“No! He’s lying! He’s just trying to get me into trouble.”
So, what did I do? I did what any parent would do: I extracted myself from the situation, made some half-hearted remark to Coco about being nice to Flynn, and went downstairs to pack my bag for work. About five minutes later Margot came looking for me. “Coco and Flynn are fighting,” she said. I stopped and listened. I could hear them upstairs yelling at each other. The yelling sounded more intense than usual.
So, I trudged upstairs to see what was happening. I could hear the screaming as I climbed the stairs. Yep, the yelling had definitely turned into screaming. The needle on the “fight-o-meter” dial had moved into the red. As I reached the top of the stairs I could see Coco and Flynn on the couch in the TV room. It was not good. Flynn was on top of Coco, straddled across her stomach, holding a fist full of her hair and screaming at her. Coco was under Flynn screaming back at him and trying to kick him as hard as she could. Both their faces were scarlet red. Coco was crying. They were clearly trying to inflict pain on each other. It was a full-on brawl.
I was shocked.
I was shocked.
And then I lost my mind.
Now, before I had kids I was always appalled when I heard parents yelling at their kids. Not just barking orders at their kids like, “Hey, stop doing that!” No, I mean all-out yelling at their kids. I would think to myself smugly, “I would never, ever, yell at my kids like that.” Well, you know where this is going. Every parent has a point, a threshold, where they’re exhausted and their kids have worked their last nerve and stretched their patience to the breaking point. Fortunately, for me – and for Coco, Flynn and Margot – it’s not often that I reach that point. But I admit on some rare occasions I lose my mind and yell at my kids.
I stormed into the TV room, yelling, “What is going on?!! What are you doing?!!” I pulled Flynn off of Coco. He was like an angry cat, hissing, with claws fully extended. Coco was sobbing, “Flynn hurt me! Flynn, hurt me!”
But I was not done yelling. “You will never, ever, ever fight like that in this house. Ever! DO YOU HEAR ME?!!!”
Well, they heard me. And so did the neighbors probably. People walking their dogs in the park at the end of the street probably heard me. And maybe some smug, no-kids fool walking past the house heard me too and thought to himself, “I would never, ever, yell at my kids like that.” Whatever.
Fortunately, all those things my kids have learned on PBSKids, well, I’ve learned them too. As Daniel Tiger says, “If you’re frustrated, take a deep breath and count to four.”
“I need to take a minute and calm down,” I thought to myself. “Coco and Flynn,” I said, “I’m going to walk out of this room right now and decide what I’m going to do about this. Do not talk to each other.”
When I came back into the room, much, much calmer, I put them in separate rooms, sitting on beds, looking at the walls and left them. Ten minutes later I came back to talk to them, to hear their sides of the story, and to pass judgment. They pled their cases in very different ways.
I talked to Flynn first. He was quite calm. He sat on the bed, waiting for me to come back, like he was waiting for a bus, or for a cup of coffee, or for the start of a business meeting of some kind. When I asked him what happened, he was very clear about the extent of his guilt.