We make choices in life. We turn left or right, we go to college or join the military, we adopt a dog or a cat. These aren’t wrong or right choices (except if turning right smashes us through the bridge’s guard rail and our car goes plunging into the river). However, we have to live with the consequences of our choices.
I was thinking about this when I was taking a walk this morning. I had forgotten the headphones for my phone, so I could neither listen to music nor the audio book, so I was just listening to the loud breathing I was doing inside my mask. Of course, I could have turned back when I realized my mistake at the foot of my driveway, but since I was brought up to believe that returning to the house after forgetting something was bad luck, I shrugged and kept on keeping on.
I also thought about kindness, how I never regret being kind instead of being unkind. I do know myself, and that I can be a snappish person. It’s easy when I’m tired, or hungry (hangry). But I watch for this kind of behavior and do my best to recognize it. There was one moment that I recall from many years ago that set me on a better course than getting irritated at little things. I remember this incident, a tiny moment of a conscious decision, that defined my life and shaped my behavior forever afterwards.
It happened when my daughter was about 8 years old, and my son just turned 5. We were having supper at the kitchen table, and I got up to get another diet Dr Pepper (it’s funny how these details stayed with me). Sammy took the last piece of bread on the bread plate, and started munching on it. Riva said, “Mommy was saving that.” I turned around in time to see my daughter become shock-still, and my son look at me with his large brown eyes. For a split second, there was no movement, as if everyone was holding their breath. I had a choice to make.
I could have berated my small child. I could have said something negative or dismissive, or patronizing. Instead, I jokingly reached out my hand, as in slow motion, while at the same time saying, “Noooooooooo!” and moving my lips as if they were flapping in the breeze. The kids laughed, Jeff laughed, and suddenly, whatever fear or tension that was there before was completely gone. Humor and goofiness brings us closer, and the sound of laughter — making other’s laugh — is one of the best sounds in the world.
I really don’t know why Riva thought I would be super-upset over Sammy taking the last piece of bread. I don’t know why there was this tension in the first place. But I do know that feeling of tension never came back into family dinners or any other family activities. Afterwards, I decided to make sure that my house was a house of laughter, and not a house of strain and strife, that my children and my husband know that I love and respect them.
I do know that I have the capability of slipping, and have snipped or snapped from time to time. But I always remind myself that my behavior is mine to control, and the type of family I want to have is largely within my control. And I also keep in mind the phrase “all actions have consequences.”