25: Mean words and crying #lifewidelearning16

As much as I try and avoid it, I yell at my kids.

Conversations about getting shoes on, brushing hair, or turning off the computer all start out very civil. I will make the logical case for doing those things and I will receive a litany of reasons and delay tactics for not doing them. I will remain calm, I tell myself, even in the face of such insurmountable sassiness or defiance. I will use my kindness and my words, just as I implore the children to do when they are angry. Even still, just five minutes later, I feel myself boiling over and raising my voice. I need this done NOW, and it becomes a struggle about the father/child relationship rather than just getting out the door. I, as the father, will win this argument. I will make them do the thing. I will be stronger and more stubborn. And, it is awful. As it turns out, no one wins because I am fighting with those I love most about things that don’t matter.

And that is when it is time to give up.

When the stakes are so high that continuing to push for the thing that you want means hurting the relationship. When preserving the power dynamic is all that matters and the individual task or responsibility is lost. When mean words and crying become the currency of the situation and logic is no longer in play. You must walk away and give up on “winning.”

It does not make you weak and it does not set the wrong precedent. Giving up when you are making things worse means that you can remain your whole self. You are still capable of empathy, and you can still learn from your choices. When you “go nuclear”, you no longer see a person on the other side. You see only the argument.

Enemies do not exist within my family. They do not exist within my working life either. Even for as much as I would like to construct easily understood sides of each issue that I am fighting for, I can only put caricatures across from me if I want to maintain a true dichotomy. I am never so right and they are never so wrong that I should destroy the relationship with a few acidic emails.

Giving up means not having “the meeting after the meeting” where you tell folks what you really think. Giving up means dismantling the fortress you have built around yourself to ward off any attacks from others. Giving up means looking critically at your own work and admitting that it isn’t perfect. Giving up means creating partnerships with others in the face of difficult problems and not going it alone as a martyr.

When you give up, you aren’t conceding the point or giving in to someone else. When you give up, you are letting go of your own preconceived notions and plans. You are giving room for others.

It is it time to give up when you can stop being selfish.

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