PARENT is washing dishes, thinking about various ways the threads of abuse in his family of origin have reached through generations when CHILD 1 enters, crying.
CHILD 1: [crying] I snapped! I … [incomprehensible]—
PARENT: I can’t understand what you’re saying.
CHILD 1: I said I wanted tinvi papartins ackzed [incomprehensible]—
PARENT: I still can’t understand what you’re saying.
CHILD 1: I said I wanted to invite someone to the party, and—
PARENT: What party?
CHILD 1: Our birthday party.
[Their birthday party is still a ways off.]
PARENT : Oh… OK, go on.
CHILD 1: And I wanted to invite someone he doesn’t know, and he said no, and I said but you invited [friend] when I didn’t know him, and he was going [does impression of brother looking away and making yak-yak-yak puppet gesture with his hand] and I said stop doing that and he said F you, and I threw the orange chair at him.
[The “orange chair” is a small stuffed ottoman, just fabric and stuffing, a little heavy, but no hard parts.]
PARENT: [silent for probably half a minute, still washing dishes] I don’t know what to say to that. It’s—I wasn’t expecting to have to deal with this right now, so gimme some time to think about it before I say anything, please.
[Child 1 exits, parent continues to wash dishes, reflecting that this is much too tidy for good fiction, and there should be some time between thinking about his family of origin and being presented with a related situation in his own. Thoughts go in several predictable directions: Sit them down, listen to both sides, and deliver judgment; take screen time away from both of them; tell them to work it out between themselves; give them a lecture about how people treat each other; yell at them to get their attention; tell one to F himself and throw a big pillow at the other to teach empathy.
Dishrack fills up. Parent reflects some more on the threads of abuse in generations of his own family, goes upstairs, gathering Child 1 along the way. Upstairs, the orange ottoman is back where it belongs. CHILD 2 is sitting on his bed.]
CHILD 2: [extra cutely] Hello!
PARENT: Hello. Both of you sit over there.
[Parent sits on Child 1’s bed. Both children sit on Child 2’s bed, facing him.]
PARENT: Do you want to be abusive men when you grow up?
BOTH: [shocked] No!
PARENT: Then stop practicing to be abusive men.
[Parent exits silent room, goes back to dishes, waits ten years to see if this was actually as good as it seemed at the moment.]