I’m standing in our kitchen slabbing PB and J on bread when two yelling, writhing boys trip into the kitchen, slam against the stove, and nearly send me—and a knife full of PB—to the tile floor.
“What in the world?” I yelp, knife in midair.
M has blood trickling down the side of a knuckle, and J gives him one last shove before flying to the couch in the next room and folding arms with an emphatic I-didn’t-do-it sigh of indignation.
“Ok, you two. What on God’s green earth was that all about?”
“Well M started it!” huffs J, while M points at J saying, “No, you started it!”
“Ok. Cut it out. Both of you go upstairs and talk it out. Then come back and tell me what happened and why.”
“How are we supposed to do that?” asks M, eyes wide with wonder at mama’s new discipline move.
“Ask each other questions, like Dad and I have been teaching you. Listen. And DON’T ASSUME!”
“But why don’t you ask the questions?”
“Because you need to learn to do it yourself, without my help.”
M utters, “Hhrump!” and both boys slunk to their bedroom with glowering brows and heavy feet.
I turn to finish spreading PB and stop mid-stroke. Wait a minute . . . .
Dropping the knife in the sink, I run upstairs, grab my moleskin, and plop onto the carpet in the hallway to listen in. This might be good!
I hear M spouting behind closed door, “Well, Dad says it’s not good to hit, and you hit me!”
J snorts, “Well you started it!”
M lets out a belly-moan, “This is going to take forever!”
M sighs. “So, ok, were you mad at me for something? Was I being bossy?”
“Ha! Were you being bossy? Of course you were! That’s why I got mad!”
M presses in, “Ok, so how was I being bossy?”
“You told me you were going to tell mom I didn’t turn off the TV . . . You! . . . You! . . . ” J punches out.
“Ahawahhh!” yelps M. The thuds of rolling bodies, failing limbs, grunts, thwacks, and “Ugghs” roll out from underneath the door.
“Come on, J! We’re never gonna get out of here!” M muffled-grunts.
J spouts, “Because of you!”
“No, because of you!”
M wails, “Please noooooooo! We’re going to be here all night! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ok, so how was I being mean?”
“You’re never going to understand!” whines J.
“You’re too hard to understand!”
“Ok, J, so tell me. What did you do wrong?”
“I don’t know. You go first.”
“Fine. I shouldn’t have bossed you, and you should’ve obeyed mom and not kicked me!”
“Fine. Ok. Go tell mom so we can get out of here!”
The door opens and Micah yells in my face, “Moooommmmm!! Oh. There you are. Did you hear?”
“Tell me what you figured out.”
“Well, we both knew the other person’s problem, but didn’t know our own.”
Ah. Yes. I’m familiar with that tactic—point-the-finger to cover my heart.
I smile. “We are good at that aren’t we? Always seeing the sin in others before we see our own?”
They sheepish-grin at each other, at me.
“Ok, are we done?” pushes M.
We have a long way to go, my friends, in learning to fight fair, listen, and love. But God gives grace for each rough-and-tumble moment, every thoughtless word.
Today I’m grateful for a half-step forward in learning how to fight and make up, and for the laughter we shared while writing and editing this story together.
And tomorrow. . . tomorrow we’ll live this all over again.
How do you help your kiddos work through their fights? What questions do you ask them?
How do you place yourself alongside your kids? In other words, how do you communicate to them, “I’m learning how to love and fight well too! I don’t have it all together. Let’s learn together!”