“When they go low, we go high.” -Michelle Obama
I take a deep breath, they have been fighting all day. The playroom has exploded into the living room and the living room is threatening to cave into the kitchen. Our small house is getting smaller by the minute as angry voices fill every square foot.
I take another breath and count to five. I hold my breath and fight the urge to intervene right away. I hold the edge of the counter hoping that what I have taught them, the tools I have offered, will be used. One more wave of angry voices and then a slammed door and tears. I let go of the counter and head towards the commotion to assist in mediating whatever transpired.
As I turn the corner I see the door to my older daughter’s room slowly open. She drops to her knee and quietly says to her sobbing little sister, “I am sorry. You can come in. Let’s play.”
I stop and smile. There they were, the tools, the empathy. Live and in action. Maybe they did listen when I explained feelings and how we need to protect each others as well as our own. Maybe my insistence on peaceful conflict resolution and being kind above all was actually having an effect on these tiny people.
I go back to the kitchen to continue cooking dinner. I know this won’t be the final fight of the day. We likely have several more and have already had many today. Tomorrow there will be just as many. With each one I will count my breaths, remind myself to pause, not to yell, not to judge, to approach the situation with an open mind and peaceful intentions.
Some days this all feels like too much. Some days I just want to dole out time-outs at the first scream. I want to match their volume and yell back. I want to stomp away and slam the door. I want to throw myself to the ground and cry along with them. Some days I can’t take one more fight and feel like I may break if I have to hear them cry.
But I don’t. I try not to yell. I try to remember to breath and act in a way that I want them to mirror. They can’t reflect kindness and compassion when they don’t see it happening in their own home. I know this, even if I have to constantly remind myself of it. Even if some days I fall apart and yell. Even if I don’t feel kind, I try.
There are days when I quietly ask them to try not to fight and yell and then I send my husband an S.O.S. message while fighting back tears. Sometimes I sit in the corner of the kitchen and regroup, knowing I can’t pour from an angry, empty cup.
Then, I see the compassion I am praying my children see from me. I see it in my six-year-old when she defends a friend who made her cry by mistake. I see it in my two-year-old when she stops in her tracks at the sound of another person in pain to ask them if they are ok and offer a hug and a kiss. I see it in the morning snuggles and the sharing of beloved security objects. I see it in their love for each other.
It is in those moments that I gather my ability to continue to parent in a way that is new to me. In a way that my husband and I are having to learn as we go along. It is those moments that fuel our need to be the people we want our children to become. It is in those moments that we know we are doing the most important thing we can do for the future of our family and our society.
I hear the door to my oldest daughter’s door fling open and four small feet scurry out and down the hall. Giggles follow as they turn the corner into the kitchen. There stands my daughters, dressed in the finest their dress up bin has to offer. Their smiles are huge and their eyes are sparkling.
“Doesn’t she look BEAUTIFUL?” the older one asks me while hugging her little sister.
“PRETTY!!!” the little one announces as she hugs her sister back.
“You are both amazing,” I reply just before they take off to continue their play. I know the next fight is moments away, poised and ready to explode forth.
I know this, and I am ready, because I will teach them how to go high.