A Secret

Yesterday was a rough day for Cole and me.  I shouldn’t be surprised, really, because kids are kids and they screw up and need grace just like me.  But after the zillionth time of working through a situation with Cole over broken legos, not sharing, biting and critical words toward his brothers, and those little shoves and eye rolls as he leaves a room unwilling to talk something out, I’d had enough.  Ugh.  There may have even been tears.  “He’s going to grow up to be a mean kid!  What should we DO?”  {overreaction, for sure}

I went to the grocery store after bedtime last night, hoping for a little breather from Cole, actually.  Chris handles evenings and bedtimes much better than I do, anyway.  Before I left I asked Cole for any requests.  English muffins and chocolate ice cream.  Easy, done.   As I shopped, I made sure to get those things, and picked up a few extras along the way that I thought Cole would like.  Chocolate pudding, Despicable Me 2 minion graham crackers {seriously…}, lots of apples, and a box of Kraft mac ‘n cheese.   I even texted Chris and said, “I’m buying all kinds of things that I don’t normally buy because I need to do something to connect with Cole.”  It was my last secret weapon effort of the day.  Please work.

When I got home, I thought I heard Chris coming down the stairs to help me with the bags, but when I looked up it was Cole!  He bounced down, and with little breath left I asked if he would like to stay up and help me.  Hoping, just hoping he’d see the junk I bought and receive it as love.  He jumped right in, carried bags up to the kitchen, started unloading and putting things away.   He chatted with me about every item he put away, no trace of eye rolling or harsh words from earlier in the day.  A different kid.

Then, then!  He asked if he could make lunches for today.  Sure, Cole.  So he went ahead, busy in the kitchen, spreading peanut butter and verbally processing what he thought Max may like or not like, organizing the lunch boxes just so.   After cleaning up and finding the perfect lunch box spot in the fridge, he went to bed.  At 11 p.m.  {pic on Instagram feed to the right}

I definitely stretched my energy level last night with my one last secret grocery junk buying spree.   But it paid off.

I can’t say that the secret weapon food effort was my own idea.  I learned the tip from a wise friend a few years ago.  I’ve actually learned a few great tricks from her, but this one is the best.

She told me that when her teenage daughter was navigating turbulent years, her best weapon was food.   On the {many} difficult days, my friend would prepare her daughter’s favorite foods {no talking required}.  Regular days may have come with sitting silently, speaking negatively with an attitude and some eye rolling.  On favorite food days, though, my friend would watch her daughter soften right there at the table.  She’d eat and talk and talk and eat and the dinner would be a welcomed reprieve from the daily grind.   Engagement around the family dinner table.

So that’s it.  The secret is food.  I’ve noticed this with our boys, too.  Not just groceries, but meals.  Our boys set the table on most nights, and if they see we are having bacon and eggs, homemade pizza, tacos, spaghetti, or if we have make-your-own-sandwich night, they get out the big plates.   I can count on some juicy news from the school bus ride or from the playground that day, too.  Who is friends with who, something the teacher said that was annoying, issues with hard math homework.  I can also count on funny jokes, random science facts, and a hilarious question game session.   If the food is good, we connect.  And that is totally worth the cash and the calories.

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