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Lessons from the Parking Lot

 

Twenty Four Hour Fitness

It was mid-afternoon on a weekday, and I just drove into the 24 Hour Fitness parking lot in anticipation of a much needed workout.  For the time of day, I spotted a rarity – an open parking slot in front of the building.  I smugly thought somebody up there likes me and flipped my turn signal to turn into the slot. 

Before I could turn, a SUV was coming in the opposite direction so I waited for it to pass.   However, instead of passing the SUV pulled right into my parking slot.  I’m amazed at how my mood changed so suddenly and unexpectedly. 

My initial shock and outrage quickly moved beyond simmer to a rolling rage.  I recalled the scene from the movie Fried Green Tomatoes.  Kathy Bates character took matters into her own hands after two young ladies took the parking slot she was waiting for.   

I’m older too but I live in California and you can never ever have enough insurance.  

I did give serious thought about putting the emergency blinkers on, getting out my car and waiting to have a conversation with this “gentleman.”  After waiting a few minutes, I decided this wasn’t worth falling on my sword for.  I drove to a more distant parking spot in the lot. 

While I was getting my gym bag out of my trunk, I looked over at the SUV and saw the man that had gotten out was using a walker.  By the way, in case you’re wondering this wasn’t a handicapped slot.  Just as quickly as I became angry, my feelings of ill will toward this man left just as quickly.

To be clear, I’m not excusing this man’s behavior, but I believe his actions were more about him and his needs than about me. This little incident reminded me about what can happen in the course of a stepparents’ relationship with their stepchildren.  While your stepchildren are probably not physically handicapped, they are emotionally crippled and wounded on the inside. 

They are grieving the death of their first family and the impact of separation or death of the other biological parent.  This is not to justify your stepchildren’s negative behaviors but to provide you a context from which to understand them and hopefully, have compassion for them.  When dealing with your stepchildren’s negative behaviors remember in the majority of cases it’s more about them than you.

Lessons Learned

Respect Treating each other with mutual respect should be the minimum standard for all interactions within the household – no exceptions. 

Be Quick to Hear.  Ask follow-up and clarifying questions to ensure your understanding of what is said.  We’re given two ears and one tongue to allow us to hear more than we speak.  Listening = caring.

Be Slow to Speak.  Process what’s going on internally first then externally.  The tongue is surrounded by teeth to keep it in and give it boundaries.  When you’re slow to speak:

  • You are able to listen to others,
  • You are better understood, and
  • You show respect and don’t say things you shouldn’t or later regret.

Be Slow to Anger.  If you lose your cool you lose your audience.  Allowing anger to take control does not usually produce better results; it usually makes the situation worse.

Confrontation.  If your spouse has given you the “moral authority” to parent their children you should be selective about when you confront.  Learn to over look the little things.  If you’re uncertain as to whether or not to confront, error on the side of not confronting.  

Forgiveness.  Forgiveness is a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge.  Forgiveness can even lead to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion for the one who hurt you.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean you deny the other person’s responsibility for hurting you, and it doesn’t minimize or justify the wrong.  You can forgive the person without excusing the act.  Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life.

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