Heat and animosity, contest and conflict, may sharpen the wits, although they rarely do; they never strengthen the understanding, clear the perspicacity, guide the judgment, or improve the heart.
My daughter is bummed. A hint of disappointment has floated to the surface of her beautiful brown eyes and, for a couple of months now, she just hasn’t been herself.
It’s the Girl Scouts.
Not the organization, but her local troop. What was once a raucous weekly gathering of elementary school friends and adult parent leaders – all eager to explore new vistas of knowledge, create projects of varying complexity and color schemes, and eat cookies and giggle – folded at the beginning of the school year. In the past, the troop has always been slow at starting up, allowing time for the routine of school to establish itself before adding yet another activity to so many already crowded plates. This year, it just never got off the ground. There were no planning sessions among the parents, no flyers passed around and, despite numerous one-sided phone calls and left messages, no word from the former leader. Instead, Aryn learned that there would be no Girl Scouts this year, several weeks into the semester, via a passing comment by a friend of the leader’s daughter. These girls have been together since kindergarten, sharing birthday cakes, holiday parties, cookies sales and summer camp each and every year.
Now there is nothing. And her sail is sagging.
There is another troop in the area she could join. They don’t meet as regularly, and the faces, while somewhat familiar, are still new, in a “they’re-not-my-old-friends” sort of way. She attended one meeting, felt out of place, and rather begrudgingly admitted to hearing rumors of chatter about “the new girl”. All part of growing up, but no fun nonetheless.
So she wants to write a letter. To let the old leader know just how disappointed she is about the way this year went down. Her and mom typed it up on the computer and I got a chance to see it last night when I got home from work.
Her bummed out feelings have blossomed into full blown anger, and I fear a conflict is on the horizon.
Perhaps there are legitimate reasons to be so mad with the former leader. My wife made literally countless phone calls to the leader’s home and cell in the weeks after school started. None were ever returned. Not one. Granted, she is a busy lady. She works odd hours and has a sleep schedule I would never desire to emulate. We know this because we know her. She lives within a ten minute walk of our home. We’ve attended the same church as her and her family in the past. We see them on weekends during Upward basketball season. We occasionally share carpool duties for early-morning choir rehearsals.
She could have, at one time, been considered a friend. And probably will, for years to come, be considered at least an acquaintance. In this day and age, when neighbors barely wave hello anymore, one may need someone like this person to go to in a pinch.
But she dropped the ball on this one. If she didn’t want to continue leading the troop, something should have been said. The earlier the better, so that perhaps another parent could have decided to step up and take over as leader. Frankly, anything would have been better than nothing.
And as a parent, as a father, I am now faced with a most delicate, teachable moment. My wife is understandably upset. She has to bear the brunt of all the annoying things kids do when they are frustrated but don’t really know it. And she has a very black and white way of handling these situations; just let it all hang out, say what you feel, and let the chips fall. I love her for her spunk. She is the go-getter yin to my tentative yang.
But I am hesitant to create a conflict so quickly. For such a letter as the one they drafted last night will surely spark a flame, one that may not be easily extinguished. Conclusions will be pounced upon with no concern for facts. And bridges will be burned.
In pursuing resolution to a conflict – in seeking to reconcile that which has been estranged, in daring to admit that, from an extremely personal and one-sided vantage point, such an estrangement has occurred – there must be recognition of the hurt one feels. More “I feel this” and less “because you did that”. This is most important if you want to continue in a relationship with the other person, for saying these things demands some sort of response. Where it goes from there becomes more of a dialogue between two people working toward a resolution, seeking a mutual understanding of the situation, and less of a solitary harboring of bitterness and assumptions.
The world needs fewer dramatic soliloquies and more rational, genuine conversations.
But maybe I’m wrong.
Maybe she needs to be torn a new asshole.
Or maybe some relationships aren’t meant to advance beyond painted smiles and theatrical greetings. Talk about the weather, but keep your pearls close instead of casting them before the swine.
My wife, in her own words about this, is the mother bear, seeking to protect her young. Her heart tells her to lash out at those who have caused damage to her children through their careless actions, or lack thereof. And a part of me is with her completely; I have a long history of bluntly making people aware of their shortcomings, as I perceive them. But there is this other, newer, and slightly uncomfortable, in a new shoes sort of way, part of me that no longer looks for a battle behind every slight. Maybe I’m a coward. Maybe I just hate all the drama.
Or maybe I just think too much . . .
(For those who may be wondering, my wife has read this post and has allowed me to publish it. It’s not meant to be a rant against She Who Must Be Obeyed . . . )