Parents know what it’s like driving here in Jersey with kids in the car and an imaginary schedule hanging over your head. We bring snacks along so we don’t have to stop and when we do stop you urge the kids to visit the bathroom. We provide distractions to entertain and keep the kids busy and quiet so you can focus on the road ahead and getting there safely.
One 45-minute drive to visit a friend and adopted grandma was turning out to be more difficult than normal. The weather was unsettled and was probably the culprit for instigating a mini-riot in the back seat between Kasey and Francisca. They had begun arguing and yelling,
“No, it’s not!”
“I had it first!”
“Hey, you two be quiet back there! I can’t drive with you two screaming!” I’d pull the car over but there is no place to stop so I continue and tell them to cool it because they do – not – want – to – make – me – mad. With all the toys there were to play with, they both want the same thing that cost maybe fifty-nine cents. The war breaks out again,
“It’s my turn!”
“No, it’s my turn!”
“You can’t have it till I’m done!”
“Mom! She’s cheating! It’s my turn!”
“Could I please see what you two are fighting over?” I held my hand up and waited for the toy to be produced. I see their knowing glances towards each other, “We’re in trouble now!”
With the offending toy in my possession, I rolled the window down, checked traffic and flung it as far from the highway as I could. The quiet told me it was the right thing to do.
Before the girls had a chance to protest I gave them my reason, “You two are going to be sisters your whole life and I don’t want any silly toy to come between you.” It may seem a little extreme but it worked; they stopped fighting and I was better able to focus on driving.
A couple of weeks later I was waiting in line at the post office when a young mother approached with two children, about four- and five-years-old. I ushered the mom ahead of me to expedite her trip because the kids were snatching and grabbing at a little rubber ball. The mom said they had been fighting over everything that day, driving her crazy! As they entered the post office, one had spotted the ball on the ground. I laughed and told her about my recent trip and how I settled the fighting over a toy in the car. Without a word, the mom took the ball and put it in the trash can— effectively ending the argument.
Was that the right thing for either of us to do? Maybe it was not a perfect solution but it ended the constant bickering and as they say— and nobody got hurt! The post office mom and I wanted the same things, peace and quiet with a measure of cooperation. I believe getting rid of the offending objects also showed the children we were willing to try almost anything (except yelling or violence) to get cooperation.
I’m interested in your thoughts on this matter. What do you think? What would you have done in my shoes? How would you have handled it differently? Let us hear from you.