Friday, April 20, 2012

Minivan Mediation

The boys clowned around with friend Kevin Henkle.

Way back when I was in law school, I took a mediation course.  A practicing mediator taught the class.  He peppered his lectures with his personal mediation stories, tales of ex-spouses fighting tooth and nail over marital assets and heartbreaking medical malpractice  disagreements.  We read our text book, listened to his lectures, and reenacted scenarios.  I walked out of the course prepared to mediate practically any conflict....or so I thought.

Today, as I was riding in my minivan with my four boys and their carpool friend, I started to think about that mediation course.  I thought how law students taking such a mediation course should really practice those skills in a minivan filled with five kids (four of them siblings). 

I imagine it would go like this...

Law student jumps into the driver's seat of the minivan.  She checks her rear-view mirror and adjusts the seats.  She feels confident this should be a piece of cake, merely transporting six "angelic" children from school to home.  She pulls out of the school parking lot.  As the car veers onto the road, the disagreements begin.  Two children want the car windows down.  Three vote for windows up.  A scuffle ensues.  Said law student decides allowing half the windows down is fair.  Problem solved.  She settles in again, feeling smug in her mediation abilities.  

The children that voted for windows up start begging for the air conditioning to be turned on.  The other kids agree.  She rolls all the windows up and turns on the air.  Disagreements flow about the temperature of the air and the volume of the fan.  She turns the dial to a middle temperature.  Some children begin to beg for the windows down again.  The law student begins to sweat.

Just then, one child asked for the radio to be turned on.  Three want the radio off.  The law student flips on the radio.  Two kids want pop music.  Three want a kid's music CD.  The law student begins to panic.  She flips off the radio and starts to rock and hum.

A child from the back seat asked for snacks.  The law student sees a stash of snack bags in the passenger seat.  Granola bars or goldfish, she asked.  Five different requests ring out.  Chocolate or peanut butter?  Cheddar or pretzel?  Two want the same snack.  There's only one of those snacks left.  Those two children react as if the world is about to end.

Said law student pulls the car over.  She calls her instructor and begs to mediate something less cumbersome.

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