Conflict Resolution and Burning Your House Down: Both Fine Options in Parenting

By: Jacob Lewis

There was an old story/riddle that I remember hearing in elementary school. I’m too lazy to look up the exact version of it, but it went something like this.

A woman needs to cross the river with her belongings, which consist of a bowl of yams, a goat, and a leopard (because why not). The woman had a boat, but could only fit one of those three items in it at a time, and would have to leave two items behind while she crossed the river and then come back for the other. The idea was that certain combinations of items were not workable. If she left the leopard with the goat, the leopard would eat the goat (but for some reason, not the woman). If she left the goat with the yams, the goat would eat the yams. So it was a big balancing act. I bring this up because a few days ago I experienced something like that in my real life with my daughters.

Athena’s second grade class has over 20 kids in it, while Juliet’s preschool class has about 5-6. On Valentine’s Day they both had school celebrations and both received candy from their classmates. As you can guess by the above numbers, when they both got home they noticed that the balance of candy was off by quite a bit in Athena’s favor. Juliet was less than pleased. In fact, she was distraught over this clear example of how life simply isn’t fair for everyone. While I was at work, Sara sent me a photo of her sad face, and try as I might to resist the manipulation, seeing the personification of childhood sadness in my daughter’s eyes, I decided to rectify the situation.

But how? It would be very difficult to resolve effectively without angering at least one daughter. As such, I had to move the pieces around in the right way to be the heroic father I always knew I was born to be. These were the scenarios I considered:

I go buy some extra Valentine’s Day candy for Juliet to bring her stock in parity with Athena’s. Juliet is happy at the fairness, but Athena sees me bring home treats only for her sister and is angry at the clear evidence that her father loves Juliet more.

I take away some of Athena’s candy so that she is even with Juliet. Same result as above, except Athena is now left with bitter resentment to both her father and Juliet. Also, Juliet probably won’t be happy unless I crush the candy in front of Athena, so that won’t work. I couldn’t do that to candy.

I take away both of their candy. Neither child is happy and they both hate their Father, marry cocaine dealers with tattoos referencing MTV reality shows that have been off the air for over a decade, and start calling me by my first name (*shutter*).

I hide both of their candy, throw it away in the night and shrug when they ask where it is. Both children are upset, but can’t put the blame on anyone. However, they will both secretly suspect it was one of their parents. Balance between children is achieved, but have to deal with their distrust for rest of my life. Also, I’m not going to throw away candy. Again, I couldn’t do that to candy.

I hide both of their candy, eat it in the night over the next two days, and shrug when they ask where it is. Same as above, except the rest of my life is filled with guilt and self-loathing as I try reconcile whether I ate their candy for me or for them.

I hide both of their candy, eat it in the night over the next two days, and shrug when they ask where it is, but subtly hint that Sara took it. Same as above, except my daughters will let Sara know I told them this (little snitches), it ruins my marriage, and I probably burn in hell for all eternity. We’ll keep this one in the maybe pile.

I talk with my girls and tell them that life isn’t always fair and we have to realize there are ups and downs and we can’t always get everything the same. The result, the girls nod their heads in agreement and realize…….HAHAHAHAHAHAHA….sorry, I couldn’t even finish that sentence. Yeah, we aren’t doing that.

I wipe both of their memories of the last 24 hours, take the candy and eat it over the next few nights, maybe even right in front of them. Perfection, but the necessary technology may be beyond my price range.

I wipe Sara’s memories so that she wakes up the next morning confused, disorientated and surrounded by a couple dozen Valentine’s Day candy wrappers and boxes, conveniently at the same time our daughters bounce/stomp into our room. Marriage is likely over (Sara will suspect treachery without being able to fully prove it) but everyone loves Daddy best. Another one for the maybe pile.

I invite Nana and Pop over for dinner and when children are upstairs I offer candy to Pop. Pop eats it and I yell “Girls! Come quick! Pop ate all your Valentine’s Day candy!” Girls get upset, but are united against a common enemy that isn’t me or Sara. Pop knows he has been tricked, but is too stunned to explain himself. Nana is embarrassed by Pop and buys girls new candy in exact equal amounts. Later, Pop, still unable to convince anyone else of the trick, writes Jacob out of will and denounces him as his son. Family gatherings are awkward for many years. This would be best scenario yet, but I can’t guarantee Pop will eat those candy chalk hearts, and its got to be all or nothing.

We do a Sophie’s Choice situation and we pick…..nope…not going to finish that…went too dark there and now I feel sad in my heart. Going to swing this ship around.

I go and buy an equal amount of candy for both of them. I give it to them as a loving gesture from their father, and a quasi-bribe that they need to stop complaining about who has more candy than the other. Still an imbalance in Athena’s favor, but a hope that Juliet has reached the requisite level of candy that will allow her to be satiated.

I burn our house down. Tell children candy was lost in fire. We move on with our lives.

The best scenario was pretty obvious, but when I was buying the propane and matches at QFC, I remembered right as I was getting to the cashier that we have a BIC lighter at home and our stove and oven are gas based, so these purchases would just be a waste of money. Angry about having made a detour to QFC for no reason I decided to purchase a couple packages of Valentine’s Day candy. I gave it to the girls and while there was still some mention of one sister having more candy than the other, they have now moved on to other things. I have since eaten the vast majority of that candy.

The moral of this story. Always plan on burning your house down unless another option presents itself in the interim.

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