The Necessity of Battles
I don’t like confrontation. I never have. In my growing years I went to great lengths to avoid conflicts and try to make everyone just be happy. I was in my mid-twenties before I realized that sometimes the fastest way to “everyone happy” is to wade right through the middle of a conflict. Because some conflicts can’t be avoided. Trying to avoid them sends you in circles until you end up right back at the same conflict; like Winnie the Pooh circling in the foggy woods and ending up right back at the sandpit. It just looks a little different because you came at a different angle. I learned to be strong and to be what my children often call “mean.” It is part of the parent job.
Truthfully, the beginning of this school year has been fine. We had a lot to sort, particularly with Link. He had to face the fact that he will have homework and we really are going to require him to do it rather than having him excused from it via his disability. Getting Link to accept these things required me to sit with him for four hours until he wrote a journal entry. Then it required me sitting for two hours while we plowed through some history questions and got them done on time. Then I had to sit him down and make him do two writing assignments in a last minute crunch so that they were on time. Link was mostly cooperative, except for that inner part that wanted to avoid the work. We have now done one of each type of assignment that is likely to be required of him this year. No more big surprises. We have a plan in place to track the assignments. We intend to do at least one hour of homework each day, working on long term assignments if short-term ones are done. The goal is that he won’t have to put in hours on the weekends.
Today Link sat down cheerfully. He worked steadily. Then when the hour was done he said “I like this. I still have time to relax.” Yes. And now he sees it. Before we had the big homework battles and the last minute crunches, he would have seen the one hour of work as a daily drudgery. I knew that about an hour per day was what was needed, but he could not or would not see it. In the wake of the epic homework sessions it seems like a reprieve. Sometimes we have to have a battle so that we can see how good things are when the struggle is over. Sometimes we create the battle by trying to avoid something which really is not very hard to do.
I’ve seen the same thing with other kids in other situations. I set up requirements, restrictions, and boundaries. Then I have to hold firm while the kids wail and flail for a bit. Sometimes they get very mad at me for a time. Afterward they accept. Even further after that, they begin to see benefits and understand why I had to set things up that way. They begin to realize that maybe they enjoy having the house clean, maybe they like doing homework an hour per night instead of in a stressful mad scramble just before due date, and maybe Mom does have a clue sometimes.
Of course the hardest part is that I doubt myself in the midst of the battle. That part of me, which just wants to make it all better and wants to make everyone happy, will fight me just as hard has my child does. Sometimes I can clearly see that what I’m doing is necessary. Other times I waffle, waver, and am not at all sure. It can feel like such a mess in the middle of it. I gave in a lot during early years. I trust myself more now, but it is still hard. In order to learn to trust myself, I had to be willing to face the battles. I had to walk through the hard part and come out the other side so that I could see that making someone upset is sometimes the very best thing for everyone. I had to see that my attempts to avoid conflicts were very like Link’s attempts to make homework go away by ignoring it. Nothing went away, it just piled up. Much better to face things and manage them a little at a time.
I suspect that, like Link, this is not the last time I’ll have to learn this lesson. Though hopefully I’ll learn more quickly each time around.
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