We have a jar that we fill with stones. Or, rather, the boys fill with stones. But they have to earn the stones first, by doing good things. Like keeping the door open while I push the stroller through it. Or putting their pajamas away without being asked. They used to get stones for saying things like “Please” and “Thank you,” but we are beyond that stage of our lives right now. Instead of getting a stone for saying “Please,” they get ignored if they don’t. But that is a different matter. The matter at hand is the stone jar. The boys have filled it up several times over the past year, and this morning they were on the cusp of filling it up again. Just one stone left.
Just one stone left, and they both knew it.
“What can I do to earn the last stone?” Manchild asked.
“No, my stone,” his brother interjected.
And immediately I knew I had a situation on my hands. One stone, two boys. I hemmed a little. “We’ll see,” I told them. I wanted to make this a good one. And also, fair and equitable.
Squish had not been down for his nap long when Manchild came and sat beside me as I folded the laundry. “What can I do to earn the last stone?” he asked.
“Hmmm. I think I have a job for you. What if you matched the socks?”
“But I don’t know how to do that.”
“But I can teach you.” Which I did. Find two that are exactly the same. Line them up. Fold the top over. See? Easy peasy. But Manchild got bored waiting for me to add to the sock pile as I sorted through the clothes and went off to play elsewhere.
And then his brother woke up and he remembered his mission: to get the last stone. “What if I put all the chess pieces away?” he asked before Squish had managed to make it out of his bedroom.
“Go for it. It’s a good start,” I said. The chess pieces have never known such speed when being put into their little bag.
“Now can I have the stone?”
“I think that stone is going to take more than that.”
“Ooohhh. Well, what can I do?”
“I see a bunch of clothes that need to be put away. You know where they go.”
And so the boy started shuttling pile after pile of clothes to his drawers. And it took his little brother only a minute to figure out what was up. He was in on the game, carrying as many clothes back to his room as his little arms would let him. Within a minute, my bed was cleared of laundry piles and I had two little boys claiming that stone.
“Okay, you both earned it, you both get to put it in the jar,” I said, taking the jar and the bowl with the last stone off the shelf.
Manchild was having none of that. He jumped onto the couch and tried to grab the bowl out of my hands. The stone fell to the couch. I grabbed it. “You two have to put it in together.”
Squish fell to the floor in tears at the news. Manchild tried to grab it out of my hands.
“Or we could just leave it in the bowl.”
Squish got up. Manchild calmed down. They both wrapped their fingers around it. (I kept my grip on it, too, just in case.) And together we dropped in into the jar.
At least that’s what I think that was. If only all bouts of sibling rivalry could be so productive . . . ish.