Skip to main content

When the People I Love Fight

It starts with something simple. 

He bought a Play-Doh mold in the shape of the Millennium Falcon with numerous places to press dough to get the shapes of a Snow Speeder or Tie Fighter or Death Star. He's excited to tell Daddy over the phone. But she butts in and tells Daddy first. He's mad.

There's name calling and some pushing, and I send them outside. No fighting around Mama. She doesn't want to hear it. "Have it outside!" I tell them. "Come back when you've made peace."

So they burst out the door, wielding their favorite weapons. She, words. He, fists.

I go about my business until screams indicate that the children may be seriously injured. I hover from one window to the next until I find them. He is swinging a segment of garden soaker hose over his head, using it like a whip. She is hiding behind the Podocarpus hedge crying. I wonder if I should intervene. Then she explodes with vehement phrases from behind the shrubbery. All the vulgar profanities that she knows at the age of six are said at her brother. I figure she could use a good lashing from a garden hose. 

I attempt to go about my business again but I'm sorely distracted. What really am I teaching my children? Am I teaching them that might makes right? He is stronger but she is more crafty. He won't hold a grudge no matter what she says to him, but she will if I protect her or scold her.

Before I can decide what I ought to be doing, I hear shouts from a different part of the yard. 

"I'm sorry, Rose!"
"I forgive you!"
"I'm sorry, Lee!"
"I forgive you!"
I wait. Then they come tumbling into the house.
"Mama, did you hear that?"
"We were on the roof."
"We have made peace."
And they race each other to the kitchen table to get out the Play-Doh to make tiny Star Wars ships.

Their anger is spent but I am still reeling.

Later, I chat with a more experienced mom about my parenting techniques. She says she only intervenes when her children's quarrels may permanently damage the relationship.

How is one to know? How can I tell when their actions or words will have a lasting effect or when they are simply the moment's passions? I have interrupted fights that I thought were getting out of hand, and the children became resentful towards me and each other for upwards of an hour. It was all very unsatisfactory.

But this other way, this way of listening and sometimes watching the people I love fight feels like some sort of Chinese torture. 

How does God do it?

I see the people I love standing up for something they believe passionately about, something they believe is vital to their survival, their hope, their happiness. And I see others offended by it, angered, and threatened. I watch their words spill out on my computer screen like segments of soaker hose swirled above their heads. I hear hiccups of tears and anger, and I watch the days go by wondering if these quarrels will permanently damage their relationships.

And I wonder, will the resentment continue longer if I intrude? Or will I hear apologies shouted from the rooftops when this is all over?


Grandma Seelye said…
Ah yes! How does God do it?

Popular posts from this blog

Baptism Testimony

I didn't used to want to be baptized. I was too stubborn. I was determined to be the upright, genuine Christian who wasn't baptized—something of a superior class, I suppose. All that physical symbolism was for the archaic layman or the really emotional sort or the person who's afraid baptism is necessary for salvation. It's not for me. It's not for the steady, reliable believer who's doesn't have a big conversion story. I was in preschool when I prayed the prayer. In 6th grade, I gained a deeper understanding of sin while bickering with my siblings in the backseat of the family van. When I was 16, I began a daily quiet time with the Lord. And now at 36, I'm hearing the Lord asking me to make my faith work. Make the rubber meet the road. Get out of "morbid introspection and into deeds," out of "anxious hesitation and into the storm of events" (Rohr & Ebert, 129-130). Stop retreating into my head to figure out God and salvation

Why the Enneagram Numbers Quarantine

Type 1: The Reformer     I quarantine because it's the right thing to do and everyone ought to be doing their part for society by following the same procedures. Type 2: The Helper     No, I'm not concerned about myself, but I quarantine for everyone else. I want to help my neighbors feel safe, and I would absolutely die if I found out I had passed on the virus to someone else. Type 3: The Performer    I quarantine because that's what's expected of me, right? Plus, think about how bad it would look if I didn't. Type 4: The Individualist     I would've loved to quarantine before all this started but now that everyone is doing it, I'm not so sure I want to follow along. I guess I'll quarantine but somehow find a way to still remain exceptional. Type 5: The Observer     I might quarantine. I might not. I probably will while researching the facts about this virus. When I know enough, I'll make a final decision. Type 6: The Guardian     I q

Wanting the Ends Without the Means

I want my children to learn to get along, But I don't want to hear them fight. I want them to feel their emotions and understand them, But I don't want them to slam doors or be sassy. I want them to be respectful to adults, But I don't want to be embarrassed when they say something totally inappropriate. I want them to choose to obey me, But I don't want to come up with consequences when they don't. I want them to fill their own time with play, But I don't want to clean up the mess when they put stickers on the walls or throw tomatoes over the neighbor's fence or carve into the walls or cut through the upholstery with scissors. I want them to be good. But I don't want to suffer through their becoming good. I want a rich and seasoned relationship with my husband, But I don't want to endure seasons of dryness or coldness or disinterestedness. I want to have friends who are different than me, But I don't want to hear their threatening opinions. I wa