A few nights ago, we decided to take a family walk after bathtime. The weather was nice and we needed a break from the routine. As I was standing behind my daughter, combing her wet hair in front of the bathroom mirror, we were discussing the toys she wished to take on our walk. These are very important matters to 4 year olds. Unfortunately, my kids had been fighting over one particular toy that she was requesting to bring.
Listen. These two had been EXTRA about this toy. What toy? A non functional princess “cd player” that they kept perpetually open pretending it was a computer they needed to work on. My almost 2 year old has shouted the phrase “My Pooter!!!” louder and more frequently that I care to think about.
By the time Isla had requested this as her one toy on her walk, I was ready to throw said “Pooter” into the “trash receptacle.” I gently told her that we were not going to take the toy of great contention on our family stroll so as not to cause the parents to lose all of their faculties.
My 4 year old did not take this well. In fact, her exact words, through full blown SOBS were “THIS IS A DISASTER!!!”
I had to duck behind her as I brushed her hair to hide my face which was laughing uncontrollably at her genetically induced drama. She gets it from me. It was hilarious. She meant it so fiercely though. So sad. I tried to empathize with her sadness. I attempted to explain my reasons but she wasn’t having it. All she knew was that I was creating a disaster for her life in that moment.
She had no capacity to understand my reasons. I mean, she’s 4. Sometimes the answer is really just to let her feel the fullness of her feelings rather than explain them away with logic. Please read that again. That was a parental epiphany for me.
What she didn’t have space to understand was the fact that there was no way she and her brother were going to be able to share effectively on our walk. They were too tired and quite honestly, too selfish to play nice and instagramably with this thing. She didn’t know that I was actually going to confiscate said toy and hide it for days to come as an object lesson for the two of them. She didn’t know that mommy and daddy needed to be able to have a pleasant adult conversation while pushing them along. She didn’t know that the toy she wanted wasn’t required to have a good time.
She only knew that in that moment, she couldn’t have what she wanted. She wanted me to acquiesce to her desires (all day err day, right parents?) She knew that this was technically her toy, and I wasn’t letting her play with something I had given her.
But she had gaps in her narrative.
I think the moments when our expectations and reality do not agree, we have the tendency to move directly into problem solving mode. Why do I not have what I want? Because our ultimate objective is usually to GET what we want, this is the natural instinct so as to find understanding and solutions. It’s a coping mechanism.
But most often, we don’t have all the missing pieces to the story at our disposal. We don’t know someone else’s “why.” We are unaware of underlying factors. In short, we don’t know what we don’t know. So we start filling in the gaps in our narrative with the explanations we can come up with through our interpretation of things.
This is incredibly dangerous. We are literally telling ourselves lies. These lies can wrongfully blame us or others. They cause us to question the motives of God’s heart for us. They build up walls around us to protect our hearts from pain and trauma.
It’s unfortunately easier to treat confusion like a game of MadLibs than to live in the tension of the unknown.
This happened to me recently. It really only took one conversation for me to realize what was true and why I went and took a deep dive into fear. I had so many gaps in my narrative I was filling with what I could see and interpret of other people’s actions.
It was honestly freeing to realize this because the truth was better than my narrative. And even though there weren’t complete answers to concerns, I was much happier living in the tension of the unknown than the disappointment of my version of a story.
Here’s one more little zinger…Sometimes we don’t have the capacity to hold the real story. Just like my daughter didn’t have the capacity to process adult logic, we often don’t have the capacity to process other people’s answers when we get them.
Maybe we aren’t letting ourselves see from their perspectives. Maybe we are too self involved to have space for someone else’s pain. Maybe we are legit immature. Maybe the truth is so good we might reject it as a lie because of our past experiences with disappointment.
Without capacity to hold truth, we will live in deceit. Even when our side of the story is pretty convincingly solid, that feeling of offense at others doesn’t equate being right. That’s actually a red flag signaling the gaps in our narrative.
WATCH OUT FOR THE GAPS, GUYS.
So then what? It has to do with increasing our capacity. The margin or space we make for truth. The thoughts I have on this are involved. Which makes me think there is a second or even third blog coming on this. What are your thoughts on this? Have you experienced this yourself?