Fighting fair isn’t always easy, but it’s well worth the effort.
I would love to say that my home is a peaceful one where everyone gets along, and conversations are mostly civil. But that’s just not my reality … well, not anymore.
Four years ago, my mother-in-law came from overseas to live with us. Up until that point, I had taught our child to treat everyone with kindness. My husband and I emphasized respect and fairness. I truly believed that turning the other cheek and walking away was the best treatment for most conflict when reasoning wasn’t an option.
For the first few months, I struggled to find my voice because I wasn’t prepared for how hard things would get. I wanted to show my daughter what it looked like to be the bigger person, but I also needed her to see what it meant as a woman to have a backbone and stand my ground. I didn’t want to come off as being disrespectful, but I also needed to defend myself at times. I knew that what I exhibited would be her roadmap for future conflict resolution and what she would expect in her own relationships.
I struggled with it. I still struggle.
Things got ugly before they got any better.
One thing I can no longer do is shield my child from it. She’s seen a lot and heard a lot. Unfortunately, she has also been exposed to some unhealthy habits. My husband and I don’t want her to see adults behaving poorly and think that is how people should behave.
No matter what I face day-to-day, I have been committed to shielding my daughter from my resentments, angry thoughts, tears, and meltdowns. I keep those under wraps for my private pep talks. However, I am also intentional in the woman I choose to be in front of her. I want her to learn from me and never be afraid to speak her mind in a respectful way while also standing her ground.
My rules of engagement:
- No heated arguments in front of the children. I reserve the right to end any conversation that is getting out of hand.
- I won’t be petty. If it doesn’t benefit them or me, and no one will be mortally hurt by the behavior, no need to comment on it.
- “No” means “no,” and “yes” means “yes.” I try to be clear and concise about what I want and need. No beating around the bush and no wasting time trying to weave around potential hurt feelings.
- No yelling. No matter what’s thrown my way, I will communicate with a calm and rational voice. I will not feed the tiger.
- Walking away is okay. I will not tolerate disrespect, bashing, degrading remarks, or anything else that belittles my humanity. I reserve the right to walk away and leave you with yourself, by yourself, when it is no longer healthy for me to be in your presence.
- No walkie-talkie. I do not entertain indirect conversations. If we need to discuss something, we’ll do it in person, face-to-face if possible, and definitely not use children as a go-between
- Breathe and sleep on it. Everything doesn’t deserve an immediate response. If I need time to think about it, I will take that time.
- Leave the past in the past. I won’t bring up old stuff even if you do. It doesn’t benefit either of us to keep revisiting the past.
- Tell the truth. If I messed up, I’ll own it, and I’ll apologize. If not, I’ll state my side of the issue based on facts, not emotion, and move on.
- Don’t try to persuade. I will not spend my time and energy trying to change you or change your mind.
- It’s not tit for tat. I will adhere to my values and never stoop to their low.
When it’s all said and done, I hope to be able to have more mature conversations with my daughter about this time in our lives. I believe that by sticking to my principles, I can deposit some grace and wisdom into my child and help her become a more patient and compassionate person.