Last night, I told my son Ben to wash his dirty dishes that he left on the dining room table. He was just preparing to play X-box.
It’s hard for me to believe that Ben is 17-ryears-old. I still think of him as the boy I carry on my back when he too tired to finish a hike. The guy I have marathon nerf gun wars with in the house. The boy I read “Green Eggs and Ham” to before he goes to sleep at night.
I ask myself, Is this the same boy who now, apparently, has an adult mind of his own?
“I was going to do it tomorrow,” Ben replied, slightly raising his voice.
“If you wait until tomorrow, it might attract ants,” I said.
“What about Jerry? He has bags of fast food and plates all over his room.” Ben’s face was flushed.
“We’re not talking about your brother, we’re talking about you.” I raised my voice.
“That’s what you always say, but he doesn’t clean up!”
“Yes he does. You’re just trying to get someone else to wash your dishes, instead of you!”
I left in a huff.
When I went out to the kitchen an hour later, Ben had washed his plates.
A Lightbulb Over My Head
It dawned on me that I didn’t have to be tough and argumentative. That’s the way my old-school dad would have done it. I realized that Ben is going to wash the dishes either way. It may not always be exactly when I want him to, but he does it.
Aristotle Weighs In
Aristotle said, “Anyone can become angry. That is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way… that is not easy.”
Cleaning dishes, like talking while chewing food, does not rise to the level of something to be angry about – unless that food happens to be jelly-filled donuts.
Similies and Metaphors
Rather than a frontal assault, I prefer to politely come at Ben from the side, using similes and metaphors as my weapons of choice. I want to end on a happy note, so the channels of communication are still open for us, not with both us fuming at the end.
Mostly, I want to set a good example for him, both for how he deals with other people now and for later, when he has children of his own.
In arguments, being gentle is being powerful. It’s better to use a feather than a hammer to make a point.
Next time, I will count to ten before I tell Ben to clean his dishes. I will use that time to remind myself to maintain an even composure because dishes are truly not worth getting angry about.
These stories are my attempt to glean insights from the seemingly mundane incidents that occur in every day life. My plan is to capture these “eureka moments” and squeeze all the illumination and inspiration from them, before they can slip through my fingers.
Like the storytelling of Abraham Lincoln, I think one’s own personal stories can transform both the listener and the speaker.
Nov. 13, 2015. “Once Upon A Time: Inspire and engage your audience with stories.” Present Like a Pro Conference. Desert Diamond Casino. Tucson, Arizona.
Nov. 24th, 2015. “Abraham Lincoln: Stories and Humor.” Cholla High School. Tucson, Arizona.
Dec. 15, 2015, 12:40 to 1:00 pm. “Abe Lincoln: The Greatest Storytelling President.” Old Pueblo Rotary Club. Hotel Tucson. Tucson, Arizona.
Tags: 21 day challenge, Abraham Lincoln, being gentle is being powerful, count to ten, don't eadt with mouth open, Green Eggs and Ham, Old Pueblo Rotary Club, Present Like a Pro Arizona 2015, similies and metaphors, storytelling, teenage son, Terry Sprouse, The Message of You