My wife and I decided to take our four kids, and my mother-in-law, to a local lake in the next town over. Getting four easily excitable kids out of the house is never easy. The anxiety and excitement can create tension, teasing, and fighting. We hit all three of these and more.
A half hour prior to leaving, Katy, 7, one of our twins, started complaining that her tummy hurt. She spent 20 minutes on the couch in my wife’s lap. This created even more tension and anxiety, and I had to run around alone getting everything ready.
We got out the door, but because Nana was riding in the car with us, we had to rearrange some seats. My kids are fairly possessive of their seating arrangements so this set off a bit of a tirade. I was losing my patience, empathy, and compassion. The thermometer of my anger was steadily climbing.
Finally we were off. A short, but loud ride, and we were at the lake. As we pulled in, there was a hand-written sign at the gate that stated: TODAY – RESIDENTS ONLY. We stopped the minivan packed full with 7 people and their gear. Tears and protests erupted from our kids. We pleaded with the attendant who could only apologize, stating it was a last minute decision from her boss. Anger flashed through my brain. I drove off.
At this point, I was not in a good place. I was on emotional reserves to begin with for a variety of reasons – not just those related in this post. My wife, however, was able to maintain her emotional center. She was able to carry the day and allow each of our kids, and me, to feel our feelings. Her calm center helped defuse the situation, as well as helped all of us focus on what we could do.
As we arrived back home I went to work setting up a water slide we have. While the kids played, I was talking with my wife about how I was not able to be as supportive as I would have liked. She replied, perhaps too generously, that I was helpful. She knows how I struggle with anger, and pointed out that I didn’t let it show. That I was able to not explode – even though I wanted to – was successful.
We tend to think that we need to feel spiritual in order for things to be labeled successful. In reality, true empathy, compassion, and love can be quite a struggle.
Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson
(And thanks to my awesome wife, Nicole)