By Chick Moorman
We have a magic carpet in our home. To the untrained eye it appears to be a small oval rug that sits in front of the fireplace. It serves as a safety net should burning embers make it through the fireplace screen and fall onto the floor. The protective nature of this rug is an important and appreciated function, but is not related in any way to it's magical attributes. Our magic rug plays a more important role. It produces magical and elegant solutions to family conflicts. This is how it works.
Last week, Austin began an algebra unit in his 5th grade math class. His older sister, Chelsea, has been studying Algebra throughout her 8th grade school year. When Austin made an error on one homework problem, Chelsea leaped to the rescue. Fashioning herself as a future math teacher, Chelsea saw this opportunity as a chance to practice her trade. There was a slight problem, however. Austin did not want to be the practice dummy. A light disagreement began, gradually escalated it's way into bickering, and then bloomed into a full blown argument, complete with angry tones and loud voices.
When loud turned to louder I stepped in. "Sounds like you two are in need of the magic carpet," I offered. "What do mean, magic carpet?" they asked in unison.
I had not used the magic carpet with my grandchildren yet. They had been living with me full time for nine months and things had gone pretty smoothly considering that we were all in the process of defining and creating a new sense of family.
The algebra equation seemed like the right time to let the carpet do its thing. "I have a magic carpet here," I explained. "Come on over. Each of you sit on one end of this rug, facing each other." They did. "When people in our family sit face to face on the magic carpet and talk about their conflict, magic solutions appear," I told them.
"Sometimes the solutions come quickly," I went on. "At other times it takes a while for a solution to surface, but I have never seen it fail. This carpet is magic and it will help you create a magic solution to the algebra problem dilemma. Just keep talking until you find a solution to which both of you can agree." Disgusted looks adorned each face as I went on.
"Let me know when you find an elegant solution," I remarked. "I want to hear how this carpet works it is magic in this case." Amid their grumbling, I returned to my computer and began to work.
I listened in as their conversation began. It didn't take long before I realized I was the only one listening. Both children were talking at the same time. Frustration mounted, voice volume increased, and emotion spilled over.
I reentered the scene. "I don't hear any magic yet," I offered. "He won't listen to me," said one. "She won't listen to me," said the other. It was clearly time to give the magic carpet some assistance.
Rummaging through the kitchen, I found a large wooded spoon. "This is a talking stick," I explained. It was the closest thing I could find to a stick at the moment. "Native Americans used talking sticks during council meetings," I continued. "The rules are simple. You can only talk if you are holding the stick (spoon). When you are finished talking, pass the stick to the other person and don't talk until it is handed back to you. Understand?"
"Yep, " they answered.
I handed the stick to Chelsea and sat back to listen to the conversation. Although they followed the talking stick rules, it was a good ten minutes before any real listening took place. Both children were intent are telling their side of the story and proving how right they were. Eventually, Chelsea and Austin realized that in order to get off the rug they were going to have to find a solution that both could live with.
A solution was offered. It was rejected and another was proposed in it's place. From their spots on the rug, reasons, rationale, and counter proposals were suggested by one child or the other. Clearly, the oval carpet was working it's magic.
Twenty minutes into the magic carpet session a solution was offered and accepted. Chelsea would listen to Austin explain how he did the equation. Austin would then listen to Chelsea explain her understanding of the math problem, the way her teacher taught it in eighth grade. Chelsea would play Pokemon with Austin later in the evening.
Conflict was resolved and consensus reached. Siblings were now at peace, implementing the agreed upon solution. It is not easy being a full-time parent. It sure helps to have a magic carpet.