Sometimes, You Have To Just Buy A Purse
Things have been going pretty well, lately. No one’s been left behind anywhere. No one has had any meltdowns.
And then our younger daughter came to the kitchen a few nights ago, her face contorted into a half-moon with tears in her eyes.
The thing to know about our younger daughter is that she is very sensitive and very dramatic. When she cries — she cries. When she gets in trouble, she doesn’t love us anymore. When she throws a tantrum, she asks for a new family. One day, when she and I had an argument, she told me, “God doesn’t love you.” She is four.
So at first, even though she looked heartbroken, I wasn’t too worried. Things had been going smoothly, after all. Then, she held up a Disney purse (a birthday present) and informed us that her older sister had colored on it. Still skeptical, I examined the purse. My older daughter and her friend had covered it with graffiti.
My younger daughter looked at me expectantly. Clearly, I had to do something. But this kind of behaviour, thankfully, is a rarity in our home. So how do you handle it when one of your children does something truly mean-spirited to another? I scrolled through my mental checklist of appropriate methods of discipline.
My first inclination was to allow the younger daughter to select one of her sister’s belongings and smash it to bits in front of her. That would teach our older daughter the error of her ways. We could use the Code of Hammurabi: eye for an eye. But lo, Gandhi-ji told us that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind! I felt guilty for even having that idea. It seemed like the wrong lesson for the girls.
The next idea followed after some thought. Our older daughter doesn’t really get money in any really meaningful way, but perhaps hitting her in the pocket would hurt enough to make the point. She was due a gift from my parents. I considered forcing her to part with this present. But that meant my parents would be dragged into this, and they just want to be the good guys and buy everyone presents. So that was out.
I finally settled on my best idea yet: I would make my graffiti-artist daughter carry the little purse around as a shaming ritual to force her to realize what she had done. Brilliant.
My older daughter actually liked carrying around the purse. And my younger daughter shook with rage because she thought her purse was being given to her sister — a far greater crime than the original one.
Like parents so often do, we ended up with a less-than-ideal solution: We settled for getting our younger daughter a replacement purse. I could get even with our older daughter at a later date; what mattered was righting the wrong and stopping the tears. Things were looking good – I had seen one at the local home goods store. Except it was the wrong color! It was pink (not blue).
Now, when I first became a father I would have bought the pink purse and brought it home happily. I would not have been able to tell the difference between the purses. But years of fatherhood have trained me; as soon as I saw that color, I knew this was not the solution we thought it was. You definitely do not do something as foolish as bringing home a pink purse instead of a blue purse, unless you want to have something pink thrown in your face.
The only person who seems to have gotten out of this mess scot-free? The graffiti artist daughter, who started this in the first place.
I contented myself with taking a photo of my sad-faced younger daughter holding her mangled purse, which I plan to use at my older daughter’s wedding slideshow someday.
Sometimes you have to play the long game.