“Three words,” my husband said suddenly, as he appeared in the doorway of the kitchen.
I looked up from what I was doing and started throwing words at him. “Self-control, kindness, love.”
“All good words but not the three I’m thinking of.” Although he was serious, he had a cheeky sparkle in his eye that I love so well. Although I was serious in my reply, there was an edge of banter to my words.
About an hour before this conversation, in the aftermath of the dinner-bath-bed routine, my husband and I talked about family life. You see, at the moment, everything seems chaotic, and we are deciding what to focus on. Manners at the dinner table are shocking; things in the home aren’t organised; the kids can’t seem to sit still during story time; they are bickering and I feel like we are failing at family life right now. I’m sick of the chaos. I’m over mess. I’m just tired.
As I write this, things are quiet again, I remember some good things too. After the children were in bed, my eight-year-old daughter came and stood beside me. I felt irritated that she was out of bed but when I turned to face her, the genuine glaze in her brown eyes, dissipated my annoyance.
“Sorry Mum. I know you said you didn’t want me to read in bed tonight because it’s late but when I was in bed, I forgot and read a few pages without thinking.” Her eyelashes are long and I noticed them as she spoke.
“I just wanted to tell you,” she said.
That’s pretty amazing.
I couldn’t help but smile at her. “Thanks for telling me darling. That’s fine. I can totally understand that. You need to go straight to sleep now though.”
“Yep. Sure mum. Night. Love you.”
That’s a pretty amazing moment right there.
When things are chaotic, I feel like throwing myself on the ground like a 2-year-old and giving up. But all is not lost, see? And when I take a moment to think about my kids, there is so much awesome. Seriously. However some things do need to change, and I voiced it to my husband in our conversation after dinner.
“I feel like basically, we are putting the blame on the children’s behaviour, but it’s mostly our fault, isn’t it?” I said frankly. “What are we going to do?”
We let the conversation hang on that note, and sit in the air while we continued through some of the night time jobs. It wasn’t uncomfortable, nor was it expectant, it was a there, waiting.
After a shower, my husband appeared in the kitchen doorway and said, “Three words.”
My failed attempts to guess the words had him smiling.
“Lead. By. Example.”
That is what he said. “We have to be the change we want in our family.”
It’s an obvious answer that is often hidden. The concept isn’t a new one; I’ve heard it many times before, but it hit us both in the eyes right then.
I both loved and hated the three words my husband spoke. I loved them for their truth. I hated them in that moment too, because of their implication. You see, I like action. I’m horribly impatient. I aim to make things happen. Boom! Like that. I want change immediately and am willing to fight for it. I like to move hard, work fast, and then just be.
These three words go against that. They are silent. They are enduring. They are persistent. They are gracious. They are patient. They are strength. God help me be the change.
Nothing dramatic has happened since the three-word conversation. Nope. Still chaotic here. But there is a quietness beneath the noise. A quietness that waits patiently in confidence…because fruit only happens after the nurturing is done.
It’s good to talk. It’s great to be reminded. It’s excellent to refocus. And we DO have a slightly new focus for the now. And it’s less about table manners and more about creating an environment of harmony and gentle leadership. How we plan to do it is contained in these three words, followed by another three words: lead by example, lead with love. Until the next time we need to regroup…