I’ve been thinking.
Every single parent of more than one child hears it….the bickering that happens between siblings. For those that don’t have teenager’s yet, I hate to tell you it gets worse in some ways!! They create an art form of pushing each other’s buttons!!! My guys really are pretty awesome in this respect, and while we go through spells where everyone is rather short with each other, they really do well together considering the amount of time they spend in each other’s company. However, it happens often enough. Generally when I walk into the situation and attempt to piece together what has occurred, I hear what most of us have…..”he/she made me”…..”but I only did that because he/she did what they did”…..”he/she did it first”. Essentially, a lot of excuses are made for unacceptable behavior.
I remember a time when I was this reactive too. When I felt justified to say that had so-and-so not done such-and-such, I would not have done what I did. A time when I guess you could say I was controlled by my emotions, rather than me controlling them. I have no doubt in my mind that my mom attempted to teach me otherwise growing up because it was not something I had a big issue with, but I wasn’t AWARE of the choices I was making, not really. I was just reacting.
It was in the year or so after Madison was born that I had a bit of a revelation. Michael and I had been struggling in our relationship, more intensely than every before or since….I had two small children at home and the youngest was having some health issues that we didn’t really understand yet….and I was unexpectedly pregnant with Abby so very soon after having Madi. It was a bit stressful. All of it. I know prior to my revelation, I was a reacting fool. I am sure of it.
I cannot tell you how it came to me, but as I analyzed things (as I am apt to do), it occurred to me that I have a CHOICE in how I respond to other people and circumstances. That Michael could not MAKE ME yell & scream and fight with him….that the kids could not MAKE ME short tempered….that no person or situation could MAKE ME respond in any way. I am sure I knew this on some level, but I needed to make it tangible and real. I needed and wanted that control.
The revelation that I had complete and total control of my own responses and emotions was an intense discovery. While on the one hand this conscious realization put more responsibility on me for my responses, it also gave me a new-found strength I hadn’t realized I was missing. I could choose to be miserable and grumpy if I wanted to….and sometimes I just do…..but I am always aware of the consequences of that choice. Most of the time, I don’t want to deal with the fall out…..getting to feel blah just isn’t worth it. Mostly because it’s not worth bringing everyone down with me.
What I don’t think I could have realized at the time, and perhaps the coolest part of this, is that when I choose to be hopeful and joyous, it rubs off on those around me. It’s just hard to be grumpy when dealing with someone who refuses to go down that road with you, but oh my how easy it is to follow the grumpy person down that path.
Honestly…..I fail at this regularly. The idea of having a choice is awesome, but it IS hard to stay in that place sometimes. I have bad days….I still argue with Michael now and again…..still am short tempered with the kids on occasion….still get my feelings hurt sometimes…..still do things I regret later. I do though acknowledge that I know the path I am taking and the affect it will have on those around me. And it does make me get it back together pretty quickly.
It is something that I think is pretty awesome that I can pass on to my children. That they have the choice and that it’s ALL theirs to make.
So, when I walk in to the bickering happening, the kids really do know what they are going to hear…..that their sibling is NOT capable of making them behave badly, THEY are making the choice to…..and with that choice comes consequences. It’s not what they WANT to hear, but it does have an impact, especially when the consequences are enforced.
I want them to know they have the option to choose their path, not just react to what’s happening around them.
What started as a concept that revolved around my relationships for the most part, at some point became a big part of how I cope with the exceptional life we have been given to live.
It would be easy, albeit miserable, to wallow in the difficulties that we face. It’s impossible, and probably not healthy, to never go there. But staying in that place, allowing the grief to overcome you completely, slowly but surely takes the hope and joy away.
My mantra has always been that all we can do is take each day and make it the best we can. It won’t EVER be perfect, but I want to go to sleep at night knowing I made the choice to do all I could to make it the best it could be, whatever the circumstances are.