A lot, as it turns out.
My kids live the life of the modern broken home. 5-5-2-2… Mom has them five days, then dad, then mom 2, then dad… rinse, repeat. Luckily for my kids, their mom and I get along better this way than we did when we were together, and it’s all pretty chummy. So, since I’m closer to one school, and it starts later, #1 son usually gets dropped here in the morning even if it’s mom’s day.
It’s not Leave It to Beaver, but then… was anything, ever?
So, anyway, Junior shows up today with tears in his eyes. It seems that on the way out of the house son #2 dropped something of son #1’s, something broke, and tempers flared. Son #1 cussed at son #2. Mom found out, and the proverbial poop hit the air mover.
Junior schlumps in, launches into how angry he gets sometimes, and how bad he feels right after he’s thrown a fit. It’s always the same, he says. “I get so mad, and before I think about it, I’ve done something that I regret… but I don’t see how mom can get mad at me when she does the same thing every day!”
Wow… where to start?
“Buddy, let me tell you a story about this man I ran into at the thing I volunteered for this weekend…
And, you’re right, if you see someone acting like that, it’s hard to learn to act differently, but you might want to try to remember that you feel bad afterwards every time. That’s not just you. That’s… mom, me, everyone. When you feel that surge of anger in your body– when your shoulders tense, your face gets hot, and your chest tightens– that’s your signal. Take a breath. Let it pass a little. Remember how bad you feel afterwards if you act on it. Then, think about what’s upsetting you and decide if you need to do or say anything from a calmer place.”
“Yeah… I get it… I’ll try that… Daddy, can I play Minecraft for a while?”
OK, I’ll grant you it wasn’t “snatch this pebble from my hand”, but it felt like a moment. I’ll take it.