I have a great belief in the fact that whenever there is chaos, it creates wonderful thinking. I consider chaos a gift.
-Septima Poinsette Clark
Day: Monday Time: 6:00 PM Scene:Mom (a.k.a. “me”) scrambling to
get dinner ready for her family
It was a typical Monday evening at our house – the kids were hungry and cranky, my husband had just come home from work and was trying to tell me about his hectic day, my 5-year-old was crying because she was trying to do a word search and “no one ever wants to help her,” my two-year-old was hanging off my leg, and the chicken was way overdone. Sound familiar?!
Normally at this point, I’d have a mini meltdown and tell everyone to freeze because “Mom can’t think with all the racket!!”
For some reason this particular evening, I reacted to the chaos in a completely unexpected way. Rather than lose my cool, I felt an unusual calmness and smiled as I thought to myself: “This is being a family.”
It was an “A-ha moment.”
From scrambling to get out the door in the morning, to tantrums, to sibling rivalry, the calamity and chaos of the family circle is inevitable. Put any group of people together long enough and mishaps, squabbles and annoyances are bound to emerge. What is not predetermined, however, is how we think about that chaos and how we respond to it.
For most parents (especially Moms who tend to experience it on a more regular basis), pandemonium in the family is typically seen as stressful and taxing – it wears on our nerves and robs us of precious energy. And the more we experience it, the more negatively we respond to it. We think: “Make this go away,” “I can’t handle this,” and “I’m losing it here!” Often times our negative thinking is what takes us to the boiling point faster than the chaos and calamity around us.
“When a family can move through chaos in a positive way, it enables each member to become more loving and tolerant of one another.”
So here’s what occurred to me in my light bulb moment: if chaos and calamity is inevitable, maybe it’s a sign of a normal, healthy family. If pandemonium is a normal family event, maybe responding to it in a negative way is futile and the real waste of precious energy.
Could it be?
Now when I say that chaos and calamity is “normal and healthy,” I’m referring to the minor irritabilities and frustrations that happen on a day-to-day basis in families – overflowing laundry baskets, bickering between siblings, puddles of water throughout the house from the “tea party,” overflowing diaper genies, “MOOOOM, Emily’s touching me!” “DAAAAD, Jason took my book,” “Are we there yet?” “That’s mine!” “Mommy … Mommy … Mommy … Mommy?” You know what I mean! This kind of chaos is not only normal, it also offers several benefits – really!
Firstly, it offers us the opportunity to model for our children (and better learn for ourselves) how to deal with chaotic situations calmly and rationally rather than frantically and unreasonably – a skill that will serve them well throughout their lives. We also have the opportunity to help them learn how to resolve conflict effectively and respectfully – an essential skill that will not only serve them well as they mature, but also that is in dire need in our culture. Finally, it offers us the opportunity to grow and connect as a family. When a family can move through chaos in a positive way, it enables each member to become more loving and tolerant of one another.
When you can begin to view chaos and calamity in a more positive way, you move to a place where you can “feel the chaos and embrace it anyway.” Chaos starts to feel okay and you can actually smile to yourself and think: “I can handle this” and “This is being a family.”
Embracing chaos doesn’t guarantee you won’t lose your temper or things won’t fall apart. There will be those moments and days when you really can’t deal with the chaos and calamity. We all have them. Embrace those times, too. Chalk it up as “just one of those days,” have yourself a glass of wine or watch a mindless movie after the kids are in bed, and know that tomorrow is a new day.
The chaos and calamity of the family circle is yours – for better or worse, in sickness and in health – it’s yours! But chaos is what you make of it. My experience has taught me that if you reject the chaos and view it as stressful, taxing, and unnecessary, that’s exactly how you will experience it. Embrace it as part of the family experience and you’ll increase your tolerance for frustration ten-fold, introducing a new level of peace and happiness into your life.
Idea for Action
For the next few weeks, practice reprogramming how you think about and respond to chaos. Pay attention to your reactions in chaotic situations and begin intercepting any negative thoughts and responses with something positive – a funny song, a burst of laughter, an inspirational quote or prayer – whatever keeps you in a “happy place.” Once you replace those automatic negative reactions to chaos, you’ll begin to view it in a different light. You’ll be well on your way to feeling the chaos and embracing it anyway.
Copyright 2006. DreamKids. All rights reserved.
Dr. Kelly Pryde is a parenting and self-development expert and the founder of DreamKids – a company dedicated to celebrating and developing the potential of children and families. A speaker, author and mother of two, Kelly holds a Ph.D. in Psychology and offers inspiring and practical ideas for today’s parents.
To learn more visit www.DrKellyPryde.com or www.dreamkids.ca.