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Grown-Up Tantrum

(c) 2002 by Cheryl Williams Levey,

The other day, I just lost it. It doesn't happen often, but the house was such a wreck and I had asked both my older son and my husband 107 times to pick up. Don't get me wrong, I am no stickler for perfection in the home (anyone who knows me can attest to that!) and I'm willing to do my share, but if I clean up after everyone all the time, it's not exactly fair to me nor does it put my son (or my husband) on the road to self-sufficiency. Which is the goal, isn't it?

Finally, I told (actually, I think I was yelling) my family that if the house wasn't cleaned up soon, I was getting a trash bag and dumping everything. Everything. Toys, books, you name it. And, I was going to move out. Then I went into the bathroom and took a very long, soothing shower. By the time I came back out, I was calm and ready to apologize.

Of course, things were picked up. Not perfectly and the place certainly wasn't spick and span, but it was enough of an effort to satisfy me.

So what did I learn from this? I learned that I can control my reaction to things ... to a point. See, I'm a proponent of the theory that your life is defined not by what happens to you, but by how you react. And I've always thought that reacting calmly and logically was the right way. However, calmly asking for a "clean up time" (complete with Barney song) did not get me the reaction from my family that I wanted. Even after repeating my request 106 times. So I resorted to threats, which made me feel terrible but got the result I wanted.

Which means then that sometimes I need to initiate a reaction from someone else to get what I want.

Wow. Never thought of that. I never thought of the idea that we can control some of the things that happen in our lives, BEFORE our reaction. In other words, we initiate dominos that start a process of events, the outcome of which we later react to.

Now, I'm not big on using anger or fear (threats) to get what I want. I prefer bribes, as in "If you pick up your toys, you can have a play date," or something similar.

But the truth is that in this situation and in life in general, being nice doesn't always work. It's not fair and it's sometimes dirty work to stand up and insist on changing something, but someone's gotta do it. I, for one, am not going to stand back and simply react to what happens. Even if it means I have to throw a tantrum!


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