One especially chaotic morning, my children and I were running impossibly late for school. Frantically, I threw two equally filled baggies of cereal, and the kids, into the back seat of my car. I shifted into reverse and floored the gas as I skidded out of the garage. The children instantly burst into an argument.
With legs and arm flailing, they pummeled each other. My blood pressure soared as I spun my head around like Linda Blair in the Exorcist to face them. As I prepared to rant and rave, an angelic instead of demonic voice deep inside my soul, pleaded for calm: “THE SITUATION WILL PASS, YOUR REACTION TO IT MAY NOT.”
I shifted the car back into park. I put my hands on the top of the steering wheel and placed my forehead on my hands. I stayed silent. I sat motionless. I had two choices. One: with eyes bulging and voice raging I could turn around and face them. They would witness my snarling face and coal black eyes piercing through them in distain and my booming voice rattling the car windows. That vision would be etched in their memory forever.
Or, I could skip the threats, damning language, and criticism and remain calm. I could use my inner strength to remain undisturbed by their misbehavior. I could simply state, "I am not moving until you both stop. You will both be late for school. Do you want that?"
In that moment I intentionally chose how NOT to solve conflict. I created a teachable childhood moment where calmness and kindness prevailed. My silence generated a reciprocal silence from the back seat. Their anger failed to feed my reaction. THE SITUATION did PASS. My reaction TO IT - caring and patient, shifted their memory of that moment from CHAOS TO CALM - setting the tone for their childhood to be different, intentionally different, from my own.