Olivia stood in disbelief at the kitchen sink watching 14 year old Emily interact with her 13 year old brother. Typically they were pretty good friends, but something was wrong, terribly wrong. She had seen them walk out back together as they got off the bus. As backpacks landed on the deck, they had climbed up in the playhouse that was still standing in the corner of the property. Sitting on the wooden planks the two were in deep conversation.
Being able to see everything from her kitchen window, Olivia was mesmerized by the continued friendship even as they had entered the junior high years. She wished she had a similar companionship with her siblings. As she stared entranced at what was transpiring between them, something seemed to snap in Emily. What had seemed like a natural exchange between brother and sister turned into a rage of anger followed by a wrestling match with fists flailing.
As if standing in quicksand, Olivia felt like she was moving in slow motion. Just as she reached the back door, she saw Dean push Emily up against the side railing allowing him a little relief from her continuous blows. Thankfully it was enough to stop the fight before someone fell from the 6 foot high perch.
Ordering each of her kids to their separate rooms, Olivia assured them they would talk about it later after cooler heads prevailed.
“Lord, I have no idea what just happened!” Olivia breathed out loud as she settled herself in a chair in her own bedroom. Behind closed doors she voiced her prayer, “You know what this is all about. Please help us to get to truth and give me wisdom in how to best handle the situation. Give me your eyes and ears to truly understand what each of my children are thinking. Calm my heart and may your glory be seen in this situation.”
At the dinner table, it was obvious that neither of the kids were going to speak to each other. After dinner dishes were put away, Olivia sauntered into Dean’s room.
“Is now a good time to talk about this afternoon?”
“I guess so. I just don’t get Emily anymore. She’s changing. And not in a good way.”
“She just seems to want a boyfriend so badly that she’ll do just about anything to get one.”
“Is there something specific you want to share?”
“Not really. What she did was not what our family is all about. It’s all about her and not about us.”
“Tell me more. Why did she get so angry?”
“I told her that what she did was impacting me as well. I tried to tell her I thought what she did was wrong. She didn’t like what I had to say.”
“I’m sorry, Dean. I’m glad you love your sister enough to speak truth to her. I’m not sure how we are going to resolve this, but I’ll get back to you after I’ve had a chance to talk to Emily.”
Later that evening, “Emily, do you have a minute that we can talk?”
“I guess so.”
“You want to tell me what was going on out there in the playhouse this afternoon?”
“Mom, I just got so angry at Dean. He has no right to tell me what I should and shouldn’t do! It’s none of his business!”
“Is that what you truly think?”
“Well it isn’t! I can make my own decisions and he needs to stay out of it!”
“Do you want to tell me what Dean is so upset about?”
“I’m sure he already told you everything.”
“Actually he didn’t. He told me you did something today that he thought was wrong and it had an impact on him. Do you want to tell me what happened?”
“Would I have been upset at what you did?”
“Did you have a right to go after Dean the way you did?”
“You would say I didn’t. I just hate having a younger brother tell me what I shouldn’t be doing!”
“Emily, family is about “we”. We want what is best for you and it sounds like that was what Dean was trying to convey to you. No matter what you choose to do, it has the potential to have an impact on our entire family. Do you understand that?”
Silence from Emily.
Olivia continued, “Emily, your dad and I want you to become the person that God created you to be. Obviously, I don’t know the details of what came down today, but I’m thinking maybe Dean telling you what he thought today was about how much he cares for you as a sister and wants the best for you as well. Life isn’t about “me”. Your entire life you will have to make choices about pleasing yourself, but know that those decisions will more times than not impact others”.
“Let’s plan to go to lunch on Saturday and talk about what happened today. Maybe I can help you sort through what you are feeling and why you did what you did. In the meantime, I’m hoping that you will pray and work through your anger with Dean. You know you need to apologize to him.”
“Emily, we all make mistakes. Learning to own up to them and talk about them with those who love you will help you make better choices in the future. You know we love you.”
After hugging Emily, Olivia left the bedroom. She headed toward Dean’s room to say goodnight. “Dean, I spoke to Emily and encouraged her to come apologize. I’ll be praying for the two of you. I love you.”
Parenting through conflict situations can be so difficult! We want to know all the details. We want to tell them what they did wrong. Sometimes just encouraging our child to do the next thing allows them to “own” what they did wrong. Setting up a time to work through the details usually takes the emotion out of the situation. Remember that the important piece is that our children need to see that “we” are in this life together and we both want the same thing…for them to be the best at what God created them to be.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
“Let go…and let God,”