Meal time at the Gonzalez home means kids prepare the table: clear off anything that is not meal related, place meal related items on the table. That's about it so far as the kids are concenred.
Well, today one of the non-meal items to be removed from the table was an empty Diet Dr. Pepper can. My daughter (age 9) insisted that I clean up my own mess. Well, there was a certain logic to the demand, but there was also this tone of self-risghtouesness that was inescapable. I refused and continued doing what I was doing.
My son, who will own a dog one day with his same loyal, loving, and peacemaking personality, in an effort to create peace and bring resolve, grabbed the can and headed for the recycle bin. He almost got out the door the garage when I caught him with my voice and told him to place that can right back on the table. His confusion was understood, but there was a larger battle going on here.
I told my daughter to please place the can in the recycle. She resisted. I resisted her resistance. She finally relented in her behavior, but not her attitude. She annouced that after she puts the can in the recycle bin that she was going down stairs to her room. It was an announcement packaged in restrained anger and brewing indignation.
My wise son (age 7), though he did not understand why there was this conflict emerging, politely and quietly agreed to the process knowing that silence was the best way not to be included in this battle.
After a couple of minutes my son brought peace and laughter to my daughter. He is incredibly silly and can make his sister laugh in almost any situation. He loves her so much that he wants her always to be smiling and laughing. He is a great gift to his sometimes brooding and melancholy sister.
I waited until the laughter downstairs grew and then waned some, then I made my move.
I went downstairs and excused my son from the room and told my daughter it was time to talk. My son left in peace while my daughter's laughter instantly changed to disinterested agreement. Her situational emotional control is perfect. She's becoming a teen. Only four more years and there she is.
After a few opening remarks and my own brand of silliness cracked a smile on her face (Yes, I still got it) I was able to ask why she was so upset with me. She used logic (clean up your own mess) and I used mine (I clean up your messes way more than you clean up mine, I bought our cars that you get to ride in etc). Obviously this got us no where.
Then she revealed the nugget of insight that began the change. She said that she is learning about personal responsbility in school and that she was upset that I was not personally responsible for my Diet Dr. Pepper can. I restrained myself from wondering who personally responsible for her popcorn mess last night (restraint - good move).
Intead, I moved on to different levels of responsibility. Yes, there is personal responsibility, but there is also family responsibility. We share duties to make the whole process easier.
Then she said that it's like purple.
She said that there is blue and there is red, but when they come together it is purple. Red and blue are primary colors, so they are individuals, but purple is made by the two other colors coming together, they are family.
I promptly told her that her thinking is deep and very intelligent, that I had never thought of it that way before, but now I will.
Then we got crazy thinking of all of the different levels of responsibility andwhat colors those levels might be.
"You're food's getting cold..." is what broke our fun and brought back into the family meal.