Just this week I was reminded of an experience years ago. My 11-year-old son had decided to run away; he was extremely angry, had semi-run away before (enough to frighten me) and had had enough of the chores, restrictions, family time, yada yada yada, that was it, he was outta here.
And in fact, he would be JUST FINE because he knew how to camp because he learned at scout camp (suddenly I despised scouts).
So there my son was, putting on his backpack with all the accessories. And the more he talked the more excited he got, detailing to me how to use the stove and all the cool gadgets him and his father had bought.
Knowing the issues my son has dealt with I was concerned. But the more I could see he really WAS prepared and really COULD camp for days, I became panicked.
Taking a deep breath, I did the only rational thing a woman could do. I called my husband. He said whoa, I'll be home in a jiff anyway let me think creatively too.
I prayed and had a thought. As he prepped his gear I casually threw out, "I'm sure going to miss you, we're having pizza tonight and your favorite ice cream. But that's okay, we'll just see you soon."
Then I made sure he heard me order his favorite pepperoni pizza from his favorite place, with rootbeer. It had already been a good half hour of stomping around--combined with the pizza thing I noticed his step slowing, that he kept having to come back for "more gear" but the zeal was leaving him for sure. Now he wasn't so sure how to get out of the deal.
Then my husband walked in. He lamented our son was leaving too, and then casually mentioned the cougars that are found in our woodland area. Just to be careful of those. And then he spoke very objectively but powerfully about bears, wild hogs and even kidnappers, who before you could say boo would take him across the state line and would never be seen again.
About five minutes later, pizza coming up the drive, he announced that he had changed his mind and he wouldn't be going after all. No one said a word about the ordeal, simply saying, great, we're so glad you're staying, grab some paper plates for the pizza.
I thought of that this week because several times, including this morning, this same son has been an incredible help and amazingly kind. He has been a wonderful caregiver helper with my little ones and sensitive to those around him in serving and thoughtfulness. In that experience and many others, we have had to respond creatively in order not to lose him in an authoritarian fight of us vs. him. And thankfully, he is turning into a wonderful young man.
Sometimes, between hormones and everyday stressors, we can tend towards an all or nothing solution with our children, spouse, neighbor, whomever. When what would work better for both is a soft, creative response.
Just for today, when something totally irks you, when someone truly offends you, perhaps pray for a creative response. Instead of flying off the handle, especially when it's justified, perhaps try a humorous comment. I remember one time my children yelling at each other (you're gonna think things are GREAT at my house). I remember saying to them, "Stop yelling at your brother--that's my job." They started laughing and it diffused the situation.
If you creatively respond just once today, that's one more time than you would have. And after that it gets easier--certainly not that you will do it all the time, but more than before. The stress is released, the atmosphere becomes calm and future stress is eliminated because it isn't working into a deeper frenzy.
So just for today, try a creative response!
All my best,
Mother of 6