Written by Doctor G

Stop having both sides of the argument


This morning I woke with the feeling that something that was supposed to get done… hadn’t. I couldn’t put my finger on it at first, and then I realized. The garbage and recycling did not go out last night. 

There are two things you need to know to get the full sense of my frustration:

  1. There are several teenagers living with me in this house, and altogether we generate a lot of garbage and recycling.
  2. It is one of those teenager’s responsibility to take it all out and to the curb each Monday – and he and I had discussed it before I went to bed.

Boy I was I mad. It was about 2oF outside, dark and e a r l y. 

I thought about waking him (it’s semester break so he could absolutely sleep in) and making him do it. I thought about his reaction to that, had the argument in my head we’d undoubtedly have at full volume in his room if I woke him, and decided to give him a different consequence later on in the day instead. So out I went to deal with the trash. Smoke (figuratively) pouring out of my ears to keep me warm, and the dog smirking along the way.

After I came back in, my youngest – no semester break for him – asked why I was doing his brother’s job. I explained the situation and he said, “I just want to say that, if – OK, when – I forget to do stuff, I’d rather you woke me up and made me do it than just been mad and told me about it later.” 

This shocked me. This child, though younger, already hates to wake up a minute before he has to in the morning. “Seriously??” 

“For sure. I’d much rather be mad at myself and be able to fix what I did wrong than just hear about it after the fact when I can’t fix it. It’s that… mends thing you’re supposed to make.”

“Amends?” I asked.

“Yeah, that.”

Huh. Well, OK for him but I was positive that the child I had allowed to sleep in would not feel the same way. Aaaaaannnnnddd? I was wrong. 

A few hours later I got a text from the miscreant before he was even out of bed. “Very sorry. I know you must have been frustrated with me this morning. I wish you’d have woken me to deal with it when you got up.” 

O_o   (my face)

Here’s something I do, and I’m wondering if you do it also. I get upset about something, or frustrated, or hurt. I imagine talking to the other person about it. I know what they’ll say, and what I’ll say back, and I decide it’s not worth the conflict. Or I skip over the part where they get to say what they felt or believed and just move to the obvious conclusion. I have both sides of the conversation and jump ahead a chapter or two. Like a lot of folks, I feel self-righteous about this. I think it makes me more mature, or compassionate, or giving. 

What it really shows is that I want to be in control. I’m not showing trust. In this case, I didn’t trust my son’s work ethic, his compassion or his resilience. 
When you have both sides of the argument in your head, and come to a conclusion based on that, you’re taking on more struggle than you need to shoulder. You’re adding stress when you don’t have to do that, and likely getting in the way of strengthening your relationships and connections. 
I got in the way of my son making amends. We talked about it – he’s going to make dinner an extra night next week. That should help us both.

Do you have a conflict in your head right now rather than just speaking your truth and seeing what happens? Comment and tell me. I care about what’s happening with you.

All my best,

Dr. G

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