To be successful, parenting requires love–deep, abiding, patient, forgiving love. Yet, because of the responsibilities parenting includes, it is often the locus of conflict between parent and child, between needs and wants, between growing independence and parental inclination to keep kids close and safe. These dueling priorities can lead to dramatic confrontations, angry words, isolating silences and deep feelings of disconnect. Each side embraces a potent sense of righteous indignation and conviction of the other’s faults, errors and unwillingness to listen and/or compromise.
Certainly, this explosive state of affairs is far from constant. Nonetheless, I’m betting conflict is familiar territory for us. We’ve all lived through the exhaustion, despair and, frustration. As intentional parents, however, we recognize that we must remain focused on our purpose–to build lifelong bonds as a family– and not be distracted by any temporary conflicts. Sometimes it takes a metaphorical wake up call to remind us of our priorities.
Last week’s horrific shooting was one of those events. I’m not going to wade into the gun issues; although a vital conversation, lots of others are shining a light there. Instead, let us choose to learn something powerful for our families. I’m sure those families were just like us. They probably had their points of connection as well as differences. I’m also sure that they all believed that they had plenty of time ahead of them to work through their conflicts and come to a connected, respectful resolution … eventually.
But as we all know, for seventeen Stoneman Douglas families, time ran out. For kids huddled in hallways fearing for their lives, there will never be another hug, another argument, another apology, another resolution, another vacation. All that remains is the memory of whatever final words or texts they shared as well as all the things they wished they could say but now remain forever unspoken. In their final moments, kids recognized what was really valuable to them: their families. Horrified parents who waited in fear for news of their children’s fate scrambled to reach them, prayed for their safe return and then wept as they learned the worst had happened.
Stay focused on the opportunity as intentional families to wake up, to step out of the quicksand of frustration and failed expectations regarding kids behavior and disconnect those negative emotions from the central focus of our mindset. It is so easy for us as parents to crumble under the weight of the arguing, of watching kids break family values, of kids pushing up against boundaries–all that is exhausting and distracts us from “seeing” that we do really care about one another.
Yes, it is important for us to strive to change or improve what is not working. BUT, we cannot afford to overlook what is working. Take time to acknowledge it. Give it the attention and appreciation it merits. Kids and relationships flourish under the sunlight of attention. It is through those parts of the relationship that are working and connected that more good things come.
As the country struggles to find ways to keep our schools and communities safe, we all agree that “somebody should do something.” In fact, each and every one of us can do something; it does have to be grand or even part of a larger movement. We can start where we care the most. Today. Tonight. Reduce the negative energy in our own families in our own work relationships and friendships. Nurture feelings of belonging. It is a fundamental human need.
For us, there is still time. Why not make the most of it? Please consider this challenge: [ctt template=”7″ link=”5Nw97″ via=”no” ]just for tonight, set aside the drama. Shelve the conflict and carve out the time to say the things that would explode from your hearts if a similar situation occurred at your child’s school, your job, your church. [/ctt]Imagine how powerful that could be for the entire family. Two truisms: Family conflict is inevitable and time is finite. Focus on what really matters: love and connection.
[ctt template=”3″ link=”ZOpc9″ via=”yes” ]Carve out the time to say the things that would explode from your hearts if it were the last message you could share. #AdoptionAttunement #Connect http://giftfamilyservices.com/before-it-is-too-late/[/ctt]