What a powerful statement. I don’t know what I am doing. I know these words can make someone feel empowered or inferior. The real question is what do they mean, and how does that translate into behavior?
During the year my eldest was to graduate from high school, our family was attending church and the pastor taught that camping is a great activity to participate in because a small group of people, “living” in a shared space over several days, in very basic conditions encourages conflict as well as conflict resolution because of the time spent together. In essence, he said it would bring our family closer together. That was all I needed to hear, we were going camping because my oldest is set-to graduate and I refused to let her leave the household without this bonding experience. So off we went… We had not ever been camping before so we were make shifting much of our gear. Oh, did I mention I also had just given birth to a set of twins a few months earlier, was exclusively nursing still and there was a tropical storm warning in effect for the area we choose to camp in. No, we did not think to check the weather. That was a crazy, fun, frustrating, scary (the woods literally looked like a scene from a Jason horror flick) experience that led us to continue camping annually until we moved to Maui.
Recently my “little” ohana (family) has had some experiences that I was blessed to use as teachable moments with my kids. It isn’t often that I am faced with a large-scale event that stresses me out and is beyond my control (road rage does not count) but it does happen and I have been blessed to recognize I have an opportunity to share healthy perspectives and coping methods with my kids during these times.
Situation #1: My eldest son has begun middle school and as such the kumus (teacher in Hawaiian) change with each class. This means that the kumus have less time to get to know each student on a personal level. My son is rather quiet and quite frankly, enjoys being a more favored student in a class rather than an unknown or comical one. This I say to help you understand my mindset when my son tells me that one of his kumu refused to help him when he asked for it. Yes!! I have always wanted to be the mom who gets to run down to the school and chew that lady a new one for being rude, uninspiring and quite frankly, not doing her job as far as I am concerned. First tho, I had to make sure my son wasn’t talking when instructions were being given or being disruptive to the class normally so that perhaps the teacher was less than enthusiastic (still not ok) to help him… I mean, I wanted to be sure that when I called the school, there was going to be no way that lady could say my son was anything less than perfect. My son then tells me he responded to the kumu disrespectfully. Conflict situation! I have to tell my son that the kumu was wrong for not helping a student when that student asked for it BUT that he also was wrong for being disrespectful to the adult. WHOA! Talk about conflict. If you have children, you might be familiar with the emotions that arise when there’s a desire to be on the kids’ side but the kid isn’t on the right side. Ugh!!!
Situation #2: Driving home from work one evening with my four youngest children in the car. We headed up a super steep road, as I was approaching the top, I saw the headlights of an oncoming car. Immediately I stop, release the gas pedal and we roll back. I am not sure if the gear disengaged or what but the next few minutes were hell. The car felt out of my control completely, the tires were spinning but we couldn’t get back up to the top. The car wasn’t responding to the different gears I tried and I felt panicked. My kids in a car that I have zero control of, on a steep hill and I am in the middle of the road rolling backward… Conflict. All kinds of internal and external conflict happening. Once back in the car, we start to drive and I hear the question: “Why are you crying?” I won’t say that I was happy for the tears but I recognized this teaching moment. It’s not often that my children have the opportunity to see me in a completely out of control situation and then immediately discuss what happened, how it felt and what smart choices were made in that situation. I mean, the kids have all kinds of situations where we can use something on tv or some friends experience for our teachable moments but how often do they actually get to see their parents freak out, recover and THEN talk about it? Chee huuu! So that’s how I handled it. I said it was ok to cry. (How often did we get teased as children for crying) I said that crying is a great way to relieve stress and that if I wasn’t driving maybe I would want to cry also. (It’s so easy to feel insecure when stressing out.) I then asked some questions to allow the kids to express how they are feeling. (Vent time) I thought about what I did right and how I would like them to be able to be logical and calm despite feeling scared and overwhelmed. I reminded them of what I did … remain calm, turn on hazards, put on the emergency brake, remove them from the car, got into a safe place and then we reloaded and continued our journey. Just going through the steps I took and what they mean seemed to help everyone (including me) calm down.
This is NOT a drill…
Situation #3: Ballistic Missle Threat Scare while at a high school regatta with my daughter. It was a beautiful Saturday morning, sometime between 8 and 9 am, my youngest daughter and I are inside a beach tent waiting for the races to begin when my second oldest daughter rushes over to me with her cell phone in hand to show me a text she has just received. “Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.” Next thing I hear is the announcer calling all the coaches to the officials stand. To say that the announcer sounded panicked is an understatement. She apparently didn’t want to make an announcement to the coaches until all were present so she kept up her frantic call to coaches for about a minute. Meanwhile, paddlers and their parents begin to quickly grab things and head for the street. I continue to sit there watching the action and listening for an announcement of some sort. My daughter has now begun to get dressed to go home. My youngest is asleep and I still have yet to receive any notification on my phone… also no sirens have begun to alarm yet so I still do not feel the sense of urgency that everyone else is exhibiting.
My older daughter tells me that she thinks perhaps we should at least pack up, you know, just in case. I didn’t know how to tell her that there was no just in case. If this is a nuclear attack via air strike, there really isn’t anywhere we can go. Instead, I tell her to call her dad and check in with him while I called my dad because he lives on Oahu which, for us, is the center of the universe. Neither of our dads heard the warning or received an alert at that time so, I was even less motivated to wake up a sleeping child and leave the beach but once the race official made the announcement that the civil defense was canceling the race, I decided that was the ok to leave. As soon as we arrive home (about 30-minute drive) we receive notice that the alert was a mistake. During the car ride home though, my older daughter and I discuss the reality of what happened and how it really would affect us here, our options and of course our spiritual afterlife. I can say that this chat didn’t go over as easily as the two previous but this was a learning experience for me. Sometimes, as a person who falls back on my faith in times of crisis, I learned to be more sensitive to people during their time of crisis. My coping method may work well for me and may even work well for others but there is always an opportune time and place for all things and I have to be mindful of that.
To admit that we lack knowledge about something can make us feel like we are ignorant. Ignorance seems many times, to only be acceptable for young children. Adolescents struggle with the charge of being expected to behave as adults but also as children. It’s not okay to be ignorant about something… except when it is expected. How often we hear of people who clearly had zero experience or knowledge of what they are doing or managing and they won’t ask for help so the result is everyone in their space being completely miserable and looking at the person like they are idiots. How all that negativity could have been avoided by asking questions. Pride is often the cause of conflict in our lives. Subconscious triggers set us on a path that many times we are unaware we were even on. Next thing we know, we are smack dab in the middle of some chaotic situation or conflict, our heart rate is elevated, our mind is racing with ideas of fight or flight scenarios and we have choices to make. How we handle is just as important to us as it is to the people watching us.
I hope the next time you find yourself against a rock and a hard place you remember to pause, collect your thoughts/pray and then act calmly and as rationally as possible.
PS. I woke up this morning to a message letting me know the 9.7 magnitude earthquake in Alaska did NOT spark a tsunami here in the islands. Whew! Yet another crisis averted!