David was bitten this morning; there were teeth marks on his arm. Isaac was the biter. Isaac hadn’t bitten anyone since he was two, so I knew this was something that needed immediate attention. There’s one thing I will not abide and that is children biting one another, so my first conversation was with Isaac. Again, the usual, “What is going on here?”
“David was trying to grab one of the Lego pieces I found and so I bit him.”
Like all their toys, Legos are at times their passion. Sometimes all six of them are playing in the boy’s room at the same time, each intent on his or her own fantastic construction.
“Dad, look at the boat I made. You see, these are the guns, and it’s got a closet and a window right here!”
“Dad, come check out my castle. See, here’s the door and here at are the archers patrolling the walls and….”
And so it goes. When they finish a piece, and often in the midst of construction, they insist that I drop what I’m doing and come and see. I try my best to be as enthusiastic as they are.
Legos have unique parts, often only one or two or three of them in the whole set. And so, when a particular building block is called for there can be passionate disputes as to whose work it should go to. It’s sort of like miniature contractors bickering over whose custom brick work should be attended to first.
This morning’s tiff was of the same sort, only this one got out of hand.
As we often do, Lisa and I had a little tete a tete about the question and decided we needed a new policy. Like any government our home history is layered with policies that date back to birth of our second child. As Jesus teaches us, “Whenever two or three are gathered together, there is conflict in the midst of them,” or something like that.
We decided there was an unreasonable, though quite understandable vein of stress that ran through the household that might be addressed with the naming of “untouchables.” Because of our close proximity to one another, sharing is a necessary feature of our daily lives. We share everything, especially the children. When there are new birthday toys, or new personal acquisitions in the family the proud owner has the right to a 24 hour free period when his or her new toy is totally off limits to everyone else. We developed that policy many years ago when birthday and Christmas presents were deemed community property right after they were opened. The 24 hour privilege has been invoked countless times and has saved us innumerable arguments.
Lisa and I decided we needed something along the same order, just more permanent. We had a family meeting and told the kids, “All right, we want you to spend some time thinking today about what you’d like to keep exclusively for yourself. You can name two or three things that no one else can ever have. No one is even allowed to ask to play with these things; they are entirely yours.”
This was a novel idea and one that took hold quickly. Within minutes you could see the kids going over a mental inventory of their possessions wondering what it might be they’d like to have exclusive rights over. We told them we’d meet again late in the afternoon to hear what they decided.
All day long they came to me with suggestions about what might be appropriate. Jessie knew right off she wanted her scooter all to herself. It was a recent birthday gift, and a very popular item that was perpetually loaned out to older siblings. I was so glad she decided to keep it as an untouchable.
Isaac quickly developed a long list which included his toy trucks, his books, his room and everything in it. I said, “Son, you can’t have exclusive rights to your room. That’s too much.”
Benjamin had a long list too, but we urged him to limit it to two or three items. In the end he went with his guitar and the weapon crafts he is so proud of.
Elisabeth wanted her new guitar untouched. Beyond that she couldn’t think of much. The guitar is big for her and I can understand that.
David recently bought some new Lego kits with his own money and opted to keep those separate from the rest. He couldn’t think of anything else and was a bit glum about it, but with a few suggestions he warmed up to the idea.
John, being so young and inexperienced in life, was given carte blanche to handle anything he wanted to. Untouchable for a two year old is both incomprehensible and irresistible. Elisabeth really did want to keep her guitar from him, but understood that there simply would be times when it was impossible to do so.
In the first community of the church we read in the Book of Acts (4:32-5:11) that all the believers held everything in common so that everyone had what they needed. I’ve always found this a difficult text to preach to a contemporary world. We lean towards the opposite pole, wanting to hold everything for ourselves claiming all our possessions as untouchable. We don’t like sharing. I can’t imagine that the early believers were all that different. Perhaps they became that way after they saw Ananias and Saphira get nailed by the Spirit of God. That would certainly warm my heart to the idea of community property.
Still, I wonder if there wasn’t some need for an untouchable policy. “This is my blanket. If any of you touches it ever again you’re going to see somebody get mean!” Or, “This is my drinking cup. I’m sick and tired of washing it after some of you filthy jerks!”
I can see the Apostles having a little extra-biblical conference. “Look, Pete, we’ve got to do something about this or someone’s going to get hurt.”
“I know James, I know, I’m working on it. In the meantime, if you’d kindly stop helping yourself to my cloak I’d appreciate it.”
The Lego fight went on for two days. When the two of them appeared before the parental Supreme Court we found that the whole fight was over one tiny, albeit unique, piece. It was actually two little pieces joined together on a hinge. Taking my lead from Solomon I simply took the two pieces and broke them apart, giving one to David and one to Isaac. I thought that would fix everything. After all, it did in the bible. Not so here.
The boys, all of them, were eventually banished from the Legos until further notice. All the Lego pieces were moved into the girl’s room where they are able to play without incident for hours at a time.
The boys gnashed their teeth that night, but quickly got over it the next day. Isaac and David apologized and they moved on to the next thing, happy with the untouchables they kept for themselves.