Dear Lois, My kids are driving me crazy. Is it me or them?

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Over the summer my girls—ages 11, 13 and 14,—and I did a deep cleaning/purging of the house. We reorganized furniture, cleaned out the basement, addressed the backs of closets and set up online learning spaces while we gracefully swept up the settled dust after my husband (their stepdad) removed the last of his things.

We just went through a massive whirlwind of change, and, in a way, I am thankful at how abruptly it all happened during the COVID-19 wave. We are taking ownership of our new lives with satisfaction and pride and living out our new leases on life with positive perspectives, while we cohabitate in our home during quarantine.

The kids have developed a sense of empathy when it comes to giving me space to work from home.

We developed this in various ways. When they are in a Google classroom, the last thing they want is to be distracted by their mother reenacting their birth, naked, dripping wet after a late morning shower—out of view of the camera. When I ask for my personal space, they gladly give it with understanding and respect. And I, likewise, shower before they get up.

The girls have also been discovering what being resilient means, and the strength it takes to have a positive attitude through a storm of uncertainty. Inside our home, they saw my heartbreak, tears and the new amount of work that was taking their mom away from games and summer leisure. They see how flawed I am. They also see the courage it takes to apologize as I teach them that when we know better, we do better.

I explained the goal: a harmonious, happy home in a world that is unknown. I want our family to engage with all life with grace and power. If we are unhappy inside of our homes, how empowered could we possibly be? We reconcile, talk out our differences and practice being nice to each other. Sometimes showing up and engaging in hard conversations, even when we don’t want to, is taking the high road.

It is better to hug and encourage than bicker and tune out. We accommodate each other’s moods, tantrums and attitudes because we love each other. From there we can set healthy boundaries about what is okay to do and say and what is not. It’s not okay to storm off or give up; we need to learn how to stick with it and push through the hard work with our heart and head in the game. We stand together in all of our faults and victories and learn to respect each other’s processes.

Illustration by Lois Volta.

Illustration by Lois Volta.

These lessons can’t be sowed in a child through a book or article. It takes a lot of patience to be in a relationship with people and work through differences. We have a responsibility to understand how we can hurt people, especially those we love, and be as gentle as possible with fragile things. I have failed so many times at this because I have not been properly honoring how I am good, and, at times, fragile.

I don’t believe the average person is walking around looking to hurt someone. People want to be nice, good and helpful. We get lost in seeing the bad in people when we fail to see the good in them.

It’s not them, it’s you.

You are part of the problem and it is causing more pain for everyone. When we think about issues out of our control, we wiggle our way out of responsibilities all the time. For instance: “There is nothing I can do about the trash pile in the ocean, and it is the big corporations and people in power who are responsible to clean it up.” Or, “My children have minds of their own. I can’t control how they are being belligerent and disobedient and they will learn eventually—hopefully not the hard way.”

I believe that responsibility has to work from the inside out. Teaching children how to be responsible starts in the home. Learning how to clean up after ourselves, reconciling after disagreements and respecting each other and the environment are taught in the home. Controlling the family’s handle on waste and our personal carbon footprint is planting seeds for their future. Working through disagreements teaches children how to relate to people when they are grown. What is seemingly out of our control now is more of a matter of perspective when we think of the big picture. It is hard work to be a parent.

When my kids are arguing or making a mess of the house it is easy to complain about how they are driving me crazy. In these moments, for me, it is clear where I haven’t spent the time and energy to address what really matters to me most: Love. I love my kids. I want them to be kind, generous and understand people who keep it together. I want them to be brave and have the courage to face their humanness while we walk through this world together. No one gets left behind, everyone is important and we treat each other like this is true, because it is.

On this new path, as I cry, yell and dance around with joy, I just want love to take over. When we are abandoned, lied to and abused, we see how not to be. When we look out our windows and see corruption, greed and cruelty, we see how not to be. Taking responsibility for how we have been these things ourselves, in our own hearts, is where healing for all life begins.

Lois Volta is a home consultant, musician and founder of Volta Naturals. loisvolta.com. Send questions to thevoltaway@gmail.com.

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