Our party of six had our first family drama this week. I'm proud to proclaim that it took almost eight months of marriage before it happened (which admittedly is MUCH LONGER than I expected it to take with four kids in the house). Joe was picking the boys up from youth group when the girls got dropped off from church. I was cooking dinner and it was a seemingly peaceful Sunday evening -- the proverbial calm before the storm.
I was happily humming and doing what I love to do best (cooking) when one of the girls came in the kitchen crying... and all hell broke loose. Apparently one of the girls overheard the other saying ugly things about her while they were at church. Another friend was involved who apparently stirred the pot a little too. As a result, my step-daughter was saying that her mom would come get her and my daughter was refusing to discuss it.
And Joe was not home... so I was left to handle it alone. While my negotiation skills and people skills serve me well in all areas of business, they are no match for two upset preteen girls. Although Joe was not there, I knew it had to be handled and that I was the mother in the home. I knew where to turn... I prayed.
I prayed for strength and knowledge. I prayed for the strong foundation of love that these girls clearly have. I prayed that the right words would come to me. I prayed that I would remain unbiased and not be too hard on either one of them. I prayed that God would be with us. Then I called them downstairs for dinner.
Of course they were none too happy because I made them sit in their regular seats at the table (next to each other) although no one else was at the table. And then I began, "I know neither one of you wants to talk about this and I am not going to make you... but I am going to make you sit here and listen to me." The words just flowed from my heart... about love and forgiveness and family. I stressed the importance of communication and how no matter how uncomfortable it may be to communicate, it is worthwhile so as to avoid situations like this. How if things are not discussed, then they can build up inside until you feel like you may explode.
My daughter said, "But it's HARD to tell someone something when you know it's going to upset them. You're an adult. It's easy for you."
Boy, was she wrong. It is not easier as an adult. Even with Joe, my soul mate, it's hard to broach sensitive subjects. My heart beats fast and I get the nervous sweats, but once I get it out, I feel so much better. Holding it in and trying to just move on will not help the situation improve in any way. That's the very thing that ends friendships and leads to the demise of marriages.
It's especially hard to broach difficult subjects in co-parenting situations when you feel very strongly about something and want to discuss it with the other parent. This is someone to whom you no longer have emotional ties, but you would like to have a heart-to-heart about your children. You have to take a leap of faith when trying to discuss the topic because while seeking honest communication, you may instead get chastized or ignored completely.
Thankfully, since we consistently encourage open communication in our home, the girls calmly took over and talked about what happened. They semi-apologized (enough for me to be satisfied for the moment anyway) and went their separate ways for a while. Joe got home and I was snuggling with my step-daughter on the sofa. We all chatted a little and then my daughter came downstairs and snuggled up on the couch with us. They exchanged what this time seemed to be heartfelt apologies and the night seemed to end on a positive note.
While I know this is just the tip of the iceberg with two girls who are quickly approaching their teens, I am very proud of how they handled the first true controversy in our home. My step-daughter had the initial "flight" feeling, but we stressed that no matter what happens in our home, we can get through it as a family. Neither girl will be allowed to run away from problems. We are teaching our children to face their fears or any controversies that may arise. We are raising strong leaders, not quitters who place blame on others.
Last night while the girls were sprawled out on the floor in front of the fire in their jammies watching a movie, giggling and being silly, I made eye contact with my wonderful husband and we just smiled at each other. Our hearts were filled with joy and my husband even commented on how he didn't want the night to end. We were witnessing firsthand the forgiveness of siblings and the strength of their love.
First lesson taught and it was a success. Our family is strong. Family comes first. Friends are fleeting but siblings are forever. No one in your life will have your back like your siblings will. No running away from controversy. We face any adversity life may throw our way (no matter how uncomfortable it may be). And we learn from it and grow closer in the process.
We can get through anything TOGETHER.
Read more by Valerie DeLoach at her blog, Life in a Blender.