Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Peanut Butter Swim

Sitting next to my husband, I squirmed in my seat as he told us that trust is one of the most important aspects of relationship. "When trust is low, everything in the relationship is harder. It's like swimming through peanut butter," he said. 

It was Saturday night church and, due to some snot-nosed kids, Shawn and I were treating it like date night while our oldest stayed home with the sickies. 

Shawn was squirming, too. We weren't uncomfortable with the trust level in our relationship. It has always been good and high. But, we both recognized that we have failed our kids in this area. We have said we'd do things that we've not done and trust is low.

We are swimming through peanut butter and it is all our fault.

Sometimes, it is simply because we hate to disappoint, so we say, "Yes," underestimating the time constraints we're already under. "Sure, Zak, we'll make muffins, tomorrow." But tomorrow brings an unexpected doctor's appointment and another child throwing up and all the laundry that goes with that. Our intentions are good, but good intentions with zero follow-through don't hold water with a disappointed six-year-old. 

I wish I could stop there. I wish that it all boiled down to over-commitment. And, with Shawn, that is the biggest issue. But with me, it mostly comes down to selfishness. I tell a kid I'll do something with or for them and then I get a better offer. I get involved in phone conversation or want to finish this chapter or veg out on Facebook. Whatever I want to do too often comes first. 

I'm pretty good with the big things. If I promise a zoo trip or the park, we'll go. But if I say I'll wade through a kid's recent one hundred drawings of jellyfish to choose my favorite, odds are good, something more pressing will come along. And it's sucking the life out of our family.

So now we're working hard to empty the pool of peanut butter and build trust. We're trying to say what we mean and mean what we say. It's tough, but that boils down to saying no upfront a lot more and dealing with the resultant disappointment (and often attitude), initially, instead of getting their hopes up and leading them on. It also means that I have to disentangle myself from whatever interests me, and take a teen to Target or put down the computer and read the promised book, instead. 

We didn't get into this mess overnight and it will take a long time to rebuild the trust levels in this family, but after just a few weeks, we are already seeing progress. I'm noticing less checking and re-checking from one of the younger ones who used to repeatedly ask, "Are we still going to ________?" And, when something was needed to be rescheduled last week, there was so much less drama associated with it, as well. 

Slowly, the peanut butter is thinning. And that is grace.

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