Humans are animals, bound and acted upon by forces of nature that are, at times, far beyond our control. Something rooted deep inside desires a few, core needs to be filled. It’s this natural and unrelenting reality that makes emptying our homes, shoving our priceless memories into questionable cardboard boxes, and piling them into rickety metal rectangles, so wildly dramatic and stressful.
It shouldn’t be so stressful. It shouldn’t illicit feelings of being displaced, wayward and lost, but it does. Despite my best efforts, my most recent move sent shockwaves through my family of five.
We all know moving sucks, so I’m not special here. We are all going through some shit right now, and mine isn’t particularly more special than yours. My only goal is to encourage you to find the lessons and teachable moments buried in our times of suffering. In these moments, when our kids can feel the tension and sense the stress, we can help shape our children into better humans.
Good news: it’s easier than you think!
I’m no paragon of patience or colossus of calm, but I’ve found a deep breath and 30 second conversations can rescue kids from a total meltdown. If I’m being completely honest, these moments may be just as therapeutic for me.
On moving day, as dads, we are supposed to be the grumpy and sweaty beast of burden. It’s our genetic birthright to embrace this time-honored tradition, but we have an even greater responsibility to always have the welfare of our children as a top priority. We might be so focused on safely transporting the “fra-gee-lay” Italian lamp we received as a major award, that we may fail to notice the increasing anxiety in our children. It’s tempting to ignore what’s happening around us to remain task focused, but as parents we don’t get that luxury.
Soothing conversations we need to have
Here’s an example. While I was carrying boxes out of the house, my 4-year-old son was running between me and the other guys. I had already barked at him to stop, and I had expressed frustration with my wife for her not keeping my son in check. Now, for the third time, my son was being obnoxious on purpose. I could see his defiance. This wasn’t clueless goofing off. He was trying to impede our progress on purpose. I filled my lungs with air to awaken the thunderous dad voice of discipline only reserved for special occasions. However, instead of yelling at him, I set my box down. I lowered myself to eye level. Letting out my breath slowly, ignoring the back pain, ignoring the knee pain, ignoring the existential pressure of moving, and money, and pandemic, and political nonsense, I quietly asked, “What’s going on, buddy?”
I won’t share these private words between father and son because it’s unnecessary. All I did was let him speak. I answered his questions. I thanked him for talking to me, and he didn’t bother us again. This worked because over the years I have built a foundation of 30-second conversations upon which this 30-second conversation could rest. My son doesn’t have memories of dad spitting fire and venom. Instead, he has memories of a dad taking a breath, taking a knee, and taking a moment to listen.
It’s easy to be angry. It’s easy to wield the hammer, but being a parent isn’t easy. I encourage you to begin building your own foundation rooted upon the bedrock of 30-second patient, understanding, and loving conversations.
Also, I’m never moving again.