Every Monday night, my family meets together for Family Home Evening. We sing a song, go over the calendar, have a lesson, play a game, eat a treat, and disperse. I was the lesson this week and I had no idea what I was going to do.....
.....until a fight broke out! Perfect. Joseph and Jacob were fighting over a book. I seized the opportunity and gave everyone a piece of paper. I instructed them all to write on the paper things that made them happy, or things they enjoyed doing, or people they loved. Everyone got to work.
Then I passed around a Sharpie and asked everyone to write, in the very middle of their paper, something that had made them mad that day, or recently. Mom looked reproachfully at me. "If it's too personal, you can just write, 'I am MAD,'" I added as I realized that I couldn't think of something that had made me mad recently.
Mom's wasn't too personal. She wrote, "when Sid compared us to COWS!" referring to a comment he made at dinner when Sarah wanted more corn on the cob. ("Sarah, you know what happens why farmers feed corn to their cows? So they can get fat." Mom resented this. She grabbed a corn on the cob and ate it. Then she gave Dad a stern talking-to about not saying things like that to her daughters anymore. He thought it was a joke. He tried to kiss it better. Clearly this did not resolve the matter.)
Sarah spoke up. "Can it be a person?" she asked, indiscreetly glaring at Joseph. (She had gotten mad at him earlier in the day and I guess some negative feelings still lingered.) People were approved and Sarah bowed her head to write down the not-so-mysterious name of the unforgivable offender. I watched in satisfaction as the Sharpie got passed around, observing the way everyone jabbed at their papers as they remembered their anger.
"Can I share mine!" asked Sarah urgently. I nodded and she said, "Okay. My happy things are Mom, Dad, Kelly, Heather, Nicole, Julie..." pause where Joseph's name normally would fall... "Jacob, Emily, Kenzie, basketball, and horses." She smiled around the room, ignoring Joseph. The rest of us smiled back at her.
"Very nice, Sarah," I said. "Thank you for including...."
"And my angry thing was Joseph," she concluded quickly.
"Oh. Okay," I said. Joseph seemed unaffected by this.
Jacob shared his next. Not surprisingly, he was angry at Joseph for taking his book. Joseph, at this point, must have felt some need to defend himself, so he shared what had made him angry: Jacob being slow with the book and hogging it.
I guess there are two sides to every story.
No one else wanted to share, so I asked them to hold up their papers, really close to their faces, so all they could see was the thing that made them angry.
"I want everyone to concentrate on whatever made you angry for 30 seconds. We're just going to sit here and think about how mad we were. Then we're going to talk about it."
We had just reached the 20-second mark and I was thinking about what I could say next, when Joseph solved that problem for me. As we all sat with our papers pressed to our noses, he suddenly lunged at Jacob, grabbing at the book and knocking him flat on the floor. Jacob reacted quickly, drawing the book closer to his body and rolling over. Sarah, having allowed her anger to marinate for long enough, jumped on top of Joseph, joining Jacob's team by default.
"No! No!" I shouted, "That's not how we handle anger!"
But when I looked at my parents, I didn't see the alarm I had expected to see. Dad was sitting calmly, watching the fight with some interest. Occasionally he deigned to utter a perfunctory, "Now now." "Hey Joseph." or "Okay guys," but it was a halfhearted effort at best. Mom, on the other hand, was pulling out her phone to catch the scene on video.
So I thought, what the heck. And jumped into the fray.
Here is the resulting video:
Are you wondering what happened next? Everyone was better. Sarah, Joseph, and Jacob were friends once again. Peace had been restored. And so, I have made the following conclusions:
1. Sometimes a good fighting sesh is necessary for a happy home.
2. Little brothers who are taller than you might be stronger than you.
3. The family that fights together, rights together.