They were just BLTs for goodness’ sake.
I talked them up all day to my little people. And they were excited to eat them for dinner for the first time. They even knew what the letters stood for.
So at 6:30 I had assembled their perfectly toasty crustless sandwiches, and my 7 year old asks, “what does the L mean again?”
I said “lettuce” as breezily as I could (which I realize totally negates the breezy) and as if I were looking into my crystal ball to predict the future, I waited and watched him cloud over like a super villain. Then his sister jumped on his evil bandwagon, even though she loves and regularly eats “L” and “T.”
You can go ahead and write for yourself the rest of the all-too-familiar epic food battle between parents and children. Short version: they didn’t eat the sandwiches, tried to negotiate a different dinner out of us, pitched a fit because they didn’t get one (or dessert either), started a filibuster on why mayonnaise is grossssss, we all snapped at each other into the bathtub, and they went to bed without eating anything at all. We did snuggle and read, and offered up apologies to each other, and nobody went to sleep sad. That’s important to me no matter how long it takes.
But this was not our finest family hour.
How often do we agree to something cheerfully and then change our tune once we’re in it?
How often do we try to make our frustration somebody else’s fault?
Granted, he’s 7, and still learning that his parents aren’t the enemy. I hear this is harder when they are 15.
But it made me think about how often I pitch my own grown-up fit when things don’t quite go my way. Isn’t it easier when it’s somebody else’s fault? Isn’t it way more satisfying to blame somebody or something for my discomfort than to check my own behavior?
Laying blame sure feels great in the moment. But when I really get honest with myself, I’m working really hard behind the scenes to invent things that they said or did (or didn’t say or didn’t do) to be able to place blame on them instead of myself. It may not be a mayonnaise filibuster, but I’ll unashamedly admit that I’ve gone to work painting some pretty cruel pictures of people in my mind – or even worse, verbally to someone else.
Not only is that unkind, unproductive, and a waste of time, it’s toxic energy in my mind and out in the universe. Not cool.
Things can escalate quickly in our house. I am married to an “escalator” which means a minor disagreement can go to DEFCON 5 in 10 seconds or less. I am an “avoider” which means there’s little standing in his way to get there. Great combination, huh?
In our most infamous family battle, the kids lost trick-or-treating forever. In that moment I had to literally run around the corner to keep from laughing out loud and destroying my husband’s parenting foot-down. United we stand… together we fall. We still joke about it when one of us gets bent out of shape – NO TRICK OR TREATING FOR YOU!!!
In similar fashion, last night in the final stages of The Battle of the BLTs he came in with his electric screwdriver threatening to take their bunk beds apart. This was their proudest earned privilege of late so it definitely caught their attention. While this crazy is happening, I’m trying to wash a child’s hair and rationally explain why he might want to offer an apology for his behavior and the way he spoke to his daddy. All the while I’m turned to the wall trying desperately to tell my face not to ruin the moment.
I can hear you silently judging our madness and that’s okay. It all worked out just fine. May all your family skirmishes be solved diplomatically and with no disassembly required.
My whole point here is that some of us face the battle head-on. Right in the open, with spoken words or trick or treating or screwdrivers.
Some of us internalize the battle instead.
I think the second one’s worse.
If you’re a stew-er like me, you know exactly what I’m talking about. We keep throwing poisonous mushrooms into our witches’ brew of blame and before we know it, we’ve completely justified to ourselves why that other person is completely at fault. And poof! Our potion is ready for hexing.
It’s a great way to pass (rather, waste) time. It’s also a great way to ultimately feel worse about yourself. We never feel good when we’re tearing someone apart. No matter how awfully they treated us or how deeply they hurt us. Blame is a powerful weapon that makes us feel strong and gives us leverage up on someone else. It’s our primitive Ego that feels good when we’ve marginalized another person. (And this is a huge root cause of so many of our social prejudices and injustices.)
Some things that help us drop the blame game are grace and forgiveness, and a humble understanding that we might never receive an apology or closure for whatever happened. Freedom from hurt is completely within our own control.
Forgiveness really is the gift you give yourself. It’s the only way to release yourself from the grip of hurt and disappointment, stop throwing poisonous mushrooms into the pot, and move forward. Nobody really wants to drink the witches brew anyway – it gives you warts.
So the next time you want to disassemble a bunk bed, or fire up your cauldron, step back and gain a little perspective. Drop the blame game and consider: What could you have done differently? How could you have approached it more kindly? When might it be appropriate to circle back, own your stuff, and make it right? You’ll feel better, I promise.
And while you’re thinking that through, you might even calm down and make yourself a BLT. (The mayo really is the best part.)
Penny for your thoughts:
Was there a time in your marriage/family that blame took root and festered? How do you personally keep blame out of your mind and spirit?
Jessica is a writer, musician, entrepreneur, wife, and mom. Jessica's mission is to write "real" - shining light into the dark places of the tough stuff we all experience. She and her husband Jack live in Houston, Texas and have weathered the storms of grief, infant loss, adoption, and a marriage that almost fell apart. Jessica and Jack have 4 children, LJ in heaven, Grace, Jackson, and brand new baby Elisha.