For the past few months Terri has been going to extracurricular “higher education” courses that last throughout the weekends, so the kids get me for a few, rare, mom-free days a few days in a row. It is almost like a social experiment, I hear how the house is sooooo different when I’m gone vs. when I’m home; their excitement and energy levels, bedtimes, the daily routine, somehow I come home and screw it all up!
These weekends turn the table, I get to do some seeing instead of just hearing about it, and there are a few glaring insights that appear the first morning! Without mommy, the independence level creeps up, the screaming and whining plummets; it’s not that I am doing anything different or being the most stellar dad, it’s not that mommy enables them to be hooligans, it just is what it is. They are simply being kids, doing the best they can given the tools they have to deal with life, their experiences, and are just responding to the roles we play.
So there we are, doing things a little different, and you know what, they tick along just fine! I provide a little structure to the day, keep them outside working with me and expect them to be a little responsible. Everybody survives. But as every sibling duo can attest… he’s looking at me funny, Marley has my Lightning McQueen, Jackson’s not sharing, she’s got me in a rear naked chokehold arm bar, he pulled my hair…
Playing the mediator, referee and family counselor takes finesse and patience, there are many ways one can handle these situations. I kinda like taking a more hands off approach, let them figure things out and realize the effects to their causes, but there was a line I used frequently that fit the bill for just about every situation, “play nicer, get tougher”. It just worked.
When one would come up to me, caterwauling about some atrocity their sibling just pulled off, should I find fault in the one who initiated the incident, or the one choosing a poor reaction, or both… or none? I settled for my play nicer get tougher response because it addressed both sides of the equation, the victim AND the perp. It calls for responsibility. How great would it be if ALL of us did just that, acted kind and didn’t play life as a victim?
I started thinking about The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, be impeccable with your word, don’t make assumptions, don’t take anything personal and always do your best… If we chose to “play nicer” and not speak ill of oneself and others, to speak the truth, and to always do our best, how would our lives be a change for the better? If we “got tougher” and didn’t choose to take everything so personal, stop assuming the worst, and making everything about ME, how much happier would you be?
Obvious truth be told, it’s a complex world out there, with complex problems. There are no “right” answers that magically handle or fix anything. The only place that THAT power resides is in us, in you. By choosing to be responsible for our actions, by choosing to be kind to others, and by choosing to interpret our existence from a place of peace and not allowing ourself to get bent outta shape or assume the worst we can make a big difference, starting with us☺️