Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Teachable moments

I was up late the other night putting in the 4th water heater we've had in our house in less than a decade. That's another story entirely from the one I'm going to tell, but it sets the scene for how exhausted and short-tempered I was the next morning when Ian and Caleb got into their standard fight. It goes something like this:

  1. Ian constructs something amazing from his vast imagination.
  2. Caleb wants to play with his big brother and the latest creation
  3. Ian doesn't want Caleb anywhere near his labors of love, and responds by panicking
  4. The situation includes any combination of hitting, yelling, and crying
  5. Whichever parent is closest makes a ruling, and includes any combination of yelling, timeout doling, and general annoyance
  6. Repeat ad nauseum
This morning was no exception, and the fight was as silly as it ever was. A bawling Ian willed himself to verbalize his case to me, barely holding back the urge to restrain Caleb who was still on the move. His whole body shaking.

"Why don't you want him to play with it?"

"Because I worked hard on it and he'll mess it up!"

Hmm... isn't that interesting. It's not that he doesn't want to share, it's that he is anticipating Caleb's actions and attempts to avoid an outcome he believes is inevitable - which admittedly it probably is. He's set his expectation for Caleb's behavior, and Caleb doesn't disappoint. But it shouldn't be this way, and in fact I don't think it's biblical. If Ian wants to break the cycle, he needs to forgive past wrongs and just let Caleb play too. Ian's fear of what might be is depriving him of a valuable time with his only brother.

We are given second chances every day to do things differently. We aren't prohibited from an activity or an opportunity just because we blew it the last time. Or even when God knows we'll blow it this time too. Every day is a clean slate - a chance to try again. It's pretty hard to remember that when you're the one that has to do the forgiving. In diffusing the situation for Ian, I found myself in my own teachable moment.