When I was working in a school we had a saying, self awareness, plus perspective yields empathy. Empathy was the goal, because you begin every interaction seeking to understand what would be in the best interest of the person you were serving. If I’m deciding what the next course of action should be for a student because they yelled at a teacher, that decision is made easier and becomes more authentic if the response is thoughtfully designed with the student in mind. The goal isn’t to punish, it’s to educate. Through education, better decisions can be made moving forward.
It’s been super useful approaching redirecting our kids with the same strategy. Understanding our own tendencies when under stress or what we revert back to when we are tired has been helpful in identifying what our own kids do when they are brushing up against the extremes of what they can handle. Know yourself so you can know others.
It makes sense that this would be a challenging week. Our house was broken into, somehow the kids have sports like 6 days a week, and we received some news about our most influential neighborhood institution that went from potentially life changingly good to equally life changingly bad to good again, back to bad before eventually landing on good once again. It’s been exhausting. Because of that, it makes sense that a challenging week would lead to disruptions in behavior for all four of us. When Dex is at his limit, he gets loopy and doesn’t pay attention to what’s going on around him. When Mae hits that point, she loses her ability to problem solve which results in her “freaking out” when faced with small, inconsequential challenges. I have my own version of that where I no longer have the ability to be patient and instead of leading by small nudges, I use a more brute force approach (read: I yell at the kids).
After all three of us displayed our worst selves within a short period of time on Wednesday, it was obvious we needed a break. Taking a break is hard for me. I like working and I know what I like to do. I know the things I want to spend my time doing, but because there isn’t a job that I know of where you can design educational systems and structures for those that the current system doesn’t work for, work to re-write the narrative around inner cities while getting your hands dirty working on a house doing those things simultaneously is inefficient in that 40 hours a week isn’t enough to get things done. Inevitably I need a lot more than that and have to be pretty intentional about how my time is spent. Normally when I plan out my week, I make every attempt to stick with it, but after multiple meltdowns by the three of us in one night I figured we should audible.
The capacity to see patterns in my own behavior and the behavior of my kids isn’t new for me. What is, is having the space to pivot in the moment. Just before sending the kids up to bed Wednesday night I declared we were getting something good for dinner the next night and watching tv on the couch. I’d be lying if I said that one night of eating Qdoba and watching The Office made everything better, but I would also be lying if I said that it didn’t help. There wasn’t anything that was going to perfectly put things back to how they were before our house was broken into, but eating too much queso and watching Michael Scott make a fool of himself provided no opportunities for Mae to get stuck solving a problem and gave Dex a night off from needing to be conscientious of his surroundings. For me, it was a moment to pause and be thankful for what I have instead of being annoyed by it. When I was working full time, I struggled with not being able to pause when it was obviously needed and because of that it was easy to overlook all of the good going on around me. Sitting on the couch watching Michael “declare bankruptcy” was enough to reconfigure my perspective for a bit. If I do ever end up going back to a traditional job, Ill have to remember that experience and make sure I don’t overlook the why behind patterns of behavior within myself and the people I love.
This week was one of those weeks where things were hard. Having my little team over here on 8th St. made the hard bearable. Having the space to pause made the bearable better. It appears the challenges are subsiding as we get farther away from our break-in and the neighborhood appears to be moving in the right direction. I’m hopeful that the next time I write one of these, It’ll focus less on surviving and a bit more on thriving. If not, then we’ll just hit the pause button again.