Sometimes I get it right. Or maybe my kids are just in a more receptive mood. I don’t know. Sometimes it just all works out as it should.
I was taking my shower this morning when Hal came into the bathroom blubbering about something. He was holding his arm and speaking incoherently. When it became apparent that I wouldn’t be able to hear the story with water cascading around me, I turned it off.
As I coaxed the story out of him, my mind analyzed the subtle clues. Is the crying real or forced? Is he truly in pain or just mad? Or are his feelings just hurt? Deciding it was real, I worked on piecing together the story of how his brother had come to squeeze his arm so hard and dig his thumb into the muscle.
Working backward from the point of injury, I learned that Daryl had squeezed the arm in response to Hal telling him to shut up. Hal had told Daryl to shut up after Daryl told Hal to shut up. When asked why Daryl had told him to shut up, Hal became reticent to continue unraveling the full story. Ahhh, I thought. I’m getting somewhere now.
Hal was being too loud. When asked whether Daryl had previously asked him nicely to be quiet, Hal claimed no. That’s when Daryl, who had apparently been lurking just outside the door interjected with protest.
The court is now called to order.
The defendant sits on a chair next to the sink. The accuser sits across the room from him at a safe distance on the toilet. The judge stands in all her naked glory with water dripping from her now-getting-cold body inside the glass judge’s box.
Before she can begin her questions, the defendant attempts a counter-claim. “He shoved me really hard before coming in here.”
“This was after you squeezed his arm?” she asks.
“OK, retaliation isn’t right but it was in response to you hurting him. Did you tell him to be quiet?”
“Yes your honor.” (So maybe I added the “your honor” bit, but wouldn’t it be nice?)
“Where was he when he was being too loud?”
“In our bedroom. And I could hear him all the way down in the kitchen.”
The accuser is, amazingly enough, waiting silently for the trial to progress.
“And where were you when you asked him to be quiet?”
“In our bedroom.”
“And did you invoke Charley?” (Our house guest sleeping in a room near the kitchen).
“Did you tell Hal why he should be quiet?”
“Yes. I told him he might wake up Charley.”
“Hal?” Says the judge, turning to the toilet. “Did Daryl ask you to be quiet first?”
“Did he ask you to be quiet?”
“And did you hear why?”
“And you didn’t do it.”
The judge, noticing the cold soaking into her skin and the slimy soap still hanging out where the sun doesn’t shine, is ready to deliver the verdict.
“Ok, see? This is where it started. A member of the family – it doesn’t matter who – asked you to do something and gave you a good reason why and you ignored him. Do you see that?”
Hal nodded dejectedly.
“Now,” the judge says, turning her attention back to the defendant’s chair. “It’s never OK to respond with physical violence. You understand that, right? What are you supposed to do when he’s not doing what he’s supposed to do?”
“Daryl, what are you supposed to do?”
“Come tell you or Daddy.”
“Right. And then I could have called him in here and talked to him.”
“But Hal,” the judge shifted her attention back to the accuser. “It started with you. It started when you disregarded another member of the family. If you had listened and responded appropriately, he never would have told you to shut up and then you wouldn’t have told him to shut up and then he wouldn’t have squeezed your arm. Do you see that?”
“OK. I want you to apologize to your brother for ignoring him.”
“I’m sorry I ignored you Bubba.” (For the record, this was a very sincere apology.)
“And now I want you to apologize to Hal for hurting him.”
“I’m sorry I hurt your arm.” (Another sincere apology.)
“Now if you don’t mind, I’ve got soap in places I didn’t need it to stay so I’m going to resume my shower now.”
Court is adjourned.