Go To Your Room rule broken. My son is in my daughter’s room. She’s sitting Indian-style on the bed. He stands in front of her. Both are talking. Each have their arms crossed.
These are some serious negotiations, which is why I don’t barge in, make a Daddy Arrest, and charge them with not abiding by their mother’s wishes. It isn’t often that I have the opportunity to listen in on my children’s discussions. More often then not, they clamp up as soon as I enter the room and offer little more than, “Yes, Daddy?” I get plenty of opportunities to learn about what they think and believe in my conversations with them, but most times that seems like only half the story. What you think and say when your father or mother is around is often quite different than when it’s just you and a sibling in the room.
So I put my daughter’s bedroom wall between us and listen.
“I didn’t hit you on purpose,” my son says.
“Yes you did,” says my daughter. “You liked it. I saw it in your eyes.”
“You can’t see in my eyes. And you should have gotten out of my way.”
“I didn’t want to. It’s MY house too, you know.”
I’m not going to play anymore until you say you’re sorry.”
“Well I’M not going to play anymore until YOU say YOU’RE sorry.”
“All I was trying to do was get a Lego.”
“Well all I was trying to do is get a Lego, too.”
And on. And on and on.
Rather than interrupt, I decide to let them be. My kids will work this out, they always do. And then things will be fine until the next skirmish. I suspect my home isn’t much different than any other in that peaceful times are merely those few quiet days between wars of both opinion and blame.
In the meantime, I retire to the television and the evening news. Which, by the way, is much the same news as yesterday and the day before. Still the arguing, still the blaming. The system is broken, they say. I’m inclined to agree. Especially since the people who made the system are broken as well.
A commercial appears, one of those thirty-second spots about scooters old folk can ride around in to make themselves feel useful again (free cup holder included!).
The news is back, this time given by a pretty blond rather than a non-pretty man, as if bad news could seem a little better if she is the one telling it. She wonders aloud how we fix the problems in Washington, then poses the question to an educated man in a pair of thick glasses.
That’s when I turn the television off. I don’t need to listen to a pretty blond or an educated man to know how to fix things. I already know fixing them is pretty much impossible.
Because in the end, we’ll always prefer arguing rather than talking.
And we’ll always choose stubbornness over compromise.
We’ll always strive to reinforce our own opinions rather than admit those opinions might be wrong.
Call me pessimistic, that’s just how I see it.
Because our politicians really are representative of us all, if not in political philosophy then in brokenness.
Which means the adults we send to Washington aren’t really all that different than the kids we send to their rooms.
Last week, Jay Leno introduced the following video as a meeting between the republicans and democrats in Washington. Maybe not, but the similarities are striking: