Monday, March 29, 2010


As an adult, the things that fall into my mental file folder labeled CATASTROPHES tend to be tornadoes and earthquakes and terrorist attacks and a-life's-on-the-line hospital visits.

My kids seem to have a different definition. Today's catastrophes included an accident in which some unused glow-in-the-dark bracelets (the kind you snap to activate the chemicals) were dropped and began to glow, a misunderstanding involving pickled herring, a hair holder that ended up on the wrist of an unrepentant brother, and some obstreperous math that was too hard to handle.

I found myself thinking that adult catastrophes center on problem solving, on working through a crisis (at least when adults act like adults). Kid catastrophes are a whirlwind of finger-pointing, arguing, tears, blaming and the obligatory passing of the baton of anger to siblings. We don't have a lot of days around here that descend into that kind of maelstrom, but today was one. 

These thoughts were percolating through my brain along with self-reminders to breathe deeply when yet one more child whirled into a super-size snit over a microscopic offense. Overwhelmed by the sense that life had spun out of control, I was about to commence some childlike behavior of my own when I thought, Wait a minute! I'm reacting as if this were a catastrophe!

I was so astonished that I stopped feeling frustrated.

Now I'm wondering: what percentage of our less-than-admirable parenting moments arise from perceiving normal challenges in a catastrophic way? It's something to think about.

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