Are You Winning the Battle
I once believed one advantage of having daughters was that my clothes would be safe. After all, girls wear dresses and ribbons and bows, right? Wrong. As my little girls grew older, all my assumptions blew up. My daughters rummaged through my sock drawer, my shirt drawer, and every other clothing drawer. They figured if it fit or came close to fitting, it was fair game.
At first I thought it was cute, but then I noticed some of my sweaters were missing. Occasionally, I couldn’t find a T-shirt when I needed one. And worst of all, my daughters were wearing holes in all my socks.
I stopped complaining about the missing shirts, but I sure didn’t want the girls wearing my socks outside, getting grass stains on them or holes in the toes. This behavior was a mortal sin when I was a kid. My mother simply would not have allowed it—and I wasn’t about to either. I was going to win this battle.
Every time I saw my daughters wearing my socks without shoes, I made sure they knew I was upset. “Get back in here, and put on your shoes!” became my mantra. Before long, nearly everything I said to my girls was about putting on their shoes or taking off my socks. I started to see them as the enemy whose “sole” purpose was to drive me crazy by running around in stocking feet—my stockings on their feet.
Eventually, our home became a battleground. The first thing I did when I came home was to see if my girls were wearing my socks. My daughters began to obey me only out of fear. I was winning the battle for the socks, but I was losing the war for my children.
I evaluated my conversations with Annie and Allison and realized I was angry or disappointed with them the majority of the time. No wonder they didn’t want to talk with me. I didn’t want to be a spineless parent, but I did want to have a loving relationship with my children.
I noticed my daughters’ behavior didn’t seem to bother their mother. Why should it? They weren’t her socks. But it was more than that. The girls were obedient to their mother without the negative attitude they gave me.
I also noticed she was able to talk with them without becoming upset. They even liked to be around her, while they barely tolerated me. Their mother was choosing her battles with our children, and socks just weren’t worth a fight.
After much prayer and thought, I came to the conclusion that a 79-cent pair of sweat socks from Costco wasn’t worth a fight. So I bought a dozen pair of sweat socks with padded gray feet for myself. Then I took the grass-stained and holey ones and dropped them on the floor between Annie and Allison’s bedrooms.
“Girls, these are now your socks. If you want to play outside without shoes that’s up to you. You now own more than ten pair each. When you ruin them, we will consider buying new ones. But these are mine and don’t wear them,” I said, as I held aloft my new socks with the gray soles.
From that day forward, the subject of socks was never mentioned. I decided I wasn’t going to sweat the socks and small stuff. It wasn’t long before I realized I had been focusing on the small stuff.
When I changed my attitude toward my daughters, they were less uptight around me. When I quit fighting with them over socks, we began to talk more and have fun again. I learned to enjoy my girls, and they seemed to enjoy my company.
I wish I had learned earlier that my children were more than projects to control. They were young girls who needed a dad who wouldn’t fight with them over every issue. I learned to pick my fights. How about you?
You just read the first section of this chapter. The complete chapter including the Reflection, Response, Scripture, and Application is one of 30 chapters from Al’s new book RECONNECT: When your kids are connected to everything but you. Find out how to order your own copy.
Al Menconi founded Al Menconi Ministries in 1982. Since that time, Al has spoken to more than a million people about entertainment and its influences. He has written numerous books and articles on the subject and provides free help for parents on his web site AlMenconi.com. Al and his wife Janice have two grown daughters and reside in Carlsbad, CA.