“You don’t know what you’re talking about!”
“Yes, I do! You’re the one who’s wrong!”
“No, I know I’m right, so just leave me alone.”
“I’m not even listening to you anymore. I don’t care what you say because I know you’re wrong.”
My kids’ argument drowns out the radio as I turn the corner into our neighborhood.
As I often do when I’m trying to stay out of it, and let them work it out on their own, I take deep breaths and remind myself to choose my battles. It has served me well from toddler years to teenage years, though I admit I’ve lost patience, and run blindly into the hormone infested battlefield on more than one occasion. At which time I have become a fatality in the line of fire, smack in the middle of spraying insults and accusations. Teenage opponents have been known to find common ground shortly after my appearance, and teamed up against me until I wanted to either wave the white flag in total surrender or play dead in the hopes of a little peace and quiet while they figured out what to do with the body.
Lesson not learned, I forge ahead once more with the determination of a Peace Corps member, albeit with the painful pace of a wounded warrior. As I pull into the garage, I know this time will be no different, but the words begin to flow before I have proper time to strategize my approach. Sans battle plan, I turn off the music, and cut the engine.
Silence fills the car.
You would think I would embrace it, and go about my day. However, I’m a mom so I choose option B – the teachable moment.
You see, my kids’ argument irritates me more than usual on this particular day. I’m not sure if it is because my social media news feeds are filled with eerily similar arguments as of late, or if it has something to do with the inundation of hateful ads and articles around every corner.
The “I’m right. You’re wrong. Therefore, I refuse to listen to you.” messages are overwhelming these days, and not just in the back seat of my car.
That’s the truly sad part.
We come to expect that from teenagers, always equipped with their know-it-all attitudes. It’s not right, but not surprising.
Confession: I have on occasion called one or both of my kids, Ike. Nope. It’s not their name or anyone we know.
Immediately, they’ll ask, “Who’s Ike?”
“No one. It stands for I Know Everything.”
However, as adults we should be ashamed of ourselves. We should be embarrassed that we have become a world of hormonal Ikes incapable of listening to someone else’s point of view simply because we not only don’t agree with them, but believe we will never agree. Thus, we don’t need to waste our time listening to them.
It used to be we could disagree, have a debate, and even though we still disagreed in the end, we at least heard each other. We at least walked away proud of ourselves for having a productive discussion, and newly equipped with an understanding of the other person’s point of view.
When did this become the isolated incident rather than the norm?
I don’t have the answer because only each of us knows how we reached this point, and how we have contributed to this hateful divide. I’ll admit to scrolling past someone’s latest political rant simply because I knew reading it would just put me in a bad mood.
We have to do better though, and I refuse to continue on that path. My first step? I locked the car doors, and trapped my kids in the car for a good old-fashioned lecture. I asked that they listen to me completely, even when they were tempted to interrupt me. Then, I broke it down as follows.
- When you talk over someone, not only do you not hear what they have to say, but your voice is not heard.
- Repeating you are right and they are wrong is not only counterproductive but just plain rude.
- If you want the other person to see your point of view (why “you’re right”), then you have to express yourself in an educated way with points and examples that substantiate your claim.
- Treat the other person the way you would like to be treated. Especially, when they are passionately trying to present a stance on something near and dear to their heart.
- Make your point, but not at the expense of someone else.
- Remember, we all have our own once upon a time as well as several life chapters that have molded us into the person we are today.
- It’s not okay to say hateful or untrue things simply to ensure you win the argument. At the end of the day, that’s not winning.
- In a debate, one person speaks. Pause. The other person responds. This is done repeatedly and courteously.
- The same rules you learned as a toddler, apply as an adult.
- Be kind.
- Learn to share, your toys, your space, your opinions.
- There’s a time for talking and a time for listening.
- Sometimes we need to use our indoor voice. Our outdoor voice should be reserved for wild open spaces, not close quarters. This now applies to social media as well.
- You can’t take your toys and go home just because things aren’t going your way.
- Strive to win, but accept a loss with dignity and grace.
As we exit the car, I notice the gate open.
“Someone forgot to lock the gate again. I know I reminded you this morning.”
“It wasn’t me.”
“It wasn’t me.”
I take a deep breath.
“Well, unless we have a ghost who is messing with us by opening the gate after you guys locked it, then someone isn’t telling the truth.”
As each one walks past me into the house, I hear…
“We hear what you’re saying, mom.”
“Guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree, mom.”
Then, laughter all the way to the kitchen.
I raise my white flag, and freely wave the hell out of it.