Wednesday, May 1, 2013

What's Going on With You?

My husband is a wonderful and loving parent.  But, like all of us, there are some days that push his buttons more than others.  This was one of those days.

My oldest has a gift of taking his time.  He never feels rushed and always feels the need to follow the wind wherever it takes him.  This is problematic when there is someplace to go.  This morning, as I put on my makeup and did my hair before church, I heard my husband's frustration mount.  

"Luke.  Get dressed.  No, put down the train and get dressed," he said.  Then, two minutes later I would hear him lay down an ultimatum. "If you aren't dressed in two minutes, that train is going away the rest of the day."  This same sequence repeated itself about breakfast, shoes and putting his dirty clothes in the hamper.  Meanwhile, my son seemed oblivious and even put out by the rush my husband was putting on the morning.

We finally got organized and each climbed into our seats in the car.  Well, all of us but Luke.  He found something interesting on the floor then asked for a "quick drink of water".  This was the last straw.  "Get.  Your.  Seatbelt.  On.  Now," my husband said through gritted teeth.

"Daddy, what's going on with you today?  You aren't yourself!" my son said to him.

I held my breath to see what would happen next.  "I am myself today.   You are not listening and I'm getting frustrated with you," my husband replied.  I could hear the frustration starting to melt from his voice.

"Well, I don't think you are acting like yourself," he said trying to settle the argument.

I told my son that they both had something to work on today.  If he would work on listening and doing what his daddy asked of him quickly then Daddy could work on being a bit more patient.

"That's a great idea, Mommy.  Let's do it!" he said.

"I'll be glad to be more patient, Luke," my husband told him.

It was wonderful to watch Luke confront his dad with such understanding.  He wasn't accusing but he helped bring the situation to an end by forcing both of us to address it.  It was also wonderful to see my husband talk to him respectfully as he might speak to an adult in the same situation.  He was clear about his expectations but did not give Luke any leeway about his choice to listen on his own terms.

It can be tough to navigate the terrain when we ask our children to be open and honest about what they are feeling.  It's easy to be defensive.  It's easy to pull a, "Because I said so".  I know I have certainly heard those words come out of my own mouth.  But when I remember that I want him to know how to deal with conflict in a respectful way, I need to show him that same respect.  It's the only way he will learn.

Do your children ever call you out on your behavior?  How do you communicate with them when that happens?


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