Footnotes: Thoughts from the margins of a mom’s life


You may have heard the commonplace expression “possession is nine tenths of the law” – a phrase that refers to how ownership of something is easier to maintain if you already have possession of it. In courts of law, lawyers argue and judges rule on individual cases, discussing evidence with words like “documentation” and “clear and compelling testimony.” But on the street? If the shirt is on your back, it belongs to you, man. I can’t help but note how “possession is nine tenths of the law” applies to way I settle disputes in my living room.

Take, for instance, the case of Blue Chick. This stuffed toy was gifted to my son on Easter. A corresponding Yellow Chick was gifted to my daughter. Blue Chick held no particular appeal to my son, until relatively recently when his little sister decided to pair Blue Chick with Yellow Chick. She aimed to collectively refer to them as The Chickies while pushing them around in a hot pink grocery cart. Of course outrage shortly followed. The very instant Blue Chick was to become part of The Chickies, my son declared the toy to be the most important thing to him in the world. So, who exactly has the right to possess Blue Chick? I’d love to say that my children determined a way to work out these differences on their own. But no, such freedom would lead only to violence. A higher authority was required to intervene.

Whose testimony was more compelling? Was there documentation to review? Could joint custody be arranged? Well, perhaps, but Mama has no time for such long-range adjudication. In lieu of making a hard and fast ruling on the property of my children, I enforced the “possession is nine tenths of the law” statute. In other words, whoever has the Blue Chick shall keep the Blue Chick for a period of time lasting ten minutes, at which time whoever wants Blue Chick shall be given Blue Chick for another period of ten minutes. I issued these decrees while wielding a spatula for my gavel and an apron for my judge’s gown. I set the kitchen timer, and then prepared to repeat the whole ordeal in a matter of minutes. In the meantime, I comforted myself with the idea that while this solution was crummy, it was also working well enough to get us through the afternoon. And that’s enough to keep the peace in this law-abiding community.

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