Sunday, January 01, 2012

Playing the moderator.

Have you ever tried to settle children’s quarrel? I did and failed miserably when my brother’s children picked up a quarrel and dragged me into it. This happened 10 years ago but I feel amused when I recall the incident. By then my daughters were married and my son was in college. I was terribly out of touch with children in their pre teens.

The three of them belong to two sets of parents. The two girls Shruti and Shweta are sisters and little Vishnu is their cousin. My brothers live close by and there is a regular interaction between the two families. The family had come together to attend my mother’s funeral and the rites connected to her death were being performed. It so happened that Shweta the younger of the two sisters had been sleeping when the older one went off to play with Vishnu and a few other friends. Naturally Shweta was upset on being left out. By the time she got ready to join them the other two returned home. It was already 11 in the morning and it was very hot outside. Shweta wanted them to accompany her but the other two were done for the morning. The conversation that followed was something like this –

Shweta: Why didn’t you take me along?

Shruti: You were sleeping.

Shweta: You should have woken me up.

Vishnu: We did. But you didn’t get up.

Shweta: Did you shake me up?

Shruti: We called out to you but you did not get up.

Shweta: That means you didn’t wake me up. I would have woken up if you had shaken me.

Then she announced –

I am going out with athai (me) none of you will come.

Vishnu: Why? Athai belongs to all of us. You alone cannot go out with her.

Shweta: Oh, yes I can. Because you both went to play without me.

Shruti: Athai would never agree to it. She would either take all of us out or none of us.

I began to panic. I was being dragged into their quarrel for nothing. What do I do now?

Me: It is very hot outside. I am not going anywhere.

Shweta looks a bit disappointed. Her face then brightens up.

“We’ll go out in the evening. Won’t we athai?”

Vishnu: What time athai?

Shweta: You are NOT coming with us.

Vishnu: We went out to play without you in the morning. But we are going out in the evening. Morning and evening are different.

Shweta: They are not. You guys were mean to leave me out. And Athai will never take you both along.

I wondered if I had a say in the matter. Was there a way I could resolve the issue without taking sides? Should I feign a headache and refuse to go out? But Shweta had set her heart on going out with me and expected me to take her side since she had been ‘wronged’.

I made the mistake of trying to arbitrate.

Me: I’ll take Shweta out and get a cone ice cream each for all of you. You can be friends after that.

Shruti: We’re staying home so Vishnu and I get two ice creams each.

Shweta: Why?

Shruti: Because you are going out and we’re staying home.

Shweta: You guys left me out and went out to play. So I get two ice creams. And I hope the ice cream melts by the time we get home.

Vishnu: That’s not fair. You can’t go out and have two ice creams too.

A fresh round of argument follows and no solution in sight.

I felt that the mothers alone could tackle the situation so I called for them.

Shweta’s mom S…. pitched in.

S….: Who woke up late this morning.

Vishnu and Shruti: Shweta.

S….. : How do we punish her?

It was okay for Vishnu and Shruti to quarrel with Shweta but they certainly don’t want her to be punished by an adult.

Shruti: It’s alright. Shweta can go out with athai. We’ll stay home.

Shweta mellows down.

Shweta: You both can come along. It would be so much fun. Athai can you take all of us out this evening? We’ll play ‘dashing cars’ for a while and come home.

I was left wondering if the children had actually quarreled or if I was imagining things.