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My sons have been arguing over who gets to eat the middle orange roll since they were old enough to eat solid food. They’re old enough now that the battle seems like it’s been going on forever.

By orange rolls, I’m talking about those refrigerated rolls that come in a can with frosting. One slam against the kitchen counter and, “Voila!” you have pre-rolled buns just waiting to go into the oven.

The roll in the middle is soft all the way around, which somehow makes it the best. (No hard edges, Ron has explained to me.)

Sometimes, I make cinnamon rolls or giant Cinnabonesque rolls, but the issue stays the same; that middle roll is the one each boy wants for himself.

Why don’t they simply take turns? That sounds a lot easier than it actually is. For one thing, even on school days, the boys don’t get up at the same time because Jimmy has to get on the bus an hour earlier than his brothers.

On those mornings, he helps himself to the middle roll, a side roll and any leftover frosting he can spot on the plate. By the time the rolls make their way to a yawning Ronnie, I will have managed to rearrange them on a new dish so he won’t complain about being served warmed-over rolls.

The battle can get pretty ugly on weekends, however, when all three boys sit down at the table at the same time. Tommy is usually the first to say, “Hey? You got it last time.”

“No, you did!” Jimmy responds.

“Ronnie, didn’t Jimmy get the middle roll last time? Mamaaaa!” Tommy won’t give up until I somehow come up with a way all three of them can eat orange rolls without trying to kill each other.

We try very hard in this family to at least wait until after breakfast to start knocking the daylights out of each other. Just kidding! Sometimes the boys don’t hit each other until lunchtime.

The bi-weekly argument over who gets the middle orange roll is one of thousands of tiny ways the boys compete with one another and make sure I’m treating them equally.

I’ve heard daughters can be just as competitive, especially if they are close in age.

For now, I’m going to hope the three of them grow out of it or learn to channel that drive to get the best orange roll into something more positive, such as getting the best grades.

Still, they drive me nuts sometimes with the constant effort to outdo one another. Yesterday, I heard Tommy say the following to Ronnie as they headed out the door to meet the school bus: “Guess how much the Tooth Fairy brought me last night?”

I closed the door before the two of them started comparing the “going rate” for teeth these days.

A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has moved eight times in 16 years of marriage to her Marine Corps husband. They have been stationed in various locations, including Okinawa, California, Texas and their current home in Springfield, Va. E-mail her at homefront@stripes.osd.mil or find the Zichs online at www.lifeonthehomefront.com.

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