Impartiality

My twelve-year-old lawyer (daughter) is set to win her first trial. She’s got the courtroom drama all set, with evidence ready for display and a case no prosecutor could fully retaliate against.

It begins with the chore chart, not individualized enough, nor written on paper, nor put in her room, but rather, displayed on an erasable whiteboard for all the world to see in the kitchen.

It ends with my recent revisions, where I took away piano that I’ve been fighting her to practice for the past seven months, and added instead, “Dinner prep” after a full-blown tantrum she threw three weeks ago when she alone wanted to help me fix dinner and not allow her little sister to also help, demanding (at the time) that I favored the youngest and always allowed her to participate in the kitchen with me.

So I divided up the weekdays with “Dinner prep” as evenly as I could amongst them, hoping to alleviate any semblance of favoritism.

Yet, it backfired. She was too busy playing a game with Riona and didn’t want to fix dinner, tonight or ANY night.

We had a serious blowout.

First piece of evidence, on behalf of the state: “My job as your mother is to teach you how to be a responsible adult, and that includes planning and cooking a meal for your family and cleaning up and organizing the kitchen in the process.”

First piece of evidence, on behalf of the defendant: “We already have to fix all of our breakfasts and lunches. Why should we have to cook dinner as well?”

State: “I hardly call it cooking when all you’re doing is pouring items into boiling water and leaving out the pans and lids and bowls with caked-on leftover food.”

Defense: “When you ask me to help, you just tell me what to do. It’s not fun.”

State: “When I have to drive kids and carpool every night of the week, come home and work on my second job for an hour, then cook dinner before your father gets home, I’m in a hurry. I need help to alleviate the stress.”

Defense: “Why can’t I look up the recipes? Why can’t I do the steps?”

I begin to think about my training today for my new role as a teacher coach/evaluator, where everything is about the students. No matter what the teacher says or does, if the students aren’t engaged, if the students aren’t learning, if the students aren’t mastering the objective, then the teacher is not effective.

How can I be effective in a classroom and not my own home?

She rushes out the door, ready to ride her scooter down the block. I rush after her. “Come inside. You are not going anywhere.”

The trial is over. She sucks in her breath and perks up when she sees I have decided to make crepes instead of soup and sandwiches (I could hardly do my cop-out meal after the boiling water comment).

I have already put all the ingredients into the blender. She runs it and gets out the ladle. The griddle is piping hot, ready for the first crepe.

She looks at me and I look at her. Every part of me knows that she is going to pour that batter all over the griddle and make a misshapen, air-pocketed, falling-apart crepe.

Every part of her knows it too.

Defense: “Can I ladle it?”

State: “Permission granted.”

And so for Thursday night’s meal, we have a courtroom drama served with a side of acquittal, a partial judge and an evidence-weary defendant.

We have partially cooked, sometimes burned, crooked crepes filled with turkey and cheese and tuna and peppers.

We have a moment witnessed by all eyes of the jury, when the defendant makes a turnaround and figures out how to ladle in a perfect circle, all on her own, and even flip a 12-inch-diameter crepe without breaking it, awing everyone in the courtroom.

And by the end of the night, chores tucked away as I kiss her goodnight, we’ve had a fair trial.

Even if the judge is working on impartiality.

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