Saturday, April 12, 2014

Learning to Duck

Getting along with people is hard. It has been my whole life. As a toddler, stuck in the throes of the terrible twos, no one understood me and even up until, well just yesterday, I have found people difficult to deal with. And it’s not just me. It's everyone. With so many different types of people and their unique personalities, it's no wonder we have disputes and lawsuits, grievances and cold wars. 

Getting along with people is hard and yet we have a responsibility to do it. The optimist in me would like to believe we all know this and thus practice workplace professionalism or strive to be good neighbors. It’s not that easy though. If it was we'd love where we work and live. 

That’s what's tough about life. Wouldn’t it be easier without all the other people mucking it up? We’d be lonelier for sure, but at least things would go our way.

I was reminded of this when I recently intervened between two fighting preschool students. One complained, "She won't play with me!" and the other said, “She won't leave me alone!". Neither understood why the other wasn't complying and the tension was mounting. "I don't want you to play with me!" "But I want to play with you!" Round and round they went. 

I suggested that one child walk away. "If you don't want to play," I said, "then don't. You may choose to go find something else to do."

So she did.

In frustration, the child who was left behind took the toy in her hand and with a vengeance threw it violently at the student who walked away. The injured looked at me and my bad advice with a horrified expression. Clearly, as she nursed the welt growing on her face, it was obvious that handling herself well failed to eliminate her problem. 

And there's the rub. We often believe that if we behave appropriately that things should go the way we want. But that’s not true is it? In reality the only thing we can control is ourselves. How other people perceive us or react to us is a completely truncated issue. Others affect us certainly, but we have no influence over their behavior. Trust me. I know that of which I speak.

This life lesson is, in my opinion, one of the hardest things to teach my children. Explaining that despite studying, sharing or trying your best, you might still get a bad grade, lose a friend or sit the bench is agonizing. Whenever I watch this play out in my kids’ lives it is always a difficult time for me. 

In fact, if I’m honest I’ll admit watching my babies struggle unnecessarily tempts to awaken the mother bear in me. My fingers begin to twitch and I get this overwhelming urge to intervene. I want to plead my case to their teacher or explain everything in an email. I want things to be made right according to my sense of justice, of course, but mostly I want my side to come out. I want to fix it.

This type of intervention rarely works and even if it did I still wouldn’t get involved. As hard as it is to learn that not everything will go the right way, or your way, it is important my kids understand this is no reason to stop persevering. They must absolutely continue to do what is right, be a good citizen, respect their elders and stay the course despite hardships or conflict.

I can’t fix things for my kids, and I won’t, because their characters are at stake. Tenacity is only developed through trials. And if they do suffer, I pray with my whole heart, it develops a sensitivity in them for the underdog.

I believe this is more important than making things easy for my kids. Instead, I hold them when they need a cuddle, wipe their tears when they are frustrated and help them dust themselves off before moving on. Some might call this weak. I call it necessary. You see, like my little preschool friend, I too have been hit in the head with flying debris a time or two. I, however, have learned to duck. My kids will too. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so. That's why!

This article appears in The Daily Review Atlas, a GateHouse Media Company, as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting column. For questions or comments, or to inquire about my speaking schedule please contact me at


  1. Glad it's not just me. I've been having this problem lately - completely misreading both people and situations. It's a pain and very bewildering. The feeling is very much like getting hit in the head by some flying debris. And since I don't have anyone to "fix it" for me, I'll just have to sort it out on my own and do the best I can. #SITSsharefest

  2. Thank you so much for stopping by Adrian! We are not alone are we?


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