This t-shirt image might not look like much to you, but to my kids, this is the greatest t-shirt on the planet and the last one in known existence:
In addition to having a puppy on it, it was also the only one the store had when they went shopping with their grandmother.
Now as a parent, I know that buying one of anything when you have a 6 year old and an 8 year old is a suicide mission. Occasionally my kids will argue over who is breathing the highest quality air. Getting one of them a puppy shirt and the other one a kitty shirt is crazy. But in a moment of pure theater they assured their grandmother, “No, of course we won’t fight over the puppy shirt. We won’t.”
They next day, as the sun rose, so did the buzz about that puppy shirt. In addition to having a cute canine on it, the shirt also changed colors in the sun. (These kids today with their iPhones and color changing shirts and hippity hoppity music.) My oldest daughter wanted to wear the shirt. My youngest daughter filed a minor protest regarding this course of action.
In a matter of minutes, we were at terror level red, with both kids quickly swearing the kitty shirt would never be worn as it was a hideous shirt. That shirt wasn’t cute! That cat shirt wasn’t a silver medal or a second best, it was a 50th best, suddenly less popular than say a burlap sack in the Acuff house.
Possessing, my deep pools of parenting wisdom, I stepped in and tried to negotiate a truce in this cotton poly blended crisis. “What are we really fighting about here? There’s only a single dog on this entire shirt. A lot of these other pets are ugly. Whereas the kitty shirt has six cats on it! That shirt is the real winner. Cat shirt! Cat shirt! Who is with me?”
My kids laughed at my logic and kept arguing.
So then I tried another angle. “What if you get to wear the shirt on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, while you get to wear it on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays? On Sundays, we’ll give it a day of rest, a shirt Sabbath if you will.”
My kids did not budge.
Finally I had to Solomon the situation, using the same approach he did with the two women arguing over the baby.
“OK, here’s what we’re going to do. If we can’t agree to share it, we’re going to return the shirts to the store and no one will ever be able to wear the puppy shirt.” (I felt like threatening to cut it in half with a sword was too extreme and I didn’t want to have to go to that weird store at the mall that carries swords.)
I then proceeded to wait a few seconds while my children pondered the brilliance of what I was saying. Surely one of them would love that puppy shirt so much that the thought of never seeing it again will be unbearable. Perhaps McRae would say, “No daddy, please no! Don’t do that! Give it to L.E., lest neither one of us be able to enjoy it.”
Instead, they stared at each other, with an intensity only sisters can muster and then said, “OK, return it.”
Like picking up a grenade at your feet and tossing it back at the person who threw it at you, they saw my stakes and raised them. “Let’s do this thing dad. You want to go all in? You want to Solomon this situation? We’re in.”
I made a brief note to study Meg Meeker’s book “Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters,” with even greater fortitude and started folding up the shirts.
It was a tense moment, one that left me multiplying my prayers about adolesence. The Solomon had been employed. The Solomon had failed.
Thirty minutes later, McRae caved, the pressure of being puppyless proving too great. She pulled me aside and put on the kitty shirt secretly so that she could surprise her older sister. She zipped up her hoodie and then found L.E. and said, “Look at this!” She then revealed the kitty shirt, indicating that L.E. was getting to wear the puppy shirt that day.
Crisis averted. Sisters back together. Love won. No swords were necessary.
As a parent do you ever have to negotiate situations like this with your kids? Did you fight with your brother or sister growing up?