Typically, my kids are masters at making peace among themselves. After years of practice they are able to work out most of their problems on their own. Sometimes, however, when big blow outs spring up, they come to me for help.
This time, Jules and Catty came to me first. The boys were unfair, mean, speaking rudely. We talked about how the girls were feeling and I asked if they were in a place to respectfully explain these feelings to the boys. When they tried, the results were not what they were hoping for. I asked the boys to join us. The girls seemed to be ruining the game by not following the rules. We did our usual routine of hearing each other and speaking back what each other felt. When that was complete everyone was still angry and hearts were still hard. I asked each of the kids to look at the situation and think of one thing they could have done differently. Everyone had an answer. But no one seemed to care about anything but their own perspective. We weren’t anywhere near peace.
I paused for a moment, pondering what to do. It seemed like Jules and Peebs were at odds and Odes and Catty could hardly look at one another. I made a decision. “OK guys. It seems like we all did a good job of sharing how we felt, listening to each other, and even understanding. But that didn’t seem to soften hearts. Jules and Peebs, pick out a board game to play together. Odes and Catty, you get a board game to play too.” I pulled out Candy Land and played with Cupcake. We all sat in the same room, in our pairings playing games. Slowly Peebs and Jules began to soften, laugh, and smile. Odes and Catty were not quite as responsive. At one point, I saw the board for “Guess Who” go flying across the couch.
I asked Catty and Odes to put the game away and go to Catty’s room and pick out their favorite lotions and bring them back. Then I set a timer. “Odes, you get to use the lotion Catty picked and rub her feet for ten minutes. Catty, when he’s done, you get to rub his feet with his lotion choice. Odes, she will rub your feet as nicely as you rub hers.”
Odes reluctantly rubbed the lotion on his sisters feet, passionately asking me, “Is this your method of torture?” I smiled and went back to the princess game of “Memory,” Cupcake and I had moved on to. After a few minutes, the foot massaging kids were laughing and talking.
When the 20 minutes of foot rubbing had ended and all the board games were put away, Jules and Peebs asked, “Do you think we could re-try our original game with each other now?”
Four smiling faces found themselves in a joy filled do-over. They needed to step away from the problem and remember they love one another. Sometimes, we can work out our problems with words. Sometimes we find peace in a little lotion and a foot rub.