My friend Taya once responded to a conflict in which she was asked to choose a side “There are more layers than sides.”
I loved her nuanced thinking, not only as a push back again unnecessary alliances, but also as a way of acknowledging that oftentimes no one person can see the full picture. Taya’s layers can also prove helpful to extrapolate when it comes to decision-making.
When called to choose a path, it’s so easy for me to fall into black and white thinking, and the illusion of right and wrong choices. I say illusion because so often the outcomes of our decisions look nothing like what we predicted and stressed over anyhow–and as Taya wisely observed–usually involve more layers than sides.
Parenting decisions can feel especially fraught to me. For example, we consented to our kids’ request to watch Stranger Things even though I strongly suspected the scary science fiction show would give my 10 year old nightmares. It gave him nightmares. Nightmares mean interrupted sleep for all of us, which means waking up not only on the wrong side of the bed but into our own version of The Upside Down involving less slime and more sighing, less nose-bleeding and more eye-rolling. Same dark eye circles and twitching.
You know what though? We love watching the show as a family. I adore listening to the kid’s theories and plot-predictions, and they notice all sorts of details I don’t. We laugh, we get cozy. It rules.
Most relevant, however? The layers we did not predict. The show sparked an interest in Dungeons & Dragons, the famous strategy game (and Stranger Things plot device) involving 100% creativity, imagination AND NO SCREENS OR PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT WHATSOEVER. The boys’ older cousins taught them to play and spent two hours on the game Saturday. Then our kids spent another two hours on Sunday developing their own characters and collaborating. COLLABORATING. Praise the spirit of Siblings Without Rivalry, D&D requires the players to work together instead of mocking, slapping or otherwise turning “fun” into “Cane and Abel Get Consequences.”
This one little parenting decision yielded both good and bad outcomes; some foreseen, others totally unpredictable. We often can’t see the layers ahead of time or from a distant vantage point–especially when it comes to conflict or stress. We can remind ourselves they exist. We can slow down, and consider what we might need is more time, input, and a broader view for a more illuminating richer perspective.
This post is part of #30BrighterDays; a thing I made up to brighten each day of November