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(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

Conflict is inevitable, but combat is not. (Max Lucado)

I believe that babies arrive in this world good. And, yet I also believe in the concept of original sin—as in babies show up self-focused because that’s what’s developmentally appropriate for a new creature who must figure out how to stay alive and well in the outside world. A baby isn’t worried about the self-preservation of anyone else yet—and that makes sense. To them it really is all about them when they first arrive. Babies don’t care if parents want to sleep or eat or whatever. They want what they want (need?) right now—no conflict in their minds.

However, as we grow, we begin to understand that others matter, too. But, boy is it hard sometimes to get ourselves to do for others and/or to be aware enough to realize that sometimes what might be right for us isn’t necessarily right for others or what they want. How we resolve those conflicts between our desires and those of others is really, really tough. Talk about conflicted, right?

I grew up in a home where my father tended to think my mother would want what he wanted, even if she expressed otherwise—which to be fair to him, she did not do often enough. By the time she started stating more of what she thought—after over twenty-five years of marriage—he didn’t really hear her. Sure she said she didn’t want to go to the football game, but who doesn’t want to go to the football game? Of course she would be tired from staying at the cast party but isn’t everyone tired?

I confess I am more like my father than my mother. As much as I try to figure out what others might want, sometimes I’m really into what I want. If there is only one chocolate left in the cabinet, am I going to save it for my husband (who also loves chocolate) or eat it? I’m fairly certain I fall more on the selfish line with that sort of thing, but I try to be a person who hears when someone expresses a direct request. (So, Sherman, if you’re reading, give me some direction on this chocolate thing!)

And sometimes we have to learn the lesson of awareness of others the hard way—by being told when we’ve been steamrolling over someone else. I am still embarrassed that my friend/employee had to tell me that you don’t joke about firing someone. Talk about insensitive—pointing out power differences and making light of someone else’s livelihood. I blush every time I think of that. But I changed. Thank goodness she was willing to say something to me and yet still remain my friend. She likely protected me from alienating others in my life in my days since then.

Then I also remember times I have stated my boundaries and/or my reasoning behind any boundary, but not felt heard. The other person continued to do what I asked him/her not to do or flat-out told me he/she wouldn’t change just because I wanted that change. I don’t want to be like my mother with my father and leave others guessing as to what I really think, but if the response I receive is not sufficient for my self-preservation, I either keep others at a distance or no longer invite them in my circle at all.

Some behaviors are considered universally objectionable and others are personally objectionable. If my request seems unreasonable to you, then maybe we have to agree to disagree.

Truth? I hate conflict—I want to get along with everyone and believe the best of everyone. But that is as unrealistic as thinking that those who don’t agree with me are horrible people from the get-go. We are all individuals who are likely to think differently in many ways from one another. Conflict is inevitable but there is some choice as to how we handle that conflict together and how often we are in conflict.

Back to that chocolate thing—I’m certain my husband probably recognizes that I’m a bigger boundary encroacher than he is. However, he is the epitome of that still waters running deep expression. If a boundary matters to him, it has mattered to him for a long time and when he finally mentions it, he’s going to mean it. Unlike my father, though, I think I realize that maybe that also means I’m going to have to listen harder and consider what I wasn’t hearing before.

But when someone else is bringing that spirit of conflict into our home, we are united in our desire to reduce that conflict’s effect on us. While we believe that living in the midst of constant conflict is a hard way to live, we especially stand firm in the belief that engaging in constant conflict is no way to treat people in your inner circle. Conflict itself is not a sin, but just part of living in this world and in relationship with others. Nonetheless, when it happens too often, it’s time to ask why.

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(c) 2015 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2015 Christiana Lambert

Yes, I’m talking to you, too.

What’s up with drivers and stop signs these days? When did stop signs become suggestions for a majority of drivers? I would like to say I’m exaggerating but that only applies if I just happen to have the bad luck of being around the only people not stopping. Lately I am only seeing about one in 10 fully stopping, with a few more doing the rolling stop known as a California stop here. (Is that a regional prejudice or is that what they’re called in California, too?)

At first I thought it was just my little street. I happen to live on what appears to be a fairly randomly-designated one-way street. It’s not unusual to see Driver’s Ed students being taught about driving on one-ways on this street. With just one stop required in the whole six-block one-way section and two lanes, drivers can often pick up the speed way beyond posted limits—and that includes our law enforcement officers. And, trust me, many do pick up the speed. I’ve even seen what can qualify as racing in those two lanes at 3:00 p.m.—which is not only suspiciously close to the time the local high school lets out but also a time for frequent pedestrian traffic. (Side note: I saw it again today between when I wrote this sentence and when I posted this on the blog.)

But either I’m one of the few people who knows this about our street or else all those drivers who don’t even slow down at the stop signs on the cross street are considerably more optimistic about the odds of meeting traffic than I am.

However, I’ve been checking out other routes and have concluded that many drivers really aren’t stopping for stop signs these days. It’s not just our little corner on the world with this problem.

I get the impression many drivers think they know the traffic patterns better than the traffic engineers and city planners. If no one is coming, why not go? Well, let’s say we skip over the fact that not stopping at a stop sign is illegal—I also do not see that many of these non-stoppers are even looking for other types of traffic either. They just want to go. Not cool—take your turn, especially when you’re threatening someone else’s safety. My husband rides a bicycle, he and my daughter trade off riding our motor scooter, she and I walk our dogs daily, and I like to run. I resent your thinking that our lives don’t matter as much as your right to shave off a few seconds from your drive. If you don’t want to stop, then take a route where traffic doesn’t have to stop as often.

I grew up in a town with many uncontrolled intersections—which means every single intersection requires a driver to slow down (or not, of course) to determine who has the right-of-way and if it’s safe to proceed. With that kind of traffic planning, you either have to drive a lot slower than you could, due to all that slowing down at each intersection, or you take your chances driving through the intersection and hoping the other driver is watching in case you’re not. Trust me, this is neither a more efficient nor safer way to drive. You think driving is stressful now with people not stopping at marked stop signs, try driving in a place where everyone is relying on the other drivers to make sound decisions when the rules aren’t nearly so well-defined.

Yeah, you, I’m talking to you. Stop at that stop sign if you have one—even if you think no one is coming. You could be wrong, you know. I really don’t want to be that other person—pedestrian or in a car—who is in the right but somehow demonstrates to you that you were dead wrong.

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

Becoming a mother is so different from the process of un-becoming that full-time, around-the-clock mother you became. One day you’re this individual person just vaguely aware of what it’s going to mean when that purely hypothetical (to your own way of living anyway) child leaves your womb and the next day you are IN CHARGE—of EVERYTHING. This now real world child is depending on you to feed it and keep it safe and for you to figure out what it’s trying to communicate in its nonverbal state. And so you muddle along being in charge, even though this separate being is not you and not even yours in the grand scheme of things.

Oh yes, your children are not your children and they are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing itself (paraphrasing Kahlil Gibran), but at first you’re the one who must try to figure out what it is they might possibly need and want. But after a while you were more than happy to try to hand over some of those decisions—because it’s exhausting enough figuring out what you need and want, let alone what someone else needs and wants—until you tried. When “do you want juice or milk?” became a little game of “I want whatever I did not tell you I wanted”, you realized this task of handing off choices was a lot harder than it sounded. If they said they wanted juice, you found out pretty darn quickly that they were likely going to scream for milk when you handed them that juice.

But still, as a parent you are pretty much required to make a lot decisions for many years for these little people who grow into big people. There’s always a tension between helping them too much and helping them too little, no matter the age.

I find myself in the awkward position of being done with that hands-on mothering phase while still living in the same home as my now-adult children. I want to say “it’s the economy, stupid”—but economy or not, that’s a fairly common experience for many of us right now. The truth is they can choose their own milk or juice now, but sometimes I mistake a statement for a request for help and rush in as if it’s up to me to solve the problem.

But it’s not. I just need to stop. It’s not my job to figure out if a grown person wants a solution and I should remember that I probably have little idea what someone who isn’t me really wants or needs.

Besides, just as I am un-becoming my always-on-the-clock motherhood role, my kids are settling into what it means to be IN CHARGE of themselves—and that means figuring out if they want juice or milk—or bourbon for that matter—and doing whatever it takes to make that happen.

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(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert