I wrote this post several years ago but found it especially relevant this week having just spent a couple of days caring for two wonderful energetic grandsons.
Peace lessons are not always easy to swallow. I lost my cool and raised my voice with my four year-old granddaughter yesterday. She recovered much more quickly than I, but the experience has helped me relearn a couple of lessons yet again. We’ve been visiting with our kids for 5 days now – my step-son and his wife, and two children, ages 4 and 1. Being with them is fun, but doing it 24/7 when I am not used to it is sometimes quite challenging. Yesterday I knew my patience was wearing thin and should have given myself some time off from grandpa duty. Instead I agreed to spend some time playing with the little ones when we would all have been much better served by some time apart. That was the first lesson. – trusting my feelings and instincts instead of shoulding on myself.
The second lesson came as I observed my wife handle a similar situation with the four-year-old shortly after my “grandpa gaffe.” Both scenarios were typical adult-preschooler power struggles. But where I had let myself get hooked into the level of the four year-old, grandma stayed firm but calm and waited the little one out. My wife stayed grounded and centered. She didn’t respond from emotion but from a secure position of reason and authority.
How often do we miss out on peacemaking opportunities in interpersonal or international relationships because we forget these two simple lessons? Taking just a few seconds to pause, breathe deeply and ground and center ourselves before we react to what others have said or done can make all the difference in the outcome and how all parties feel about themselves and each other. Ground and center is the difference between making peace and escalating a conflicted situation, between a win/win and a lose/lose outcome. Grounding and centering gives one time to reflect and assess reality and trust one’s feelings and instincts. Proactive peacemaking happens when we know our own abilities and limits and are willing to ask for help when we need it instead of reacting from an emotional level.
So, my goal for my next opportunity to interact with a four-year old, no matter what age or size he or she may be, is to ground and center myself and remember these lessons my granddaughter and my wonderful wife taught me.