Pick a side. That seems to be the mantra I’ve heard so often in 2020. It seems you can’t stay neutral, or say you are in the middle on any issue. Yet I’ll be honest, I’ve been a middle person almost all my life.
As parents we often find ourselves listening to every side of an issue and deciding what is right and what is wrong every single day with our kids when trying to find out who started the fight, who threw it, who broke it… and in the end we punish the offender. Really though, is there just one to punish? We tend to look at the result, which in most cases is a child who is hurt or something that is broken and sometimes – I’m guilty of this – forget to go to the beginning. Yes, someone got poked in the eye, but how did it all start? To be honest, nine times out of ten the one who got poked was the one who started it. So, shouldn’t he get punished too?
My kids have gotten good at blaming one another in any kind of situation where they know someone will get in trouble. I’ve found it hard to really get to the bottom of what happened and, in the end, I end up taking away electronics and giving time outs to everyone involved. Then comes the whining and crying that they didn’t do anything wrong, but feeling I need to stay firm, I tell them: Well, you are getting punished for your part in it. Sometimes within minutes (or, really, it can go for days) someone ends up confessing the full story of how it all happened.
Ultimately, I’ve learned that picking a side with my kids doesn’t get me anywhere. And, to be honest, that by just looking at the result may be missing a huge piece of the story. The truth is, there could be no winning side.
So with this in mind, I can’t help but wonder: Why do we as adults tell each other to pick a side when it comes to things in life? Not only that, why do we take it a step further and threaten that if you don’t pick MY side (or at the very least stay silent) then we can’t possibly be friends?
I’ll admit, I have a hard time making decisions sometimes. Ask my husband. It really bothers him when I can’t decide on what to eat for dinner, and then when he makes the decision for us, I tell him I want the other choice. And just like my dinner options, I do a lot of thinking in any situation, related to any issue. Pros, cons, what will happen if I choose the opposite of them? Will it start an argument? Will they see me differently? All of this runs through my mind as I’m deciding how to respond to someone. There are certain scenarios when I want to just stay right in the middle. I see why someone is on one side, or the other, and I may agree with different parts of both sides of an issue. It’s a lot to think about!
I think the lesson here, for me, is to see both sides and make the right decision for yourself. I speak out on issues I know I have a clear position on, and I am silent on ones where I’m indecisive, or I’m too emotional, and don’t want the wrong words to come out of my mouth. I believe in compassion, understanding and humanity. I try to teach and remind my kids this every day. In fact, their school’s motto is: Be the Nice Kid.
It’s a good reminder for adults too. Regardless of what side you fall with any of the issues going on in the world, be nice. There is a way to be an advocate without spewing hate. We tend to try to change someone’s mind who is on the other side of [fill in the blank]. Yet, we can only change their minds if they are willing to listen and willing to change. If they aren’t in that mindset, it’s like fighting a brick wall. As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned I will not agree with every single person in my life. I welcome hard conversations and debates, but I disagree with being forceful. I may not be able to change your mind, but I hope you see my side too. I’m trying my best to see your side, even though I may not understand or agree with it.
Ultimately, I’m always mindful of what my kids see. If I teach hate, they will grow up with the belief that that is okay. And it’s the one thing I never want them to grow up with.
With all of this in mind, if I’m not picking a side right away, know that I’m trying to listen, know that I’m trying to understand, know that I may not have the right words to express myself immediately. I’m thinking, I’m gathering, I’m trying to put the right words together to get my point across without letting my emotions give the wrong idea.
Let people like me digest, think and we will respond in our own time. We are all simply trying to do our best and working to be the nice kid.