The arguing grew louder and louder from the back bedroom until it reached the 'now-I-have-to-get-up-and-intervene' level. When I walked in the room, I was confronted with two distinct approaches to life. His 8 year old face showed betrayal and hurt feelings, and the tears were brimming in his blue eyes. He looked like he wanted to sink away from the conflict and dissolve in a corner. In contrast, his little sister, almost 4 years younger and much smaller, was angry and ready to take on the whole world. She looked like she was growing bigger in stature by the second.
I was tempted to snap at them to get in bed and rhetorically ask, 'why can't you kids just get along?!'
But right before it came out of my mouth, I paused...speechless. I saw myself in him. How many times had I responded the same way? Fight back a little, but then run and hide when it gets too hard. Loud people frighten me and I immediately take a step backward. For several moments, I found myself staring at my son as if he was a mirror reflecting me.
Their little faces, distorted with emotion, were looking expectantly up at me.
Rather than "shoosh" them and rush them off to bed, I decided to get to the root of the problem. To their credit, getting along is normally one of their strengths. All day we over hear them making deals with each other to get what they both want. Maybe this time the bump in the road was just bigger than their negotiating skills could handle. Yes, rushing in and telling them to get in bed would be faster, but it would also let their default reactions get the best of them. So, my husband and I sat down on the floor and went through step-by-step who said what, why their feeling got hurt, and what they thought the resolution should be. One was in a ball hugging his knees rocking silently while the other one stood tall and told us with boldness how right she was. The longer we talked, the more he opened up and the more she calmed down until it became an even playing field.
We got to the bottom of the problem and all agreed that respecting one another's property was still a good rule to have.
We told them how great they normally do in playing fairly with each other and that we were happy to help them through this disagreement. As we were praising him for being a great big brother and role model for his sister, he began to glow.
But she didn't fight for attention or get jealous.
Instead, she came down to his level and inched up to his ball of knees and tried to snuggle him. The fight was over. The rule was true and agreed upon by everyone, and the right person was justified. Everyone understood that the time for blaming and fighting was over because the standard was identified and agreed upon. The result was reconnection and love.
I think I learned more than they did through this event.
I learned how to lose a fight. My 5 year old daughter was in the wrong, and she realized it with grace and an outpouring of love rather than bitterness or backlashing. How did she do so well with what I struggle to do when I find myself in a similar situation?
May I always remember to lose a fight like a 5 year old.
I am a wife, mother, and exercise physiologist with one foot in the world of travel and one foot in the world of fitness.
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