By Irina Nichifiriuc
This is a Christmas story about the day my son saved the adults from their tantrums with his own special gift.
When the holidays come our house fills up with family and friends and we are always happy to have them, even when the energy they bring is not that positive, not even nice. This, as adults, we have almost come to expect.
Relationships—especially re-unions—aren’t always easy, simple or rosy. As much as older relationships can bring calm, they can bring turmoil, they can be happy or sad, they can bring joy or annoyance (sometimes from the same person). Most of this depends on the moment you see them and the levels of connection between those involved.
On this day, several differences in opinion quickly surfaced. I suppose these were even to be expected, since the people gathered were strong and opinionated.
A tantrum was brewing, just waiting for its moment.
I’m not sure if it was a moment of disconnection or too much connection that triggered the argument that flared while we were having lunch. Words like “always,” “never,” and “only I,” came from strained voices. Reproaches were flung around. All the characteristics of a standard tantrum were there: irrational behavior, ultimatums, and, of course, it being the worst time and place for such a discussion.
As parents, we see these upsets every day in our children. For these adults too, such a situation did not seem so unusual, but for the first time my children were watching. They certainly know from personal experience how a tantrum goes, but they are not used to adults fighting.
I didn’t realise, but while the calmer adults at the table were busy trying to soothe the ones fighting, my eight-year-old was busy devising a plan.
He introduced a special game of tag.
His game of tag was played with a stuffed toy pig. Whoever was “it” had to touch the others with the pig using only his feet (like in a game of soccer). Hands were only allowed if the pig was stuck on the sofa, in the bookcase or on the table. My boy quickly got me and my husband playing but our other family members were more reluctant.
Still, he insisted, and after a while they all got up from the sofa, away from their phones, and joined the game. We all reconnected beautifully running around the house, pushing each other in front of the “piggy ball” and hiding behind each other in order to not get tagged. We LAUGHED. We laughed a lot and we laughed hard, our full hearts loving every moment of it.
At one point when all of us—three children and six adults—were on our feet, laughing and running, my eight-year-old took me to the side and asked, “Mommy, do you like my present? Now everybody is laughing!”
And at that moment I understood that the game had been part of his plan all along.
Well, let me tell you: I do like it my dearest boy!
I like the fact that you understood what was needed to be done even when we adults were stuck in our own Towers of Isolation.
I like it that you knew how to connect us without us even knowing, disguising it all as a children’s game.
I like it that you made us all laugh and rediscover ourselves in the most beautiful way possible, through play.
I like it that you chose to act instead of just watch.
I like it that you were able to analyze the situation so well and to find the perfect solution for it, and that you chose the solution to be connection.
There is just one thing I don’t like, and that is the fact that YOU had to do all this when it was OUR job to do it for ourselves, and for you.
If I ever doubt the power of the Hand in Hand Parenting Tools, there come times like this that confirms exactly why this is the right thing. This is the effect the tools have on children. They are more aware of their environment, they are capable of handling and finding solutions to situations that vary in complexity, and they have the power to act when they feel they are needed, unafraid of taking responsibility.
My son used the power of Playlistening. (You can read more about it here). He used play to help us offload our feelings of powerless, uselessness, and helplessness, and to reconnect. Once our connection was restored and our feelings were offloaded, we could feel each other’s love again.
Thank you, my son. This was the best gift you could have given.
From the Hand in Hand Toolbox:
You can read more stories about playlistening with children here.
Get our free guide to Hand in Hand's Five Tools
Register for monthly parenting advice and resources
Irina Nichifiriuc is a Hand In Hand Instructor from Romania.
Connect with her on Facebook.