Overseeing the love-ing-ness among our four cherubs is a full time job. While, I understand that I cannot make my children love each other, I have the power to make it very uncomfortable when they show signs of not loving one another.
Something happens when the calendar strikes spring, internally everyone senses that they should be awakening from winter hibernation. Running around outside expelling the winter blues and being renewed by vitamin D. When it snows in April or rains for 4 days straight, everyone gets a little stir crazy and the squabbling can being. Everyone seems to be a little grumpy like the character in "Bear Wants More!"
It can be difficult to eat, sleep, do school, and play together with the same 4 people everyday. You can get irritable. That's kind of been the tune to our April showers around here.
Yesterday, I had a rare, totally calm, cool and collected parenting moment. I did not raise my voice, lock myself in the bathroom, or threaten extermination from the planet Littlejohn. Katie and Julia were fighting over stuff, and I have a zero tolerance rule about fighting over stuff. I would rather they take their Uncle Zach's advice and punch each other in the nose than fight about worthless, meaningless, stuff that is not going to add one second to their life, and it ain't coming with them when they leave this world. DRIVES.ME.CRA-CRA!
Any who, back to yesterday While my 9 year and 7 year old stood staring at me I informed them that in ten short years I hoped that these conversations between the 3 of us regarding their ability to get along were a thing of the past. Otherwise, I would want to stab myself repeatedly in the eye if they were still bickering like toddlers ten years from now. Then I explained to them that is why we were going to take the time and effort NOW to solve these problems, because they get to share with each other for the REST OF THEIR LIVES. (This is one of my all time favorite parenting lines!)
My "punishment" was that they were going to lock themselves in their bedroom, (on a gorgeous 80 degree day) and not emerge until they had come up with a plan on how they were going to solve this problem of perpetual nagging and selfishness. The plan could not include a list of rules and guidelines (that would only satisfy Katie's conflict resolution desires), and the plan could not include the statement, " I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, no matter what, because I feel like it," (that would only satisfy Julia's conflict resolution desires). I gave them permission to sit in silence until they cooled off if they needed to, but also made it clear that they were not to reemerge until the plan was agreed upon by both parties; 100 percent agreement!! And if they came out without a plan.. it would not be pretty.
Off went my very own Judy and Betty.
They were in their room for well over an hour. Confession, I totally forgot about the whole ordeal until they returned with their hand written plan. *Mother of the Year award given here*
I could have not been more surprised, and shed-a-few-tears-with-some-blubbering kind of proud, when they returned with their plan. And really it wasn't a plan, it was FAR, FAR, better!
The plan the girls came up with is straight out of a conflict resolution solution counseling book.
Drum roll please!
They wrote out a list called
"Sameness About Katie and Julia Littlejohn"
- We have the same favorite colors.
- We both LOVE manicotti.
- Hummus makes both of us gag and puke in our mouths.
- We are both overjoyed about going to camp this year at CRS!
- We both like mysteries.
- We agree, Piper Reed rocks!
- Our favorite subject is math.
- We both like homemade cupcakes and Glace ice cream.
- We are BSF (best sisters forever)!
- We both like the radio show Odyssey.
- We love Cosby.
- We love shopping.
I almost cried.
I love that they solved their conflict by remembering what they had in common to begin with. That is way better than a list of rules, or a list of non-rules, or anything I could have mustered up on my best parenting day.
Wouldn't we all be better to stop and remember what we have in common with each other instead of focusing on our differences?
This is where I have issue with evangelical denominations. Instead of spending the last few centuries focusing on all of our differences and writing millions of books to fill a world wide book shop about our differences, shouldn't maybe we have spent some time in a locked room focusing on our sameness, and putting petty differences aside?
What if couples, instead of spending their time in habitual fighting, sat and wrote out their sameness list instead? It's easy to forget what we have in common when our every days emphasize our differences?
What if churches, businesses, families, communities, schools, missions organizations, and ministries focused on their sameness list? Pouring their time and energy into "reemerging from the bedroom" with a little less fight and a lot more similarities.
All along I thought I was teaching Katie and Julia a valuable sibling lesson, but really, once again, I came out of the situation the student, and they the teachers.
Here is to finding some sameness in your bumpy relationships today!