Any good negotiator knows that peace can only be reached when all parties feel they have been seen, heard and fully understood. If anyone is feeling alone in it, you can be sure they will sabotage the peace process in order to get their needs met.
Take bath time for instance.
We had an average day and things were fine. But then something went very wrong with our peaceful harmony. An emotional bomb exploded.
(Please note, this was written pre-shouting diet. I think my reaction would be very different now – at least I hope so.)
So let’s look at what happened as a good negotiator might. Let’s hear each one’s story:
I was in the start of ‘rush hour’ (which some of my friends call ‘suicide hour’ – although if you negotiate well, it really doesn’t have to be that). I was part way through making supper, tidying up, thinking what needs to be done, running the bath, herding the children to pack away, get undressed and into the water. And it was shampoo day. The little one ducked and dived away from tidying up but went into the bath without much fuss. The older one packed away but then ducked and dived and then got “very busy Mama” with reading something. In between checking on simmering pots and pans I went and shampood and soaped little one and let him play longer.
Now to harpoon the older one. Sigh.
Much wriggling, evading and flailing limbs later he was undressed and in the bathroom. Little one was lying on his tummy in the warm water playing and quietly singing to himself. A picture of peace.
Insert older brother – standing rigid – into water. Instant tension. Within three minutes little one hadn’t moved up, older one pushed in, little one hit and poked, older one retaliated. I’d talked, I’d reasoned, I’d turned them with their backs to each other but their octopus tentacles (WHERE did they find so many hands?) keep reaching out to pinch, poke and hit each other. I couldn’t make it stop. I felt powerless and scared. “STOOOOPPPP ITTTT!!!” I shrieked at my wits end.
Both of them instantly burst into tears and I hung my head in sorrow at the state of us all.
It’s the end of the day and I get to play in the water ON MY OWN. What a treat. Some alone time with mama while she washes me is so nice. Then I get to play quietly with the water. Happy, happy.
Oh, tension has entered the room with my brother. Now he’s standing in the bath. It was nice before he got here. I don’t WANT to sit up and give him space, I was busy here! Hey he hit me! Ow. Hit him back, push him away. Make this horrible feeling stop anyway I can!
Gasp! Mama shrieked at us! Why would she do that? It’s scary, it hurts. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!
I don’t want to end my playtime. It’s so nice to just be quietly reading for a bit. I know there are things I’m supposed to do but I don’t want to do anything but this. We forgot the orange bucket at the river and it hurts when I think about it. I have all these feelings inside.
Oh here she comes. She means business. I don’t WANT to! Fight it, fight it! Try to gain control amidst all this pain …
Well here I am in the bath but brother is not moving up for me. He doesn’t want me here. Ow that hurts. He’s not welcoming me or wanting to play with me. It’s too sore on top of all my feelings from before. I must hurt him back! Hit, poke push pinch… Must win, must survive!
Gasp! Mama shrieked at us! Why would she do that? It’s scary, it hurts! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!
Losing touch with the other parties’ perspective can be damaging to peace.
How is the peace process going in your house? What can you do to help all parties feel heard? (Including you of course – in case you assumed I was just talking about the children. As if!)
Oh boy, this one I struggle with! Reading your post, I realise that by this stage of the day, I am only seeing things from my own point of view. I have this crazy expectation that my 2 and 3 year olds will be in a co-operative mood because they surely, surely realise that after a LOOOONG day and given everything else I’m juggling between the stove and the bathroom, my cup of patience is too low to tolerate bath-avoidance, sibling warfare, over-excited splashing, etc. Yeah, right! I have been known to yell at this time and it definitely doesn’t make me or them feel better. It’s so useful to do that exercise of putting oneself in their shoes. I had a bit of a laugh today as my daughter was sulking over some non-sharing by her brother and refusing to play a game with us. I started to feel sulky that she couldn’t get over her annoyance and join in with us, then quickly realised the joke – how could I expect her at 3 years old to get over it when I at 38 found it a struggle to overcome my annoyance! It’s the loneliness of motherhood – having to quietly, internally overcome those moments of frustration when we stop to consider our child’s point of view instead of jumping in with an emotional reaction. Noble but hard to be a grown-up. I still find myself wishing that someone in the situation was appreciating my point of view other than me…
Oh you made me laugh with this. I know just how it feels, as do so many parents. It’s funny how lonely the busiest moments can be right? And how nice it would be if someone else could be the grown up in those times! Thank you so much for adding your voice and letting the rest of us know we are no r m a l ! Keep laughing. They say he who laughs at himself shall never run short of things to laugh at.