AT OUR house, when I fling open the door and burst into one of the kid's bedrooms to break up a fight it's a safe bet I'll hear three words.
Before I even get to ask a question, demand an answer, raise an eyebrow, fold my arms in disgust or make an attempt to hide my shock at the carnage and the state of the carpet (or the wall or the ceiling fan or whatever else got in their way) three words will be thrown at me - "He started it". The only variation will be if it comes from the other side of the room in which case it will be - "She started it".
When I step into a room, all the noise, screaming, banging, teasing and throwing of objects will cease. And as the echoes of the argument hang in the air, the two warring parties will turn to each other before turning to me with the timing of a synchronised swimming team, to stick their arms out, point their fingers at each other and boldly claim in clear, decisive voices - "He/she did it".
So there I stand, with all the respect of a referee who has a history of making questionable calls, left to work out who drew first blood, who to punish and who to kiss better. As a bonus I'm also expected to ensure restitution is made, the mess is cleaned up and peace returned. No problem. No biggie. After I deal with that mess I'll sort out the Taliban and find a parking spot right out front of the supermarket at 5.30pm on a Friday.
Earlier this week, things flared up. When I entered the bedroom where all the action was taking place, two kids quickly piped up that the other one had "started it".
They just don't get it. I don't care who started it. I never care - I just want it to stop.
After some questioning and accusations from them, "Mum it's not fair, you always take his side" and "Yeah mum, like she's not your favourite" I was still no closer to working out what to do about this altercation over iPod earphones. Yep, that's right. World War II had been re-enacted, for the listening pleasure of our neighbours, all because of a pair of lousy earphones.
Two iPod earphones. Identical. One belonging to my eldest. One belonging to my youngest. One set of earphones is broken and each kid claims the broken ones belong to their sibling. Cost of a new pair of earphones? $19.95. Cost of my sanity? Priceless. Only problem was the shops had closed.
What to do? Two kids. One pair of working earphones. Admittedly they were out of reach hanging from one of the ceiling fan blades rotating above my head but that was just a logistical problem to be solved later.
"They're so mine."
"No they're not."
"Give them back."
"No way loser."
As the situation escalated I threw my hands up in defeat and gave them three words of my own - "Go tell dad".