Sunday, March 4, 2001
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Posted on: Sunday, March 4, 2001

Family Matters
When her children argue, this mother acts as mediator

By Ka'ohua Lucas
Special to The Advertiser

"Mom, your son bruised me," my daughter said, pointing to a purple welt on her shin that was beginning to mushroom.

"Now, how did that happen?" I asked.

"It was her fault," my 10-year-old shouted, defending himself. "She was chasing after me, and she just happened to bang into the chair that I pushed back."

"Oh, please," my daughter groaned. "Then how can a wooden-framed chair scoot forward on its own without somebody shoving it from behind, huh?"

How many of us have had to intervene when our children have had disputes?

Sometimes, it’s difficult to determine who is telling the truth.

I’ve often had to serve as a judge in the high court of appeals, sifting through the evidence presented by each party.

One person’s definition of telling the truth may differ from another’s.

In my son’s case, he has a habit of stretching the truth.

It’s not that he’s lying.

It’s just that he makes a very convincing presentation, which strengthens his argument and confuses the judge.

Now, in this particular case, I was not at the scene of the alleged crime.

I had to rely on my instincts in making a fair decision, taking into consideration the credibility of the suspect (and victim) as well as the evidence presented to me.

When I attempt to determine who’s at fault, the first hint of dishonesty is in the eyes.

I ask each child to recount what happened.

My 10-year-old is always the first to take the floor.

He’ll craft his story in detail, highlighting points that he would like me to recognize as strong evidence.

"Mom, she was chasing me," he argues. "I wasn’t chasing her. All I did was push the chair on the side to get away from her."

While he is stating his case, I look for body language clues, particularly facial expressions that may shed doubt on his argument.

His voice is often loud - peaking when someone disagrees. His eyes have a hardened look.

As he speaks, there is a little furrow in his brow that deepens when he glosses over the facts.

"Son, are you telling me the truth?" I ask with a piercing gaze.

"I am, Mom," he says as his cheeks flush and a faint red, beginning at the tip of his ear lobes, climbs like a thermometer.

My daughter, on the other hand, is the silent warrior.

She rarely complains about anything.

If I confront her about an accusation one of her brothers has made, in a sentence or two she will state the facts as they occurred.

"What will I gain by lying to you, Mom?" she says.

In this whodunit case, I believed neither of my kids was being dishonest.

The way I saw it is that each one interpreted the situation differently.

For example, one morning, I asked my husband to give the jug of milk a sniff test to see if it was sour.

Realizing that he had purchased the jug at half-price one day before its expiration date, he explained:

"You see, dear, whether the milk is sour or not is immaterial. The fact is that I purchased the milk at half price, which means that you were able to consume 98 percent of it when it was fresh. The remaining 2 percent, which you present to me now, may be sour, but if you think about it, I was able to save 50 percent on a jug of milk and in essence the remaining milk that you will probably waste is inconsequential because you were able to save money," he argues.

Now do you see where my son gets his reasoning from?

I try to remind my ohana that our family is like a canoe.

For us to function properly, we need to paddle together as one.

We cannot blame one another for the canoe’s stalling.

Each of us needs to individually assume responsibility so that our canoe will move forward smoothly.

I rest my case.

Two Hawaii parents, Lynne Wikoff and Kaohua Lucas, take turns writing the Family Matters column. Send comments to: Family Matters, Ohana Section, The Ho-nolulu Advertiser, P.O. Box 3110, Honolulu, HI 96802; e-mail or fax 535-8170.

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