On a recent Monday, my family had one of THOSE days. It almost seemed we were destined for miscommunication from the moment we woke up. Everyone was tired and frazzled. Our raw edges were showing. By the time we had eaten breakfast, there were angry words, tears, and for the rest of the day we carried that dull ache in the bottom of our hearts that feels physically painful.
On those days, I want to ask myself, “What are we doing wrong?” Or, “How did that simple conversation turn into this?”
My husband and I have spent years studying our hearts and excavating our minds for the things that set us off. We have worked tirelessly (okay, sometimes wearily) on our “stuff” and we are in touch with our triggers. We have prayed for wisdom, and eyes to see things from an eternal perspective. Yet, in spite of all the mental, emotional and spiritual health we work toward every day… we still blow it.
We still react. We still feel.
With two very unique teenagers in the house, we have fears about our kids’ future. More than 16 years after our parenting journey began, we still doubt how we are doing as parents. On those gut-wrenching days when we feel like we are going backward rather than forward, we have to be careful not to turn on ourselves (or our kids). Our years of hard work and learning to lead our family well were not spent in vain, certainly.
After all, without a full spectrum of feelings – the good ones and the uncomfortable ones – how can we ever be authentic? We say we want to be authentic, but when it turns messy sometimes being real feels “less right.” We straddle that blurry line between honest and hurtful. And, because the truth can feel hurtful, it is tedious business maneuvering those difficult moments when the truth needs to be told but is not well-received.
Finally, late in the evening, after the simmering silence that often follows difficult conversations, I made a warm loaf of pumpkin bread – a peace offering, I suppose. As I sliced and buttered it and set it on plates, I tried to let my attitude match the mellow warmth of my fresh-baked gift. We all chose our words more carefully than we had earlier. We expressed our love – and our talking points – from the perspective of a fellow-team member rather than an opponent. After all, we all want the best for each other at the end of the day.
That conversation over pumpkin bread went much better. There were more tears, but this time they were better tears. Healing tears. Apologies were made, however reluctantly. A greater understanding of one another’s complicated hearts and minds resulted and we tried to make sure our kids understood that we are fighting for them, not against them, even when our efforts are clumsy and imperfect. And at the end… “This is the best pumpkin bread you’ve ever made, mom.”
I don’t believe in running to food to solve anything. But the experience of breaking bread together after a bad day drew us to the kitchen table and kept us there long enough to come to a resolution. And that felt like a win. I desperately needed to feel a win that day.
Then it was time to put that rough Monday to bed. We woke up Tuesday and tried it again – one foot in front of the other. That’s all we can do. If we live in yesterday, we waste today’s new opportunity to get it right. Or at least to try.
The next time your family has one of THOSE days, please know that it happens to everyone. When honesty hurts, or when conversations take a painful turn… that is the price we pay for living authentically with other imperfect human beings. The only other options are: complete isolation, or shallow relationships that never touch on the deep places inside us. I’ll take authenticity over loneliness any day.
So keep telling the truth. Keep bathing that truth in love. And, if things unravel… give it some time. Keep working on your stuff. And maybe make this pumpkin bread, which I have on good authority is the best ever (only use the whole can of pumpkin instead of just half).