Strange how even a simple squabble between siblings can become a teachable moment in the lives of everyone involved. Yes, even on a Monday morning. Before I elaborate on that, let me just say that I don't always go about imparting wisdom into the lives of my children with patience and perfection. Nope. Sometimes it's more along the lines of vexation and vocalization. Oh, well...whatever works. My motto? If it achieves the desired results then I get to call it a success.
As the kids were getting ready for school, I held up an old teddy bear which had been left on the floor and I said "Poor Buddy. Somebody just dropped him and left him here. I bet Buddy's not feelin' the love this morning." I was trying to make light of the fact that I couldn't walk through the family room without stepping on or around some random toy or article of clothing that had been thoughtlessly dropped and left behind for someone else to deal with. That someone being me, of course. This is a really annoying recurring theme in my household and I was irritated but wanted to take it a little easy because everyone was just sleepily rubbing their eyes, waking up and trying to come to terms with the fact that it was Monday morning again. No sense harping on them to add to that stark realization.
Because Mattie is female, and it is imprinted on her DNA, she can't seem to resist the urge to make some remark or to 'out' whomever she deems to be the guilty party in any given situation. Little girls seem to get a special tingle out of seeing other people get what they deserve. To put it nicely, Mattie has a very acute sense of justice. Or is it vengeance? I don't know...maybe a little of both. Anyway, the irony is that two thirds of the debris field in question belonged to her. Most likely the teddy bear was discarded by her since Patrick doesn't even play with it anymore. Of course, that didn't seem to register at all. It rarely does.
So Mattie says, "Buddy is Patrick's and he should do it because it belongs to him." And unfortunately something got lost in translation because all Patrick heard her say were the words "Patrick" and "stupid." Aaand...cue drama. He called her out and insisted that she said he was stupid and demanded that she apologize. Michael, wisely trying to remain neutral up to this point, quietly piped in from under his blanket, "Dude, really...she didn't say that." Patrick wasn't having it. Then, he ordered me to make her apologize. Yeah, well...a ten year old making demands and ordering me around never goes over well with me but especially rubs me the wrong way first thing in the morning before my coffee. What followed was a ridiculous exchange worthy of two bickering toddlers. I said "Patrick, she did not call you stupid." He said "Yes, she did, I heard her!" and this deteriorated into "did not!"..."did too!" until I realized the absurdity of what I was doing and then ended it by telling him very firmly: "Patrick, you are wrong." He shook his head 'no.' "Yes" I said. You. Are. WRONG!"
Wrong. He hates to be wrong. He got up and declared he was going to the bathroom but we all knew he was retreating because he was unable and unwilling to admit his mistake. He was going to believe what he wanted to believe and refused to be persuaded otherwise. Pride is a pretty powerful thing, isn't it? I had to wonder why he wanted to believe the worst instead of acknowledging that he simply misheard her. There are so many insightful, psychological conclusions to draw from that but really it all just boils down to pride. Pride is a place where we all stumble and fall.
I know better than to push my kids when they are in this frame of mind. It only makes them more resentful and resistant. I tucked a note into Patrick's lunch kit that read "I hope you decide to make it a great day. Please remember that it takes a person of great courage to admit they are wrong. Be that person. Love, Mom." I urged Mattie to go to Patrick and tell him that even though she hadn't called him a name, she was sorry they had a disagreement, which she did. Patrick was still sullen and mumbled "okay, fine" or something to that effect. Still not budging.
When we finally got in the car, I spoke quietly to the kids on the way to school about the meaning of courage. I told them that being brave was not just about facing fear but also about letting people see them when they are not at their best. That being vulnerable and letting people hear them say "I made a mistake" was a great example to set for others and that in order to be a great person or an effective leader, we have to be tough enough to be willing to be wrong in front of everyone. Then, I turned to Patrick and said "there is no shame in being wrong, son. Everybody makes mistakes." His eyes filled with tears and he choked them back and finally said "Sorry, Mattie...I guess I didn't hear you right." Boom. And just like that: revelation and reconciliation. Everyone all smiles and giggles for the rest of the trip. Thank you, God...what a relief, as I can't stand unresolved conflict.
Don't we all hate to be wrong? As adults, pride and arrogance make us resistant to admitting any wrongdoing. I see it everywhere day in and day out from my little kids to the highest government officials. Denial, lies, cover-ups, corruption of every type imaginable. Guilt and shame and regret all because of an unwillingness to confess the simple fact that we have been wrong. Made a bad decision. Blamed the wrong person. Lost our temper. Forgot to do something important. Gossiped about someone without knowing all of the facts. Betrayed a loved one. The list could (and does) go on and on.
My challenge to myself and to anyone who may be reading this is to search ourselves and ask the question: Do we have what it takes (humility and honesty) to do what my ten year old son was eventually able to do? To suck it up and be willing to say, "My bad." To own our mistakes and to be accountable to those we have wronged? To atone for our transgressions? I say yes... I'm up to the challenge. Are you in?
Here's Mom's lunch box wisdom for you, shared from my heart to yours as it was for Patrick:
"I hope you decide to make it a great day. Please remember that it takes a person of great courage to admit they are wrong. Be that person."
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