My blood was boiling. It surged within an instant. I remember standing up, fists clenched, ready to fight for my rights. I could feel the blood rushing to my face. My stomach was tied up in knots, making me nauseous. I was ready to explode with rage. Before me stood the one who dared to challenge my rights, my ideals and my beliefs. Before me stood my child. A child I raised to be an independent thinker and to blaze his own path, as long as it stayed close to mine.
Now before you go judging me, I didn't hit him or lose control, but it was by no means my best parenting hour either. We both had lost our ability to really listen or reason. We both just wanted to be right. We wanted to make the other person come to our side and see our view point. We wanted to be understood. We wanted to be heard.
The topic was gun control. One of us felt the government should take all guns back, while the other was fighting staunchly for their gun ownership rights. I'll let you guess where we fell.
My son was raised in a culture of fear, with regular lessons on what to do if a shooter enters their school. I was raised in a country town where high school teens had guns mounted on their pickup truck gun racks, ready to grab for a hunting opportunity at any given moment. And, ironically, we never had school shootings back then, even though the guns were easily accessible. Now these aren't automatic rifles either, but in any case, they could still do some damage. They didn't, but they could.
Now I don't want to argue the topic of gun control. That's not the point of this article. All you really need to know is my son, at that time, believed it was okay for the government to come to my door and take my gun. A gun I only bought because I felt threatened and scared while going thru a very volatile divorce. A gun I don't use and honestly, probably couldn't use. I can't kill a lady bug, so the idea of me killing a human, even in a threatened state is unlikely, but I still want the chance. I keep it locked in a safe, just in case we ever need it.
My rage surged when my very own son, the one I vowed to protect at all costs, stood before me telling me I shouldn't have the right to own that gun and the government did. Or at least that's how I heard it. He probably didn't say that exactly, but at that point I was morphing the entire conversation into "my son doesn't love me or want to protect me."
We both stomped away mad. The argument was unsettled. No one had won. We were divided. I was hurt and he was hurt. Nothing was accomplished and the topic would go onto the list of "never talk about this again because it's uncomfortable and we can't agree." That bothered me though. I felt like we lost some unity that day and I didn't want to allow anything to come between us. Plus, I'm one of those mushy, gushy "feelers" so I like to dig deep and get to the root of things. I want to know why he felt that way. I want to know why I felt that way, and when I say why, I mean WHY? Not the superficial anger that skimmed the surface. I wanted the real "why" behind it.
So, the next day I went back in. I had collected my wits. I had soothed my nerves and I had dug deep to find the root that was able to surge up in 2.5 seconds and nearly shut down all my reasoning power. It was fear. Fear of control. No one likes being controlled, and I am the first one to push back when someone tries it on me. I want to make my own decisions and control my own life, but until recently, I haven't really felt that I was in control. Most of my life was spent trying to please and satisfy everyone else, making me feel out of control. So, when the tiger arrived at my cave door, ready to tromps in and eat me, I went into fight and flight, just like that. This made perfect sense.
When I approached my son with this discussion again, he was very leery to reopen the door. I had to open it slowly, humbly and not only apologize for my behavior, but also offer an explanation of why I went from normal mom to a somewhat neurotic mom in such a short time. He understood.
Next, I needed to find his roots. If you've ever tried to get feelings out of a teen boy, you can understand that this was not an easy task. After much resistance though, we got there.
Turns out, he sees gun ownership in a completely different light. He has seen too many people be reckless and careless with guns. He's lived in fear of kids charging in and killing him at a place that is supposed to be safe. He's got a past of his own that has seen people of questionable mental status, able to purchase an automatic weapon with no problem. And that scares him. He thinks people aren't making good decisions with their guns, and for that reason, they should be controlled.
And then I understood. I was taking his perceptions and beliefs personally, but it was never about me. It was simply his story and his frame of reference that makes him believe, people can't be trusted. Since he's seen a lot of people being untrustworthy, he believes the government should be in control. Now I'm not going to lie, this angle breaks my heart. He's seen and been thru too much, but it let me take the personal aspect out of it. It let me see the issue thru his lens. It didn't change my mind. We still don't agree on this topic (though we both agree that weapons of mass destruction have no place online and shouldn't be in the hands of regular citizens).
So, what point am I trying to make? It's okay to disagree. We are just seeing things thru a different lens and perspective. We can disagree and still love each other. That heated discussion became an eye-opening outlook, for both of us. It let us see both sides of the coin and the real fears that surround it. It was never personal. It was never about our love for each other. We are both simply scared. He's scared of people making stupid decisions. I'm scared of people controlling my decisions. Fear is the common ground, but more importantly, so is love.
The price is never right if it costs you a relationship. The next time a heated discussion comes up, dig deep until you can both get to the bottom line. Chances are, there's more common ground than you realize.
Angela Miller is an an RN and Professional Life Coach passionately pursuing her purpose to help others remember who they are and how to become their best self, emotionally and physically. For more information, visit www.soaringforward.com.