I couldn’t believe it. My husband actually turned the car around, which has never happened in all 9 years of being parents. As we do every Saturday, we head out for a family walk or bike ride in nature together, but by the looks of this particular Saturday, we were headed in a totally different direction… towards hell, perhaps?
Could we turn the day around? I didn’t know.
Just days prior, Russia declared war on their neighbor Ukraine and today my own family couldn’t pull it together. One incidence after another compiled that morning until everyone’s nerves frayed and the flames of animosity were flying high. It was now official. I had lost all hope for humanity.
If my husband and I and our four small children couldn’t love one another and find a way to work things out, then how could we ever expect entire countries to walk forward in peace?
The complaining, the whining, and the bad attitudes reached a feverish pitch as we drove down the highway embarking on one of our favorite traditions- a bike ride to a beachfront coffee shop. After several failed attempts to quiet a certain child, begging them to stop destroying the atmosphere in the car, pleading for them to change their attitude, my husband did what I thought he’d never do- he promptly took the next off-ramp.
Completely exasperated, overflowing with frustration and rage, we proceeded back home.
Immediately, the car fell silent and the whining stopped.
Then, not wanting to concede to the wishes of one selfish child, I told my husband to pull over at the next gas station, where I gave an epic speech right there in the parking lot.
My seatbelt was still on, hot tears flowing down my cheeks, I whipped my upper body around to face my distressed team with gusto. The gist of my rousing speech: COME ON YOU GUYS! STOP IT! THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE! WE CAN DO BETTER THAN THIS!
It felt like a scene straight out of a movie, where an impassioned coach spews out a spirited motivational talk to his defeated players.
I’d like to say those few minutes of fervor changed attitudes, transformed hearts, and melted away the memories of that fateful morning, but they did not. It proved to be enough to put us back on the highway though, pointing in the direction of our original Saturday morning plans, albeit more somber than before. Each of us stared out the window in a stupor, trying to make sense of what just happened, even the youngest of the crew could sense the despair filling the vehicle like a nasty stench.
Much to my dismay, the eye-rolling, general rudeness, and bickering continued throughout the entire weekend.
When the time finally came to flop down in my bed Sunday night, I wondered how I could stay optimistic about the state of our world when a family of six still hadn’t learned how to mediate their discord in a harmonious manner?
It seems trite to compare the hostility between daughter and mother, son and father, sister and brother, parents and children to the violence of warring nations, but isn’t the heart of our heinous antics essentially the same?
I’m no expert on how wars begin, but in observing my own family, might they originate in our ability to dehumanize the other, and exert control and power over them?
I’m also not sure how wars eventually come to an end, but looking back over this tumultuous weekend and the daily battles waged inside the walls of our home, there are some behaviors I think always help.
A willingness to work together in our glaring differences of opinion, an admittance of our delicate interdependence and need for one another, and a relentless commitment to do better or at least keep trying.
What would you add to the list? How have you managed to calm a heated debate in your family, or bring resolution to a tense relationship, could it translate on a global scale as well?