Conflict.  It’s probably inevitable when people live together under the same roof.  Even those who are kith and kin have different personalities and ideas and that makes for clashes.

I’d like to write that our home is the exception to this but honestly it’s not.  I’d also like to blog that I’ve figured out conflict resolution and can explain it to you in three easy steps.  It’s not like that.  As the boys grow and change, the nature of our conflict changes.

I have a lot of time to think about things while I deliver newspapers.  Normally, I choose to think happy thoughts because I know that what I think about determines how I feel.  If I think about how little we’ve been sick this winter, how blessed we are to own a home, the amazing meals we enjoy, the freedom I have to read the Bible and go to church, my friends and family, etc., I can’t help but feel grateful and rejoice.  Though I like to think happy thoughts, lately I’ve been challenged to think through some of the difficulties in our home.  Things rarely change for the better or get resolved by ignoring them.  Sometimes problems need to be addressed and solutions need to be implemented so that we can move past what’s driving us nuts and forward to a more peaceful coexistence.

Lately I’ve been realizing that roughly 90% of our current spats can be traced back to one general misdemeanor.  It’s one I bring up often and it’s the boys’ number one wish that I would let up on it already.  I’ve decided not to because as long as I allow this one problem to continue it escalates into a host of other problems.  This one problem is the tiny rock that sets the avalanche going.  What is the one problem?  In a nutshell, someone hasn’t cleaned up something.

Here’s a common scenario.  Person A goes to the junk drawer to get the scissors and glue stick.  He uses them to work on his project.  He doesn’t finish his project so he leaves it, the scissors and the glue stick laying around.  Person B comes needing a pair of scissors.  He goes to the junk drawer, rifles through it but can’t find them.  He begins to waste time looking for them growing more and more disgruntled.  He then turns to accusation.  He’s pretty sure he knows who it is that hasn’t returned them to their rightful home.  An exchange of words takes place.  Generally, they aren’t loving, kind, understanding words.  More often than not, a tired mom is called upon to step in and intervene.  Having to listen to Person A and then Person B and then render a decision makes her even more tired and definitely not more loving.  Usually what follows is a lecture about thinking about other people, putting things back where they belong, working together, etc., etc., which I’m sure sounds a lot like blah, blah, blah, to Person A and Person B who both want to be right and have things their way.  It doesn’t matter if mom buys ten glue sticks and ten pairs of scissors.  Somehow they all get lost or broken and we’re down to duking it out for the ones that remain.

Enter Person C.  He’s unaware of the conflict and of the project.  He trips over the scissors or the glue stick or whatever Person A was working on and didn’t finish and stubs his toe or bangs his knee.  He’s unhappy.  Why are these things laying around?  Why aren’t they where they’re supposed to be?  Person A then becomes unhappy because Person C has just damaged his project or broken the one remaining pair of scissors.  Another less than pleasant exchange of words takes place.

The common element to so many of our disagreements is that some item is not where it should be.  Because of that, we waste precious time.  Because of that, we spend more money.  (Things really do break when they get stepped on or sat on.  They really do get ruined when they’re left out in the rain.)  Because of that, injuries happen.  Because of that, we argue, accuse, point fingers, lose our tempers and say things we shouldn’t.

The solution to me is simple in theory but far harder in practice.  Everything in our home needs an assigned place and every single item must be returned to its assigned place before any of us can go to bed every single day.  It must become habit to always, always, always put things away.  Even things that are temporary or in process need to have a home where they can safely rest until they are finished with.  Everyone must know everything’s place and be committed to returning it there.  It can’t just be mom who does this because experience tells me that way doesn’t make for less conflict, it makes for more of it.

Now the question is how to get this going and how to keep it going.  I can see no other way than by being a drill sergeant, the kind that follows Person A and Person B around, getting on their case day in and day out, being in their face about it for everyone’s own good.  Person A and Person B won’t like this and it will be very draining and difficult for mom but I’m pretty sure Person C will be cheering wildly from the sidelines supporting mom all the way and suffering far fewer injuries as a result.