Walk this way

It was dinner time. Fenner, Ellen, Jerry and I were all at the table together. Charlotte had finished eating and was playing in the den. Fenner sighed and said, “I wish this was our whole family, just the four of us. That would be nice.” “What?” said Jerry, “What do you mean?” “You know, without Charlotte.” “Hmm,” he said and looked down at the floor as his face filled with tension and disapproval. Fenner looked at him. “I was just saying what I wanted. I’m allowed to do that!” “Yes, yes you are,” I said. Then everyone was quiet. Suddenly, Ellen spoke loudly, “Everyone look at the grump!” We all looked at Jerry and he broke into a smile, “What? No … I just … I don’t know … I don’t think that’s ok … what you said, Fenner. It was disrespectful.” “Do I have to go back to zero?!” Fenner looked at me. I said, “No, no … you don’t.” Jerry and I stared at each other not knowing what to say. “Maybe I should go outside,” he said. I nodded. Fresh air does him good.

Later that night we talked about it. “I know it’s hard when Fenner says things like that,” I began. “Yeah, I don’t like it and I need to register my disapproval somehow,” he said. “Well, for me, I see it like, she wasn’t yelling, she wasn’t hitting, she wasn’t calling anyone names. She was just saying how she feels.” “Well, when you say it like that …” “Mmm. And those feelings she’s having are going to get better as we keep doing this work. It’s just going to take more time. But I think, like a year from now, things will look very different.” Just like the roadmap says ….

ps Jerry’s main strategy for staying out of the rabbit hole these days is walking away. Many times it’s appropriate, but there are some nuances we need to work on. For example, there are times when the girls are having an argument – not even a nasty fight – and they’ll see Jerry walk away in frustration. At that point they usually say to me, “Why does daddy do that? I don’t like it when he walks away and doesn’t say anything!” And they seem genuinely hurt by it. So I’ve been thinking once again about attitude. Walking away in a huff is very different from walking away with a neutral attitude. The key is, I think, to approach it the same way you would if you were in a room with two friends and they started to argue. If the argument had nothing to do with you, what would you do? You might quietly excuse yourself, but you probably wouldn’t express your disapproval as you went. Or you might say something like, “You guys go ahead, I’ll be waiting outside.” But there would be no judgment there. People argue. Kids argue. Sisters definitely argue. Who are we to judge? Gotta get neutral.

Explore posts in the same categories: Week 10: The Rabbit Hole

2 Comments on “Walk this way”

  1. Jena Says:

    This p.s. reminded me of Vicki’s “military at ease” suggestion. The tone – of voice, face, body language, the walk away – is indeed everything. My older daughter will sometimes respond to Greg (my husband) this way, too, asking “Why is Dada frustrated.” I usually tell her she will have to ask him. When my girls are fighting and I’m with them (often between them, literally), I have been practicing saying, as neutrally and observantly as I can, “I see that you guys are more interested in fighting right now than… reading a book (or whatever we are doing). Let me know when you’re done…” Usually this snaps them right out of it, but at least I get an out that isn’t mad/exasperated/damning, etc.

    • flockmother Says:

      I like that wording — “I can see you’re more interested in fighting…” I’m going to add that to my arsenal. And I remember Vicki suggested practicing in the mirror. Half the time I think we don’t even know how we come across to others. So interesting.

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