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Recently, I cleaned out the kitchen junk drawer and came across the coveted Granola Eating Spoon. Technically, it's a sugar spoon: short and round, the perfect size for eating cereal, especially granola, because the raisins don't fall off the sides.
Years ago, for some reason everyone in my family constantly fought over that spoon, and one person in particular went so far as to deliberately get up earlier than anyone else just to be the one to get it before anyone else could.
It was utterly childish and sparked even more childish squabbles:
"Not fair - you got it yesterday."
"So what - I called dibs."
"Well, I call dibs for tomorrow."
"You can't. You can only dib one day at a time."
Finally, my husband had to step in. "Nancy, you're the grown up. Let go of the spoon and let one of the girls use it."
It's something I'm not proud of.
Life isn't fair, and if you've got kids you hear about it endlessly. It's the whole calling dibs thing. (Is dibs even a real word?)
Whatever you call it, calling "Mine!" is an age-old problem and only amplifies the problem of fairness. What's not fair is having to be the arbiter of fairness.
For example, if two people call dibs on the television at the exact moment and if there's only one television, who gets it? Even if you do "eenie meenie," whoever you end up with, it's still not fair for the one who loses.
One time when my girls were younger and in the throes of a heated dibs match over the last can of Diet Pepsi, screaming, "It's not fair! I called dibs first," I thought it the perfect opportunity to get some religion into them, telling them the parable Jesus told where the man who grabbed the best seat at a wedding feast was embarrassed when the host told him to sit in the back and then gave the best seat to another guest.
They rolled their eyes as only girls can.
"You want fair?" I asked and, to their shock, downed the Diet Pepsi myself. Later, I had another idea and held out a candy bar cut in two unequal pieces. My plan: If one of them took the bigger piece I would take it away and give it to her sister, thus illustrating the parable. "Pick one," I said.
"This is a trick, right?" my oldest asked.
"Just pick," I said.
"You pick for us," she said.
"That's not the point!" I said.
Days went by with me offering unevenly divided cookies or whatever and them not falling for it - and continuing to call dibs on everything until I thought I'd go mad.
I truly understand how some animals could eat their young. All I wanted to do was teach my kids a lesson, or at least get them to stop thinking of themselves so much.
Then one Sunday we walked into church, and as I started to take my usual place on the front row I noticed a Bible on "my" chair. Obviously whoever put it there didn't realize that I had called permanent dibs on that seat. So, I removed it and placed it on a seat behind me.
As the service began, an usher asked me to please sit somewhere else. The guest soloist, who had a sprained ankle, needed "my" seat since it was the easiest one for her to use.
I felt my face turn red as my daughters snickered. They knew how I felt about "my" seat. I was busted.
After church, my girls were still cackling with glee when my youngest daughter slapped her forehead.
"Oh, I get it!" she said. "The other day when you drank the Diet Pepsi and tried to trick us with stuff - it's like, when you get greedy you get stuff taken away, but when you're unselfish you get good stuff. The first are last, and the last get first dibs - and you got kicked out of your seat."
I should've been happy at her epiphany, but frankly, all I kept thinking about was animals eating their young.