We are a family of 6 and while this is bigger than the average, it is not uncommon. And any parent will tell you that when you put 2 or more children together there is bound to be conflict. We certainly have conflict in our house. Personalities collide, opinions get ignored, decisions get made with out consultation, personal spaces get invaded, we pull the "I'm the parent" card... Any or all of these things have been known to set off a landslide of conflict. The trick is trying to spot the triggers in any situation and detour around them before they cause an eruption to rival Mt. St. Helen's.
Well, last night I failed to see the potential conflict in a tank full of fish Which just proves how observant I am and how perfect my parenting skills are not! What I thought would be a quick trip to the pet store for some inhabitants for our newly acquired fish tank, turned out to be a battle of wills, an explosion of emotions and quite a lot of frustration on my part because I pulled the "I'm the parent" card and made everybody but Cassidy mad. (Which, by the way, makes everyone even more mad when Cassidy is happy when they think she should be mad too. They feel she's favored when really she's just agreeable.)
So, we get to the pet store and we tell everyone to look around and see what they like. I start hearing about this fish and that one and frogs and snails. Grace thinks all but one species (which grows up to 12") is ugly and who would want to look at ugly fish. Blanca only wants one fish - a Beta (Siamese fighting fish) - for a 40 gallon tank (insert eye roll here). Austin has found a shark. A shark!? Well, I'm not surprised that they all want something different. I kind of expected it really. But wait! Here comes the conflict. None of the ones they have chosen can be put in the same tank. That one I did not anticipate. Apparently fish have to be with like temperament fish in small enough numbers and a certain amount of personal living space or they fight and possibly kill one another. Wait a minute... That sounds familiar... Then it hit me like a ton of aquarium gravel - oh my heavens! I'm living in a fish tank and didn't know it! I suddenly feel claustrophobic and I want to eat my young in an effort to defend my personal space.
From outside the proverbial fish tank that I now find myself in, I hear the continued bickering over who should win the fish choosing rights. As I look around me I see Blanca pouting an isle over while furiously texting (probably about what a "meanie" I am - do teenagers say meanie?) and Grace is verbalizing her disgust over her siblings fish choices very emotionally and Austin's mouth is dropping open and snapping shut - much like a fish does - with every opinion Grace spews out about the sharks. I notice my husband is looking at me at this point with an expression that says he is both amused at the theatrics and confused by the turn this trip has taken. So, I dig deep, turn to Luke and say, "You go narrow down the choices to two and I'll choose the fish." That got everyones attention. Austin's mouth is now stuck in the open position, Grace is mad and going to join the "Mommy is a meanie club" and Cassidy is confused why she has no say when she's not even acting out. "Because I'm the parent, that's why," I say. And I am the boss of this fish tank and I will eat you if you don't stop fighting! (I didn't really say that last part, it just sounds good now.)
This conflict was never resolved to everyones liking. When we left, two were not speaking to anyone and two were still squabbling. But, we had fish which was the goal and we had completed the task. What I hope to show you by telling you our story is that conflict resolution does not necessarily mean a peaceful outcome with all parties holding hands and laughing together. We must learn (and teach our children) that sometimes the answer is to agree to disagree. Sometimes the answer is to give when others take. Sometimes we are to be angry and sin not (Eph. 4:26) - but we're still angry. Not everyone can win. Conflict resolution just means the problem has been solved by whatever means necessary. Sometimes the volcano just has to erupt before the mountain can be peaceful again. And sometimes Mom's just have to be the big fish in the little tank.