My boys are usually the best of friends. For years, I’ve been amazed by their closeness and devotion to each other. Recently, though, I’ve noticed a decrease in their togetherness because some things they used to enjoy doing together they now realize they would rather do separately. One of these items is bathing. Their father and I were thrilled when they decided to stop sharing a bathtub because, quite frankly, they were getting way too old for it and we were a little tired of the bickering over who got “the deep end” and who was hogging the tub. What we discovered, however, is that their new love of privacy at bath time led to other issues, like who gets to shower first, who is taking too long, who used all the hot water, and who stole the clean towel.
Last night, after a long day at the pool followed by playing outside in the 100 degree heat, the boys unanimously decided they needed a bath. Not a joint bath, mind you. Two separate baths. Joe asked first, so he claimed first water rights. He filled the tub, got in, and began to relax. He was in the tub about fifteen minutes when an impatient Luke entered the bathroom and started pestering him to get out. I thought about intervening but decided instead to let them solve their own disagreement. Their bickering back and forth went on for about three minutes. Then I heard Luke take it up a notch.
“Get out, Joe,” he demanded.
“No. I haven’t been in here that long,” Joe replied.
“It’s my turn. Get out or I’m getting in.”
“It’s still my turn,” Joe argued.
“I’m getting in, then.” And, I heard the splash of Luke joining Joe in the tub.
For a few minutes, things were quiet. I was not thrilled they were in there together but, honestly, as long as they were quiet I didn’t see why I should rile them up. Then, just as quickly as the truce had been made, it was broken.
“Mom…Luke peed in the bathtub!” Joe exclaimed.
He did NOT just say what I think he said. I heard Joe climb from the tub. He ran down the hall to my room.
“What did you say?” was all I could muster.
“Luke peed in the tub. I had to get out,” Joe tattled.
I looked at him for a long, hard moment, standing there sopping wet in his towel, shooed out of his own bath. He looked so vulnerable that I nearly forgot that he had been egging his brother on, refusing to get out when his turn in the tub should have been over.
“Well, Joe, I’d like to be angry at him for you, but the truth is that you wouldn’t get out and he found a way to get you out. Next time maybe you won’t push him that way again.”
Joe looked at me, but didn’t bother to argue because he knew I was right. I knew he was no worse for the wear because he was wearing a half smile with his towel. I think he was secretly admiring Luke’s powerful negotiation skills. I did talk to Luke afterward to remind him that he probably could have found a less intrusive way to solve his problem. Luke has always been clever, if a bit devilish. He knows what he wants and can usually find a way to get it. As unorthodox as his tactics may be occasionally, I only wish I’d been as fearless with my young life as he is with his.
I suppose his behavior is not that extraordinary. From the dawn of time, men have found a way to appropriate things for themselves, their family, their faith, or their country. Men have plundered and pillaged and taken what they wanted by force. They have drawn up treaties and placed imaginary boundaries on a geographical landscape. Others have waged wars and coerced strangers into their beliefs. More orderly men filed paperwork and staked their claim. And some courageous men have even gone all the way to the moon and stuck their big, old flag in it. Luke’s behavior today was a childish prank tantamount to licking the last piece of cake to ensure no one else wants it. But, you’ve got to hand it to him. Quite Machiavellian, the ends justified the means and he got what he wanted. There truly is more than one way to skin a cat. You can always pee on it.