|We had traveled 450 miles with our three young kids in the back of the mini-van. When we pulled into the campsite a little after 5:00 pm I was worn out. The rustic cabin we were renting for the next several nights was as advertised. The kids ran around, eagerly exploring every corner of the tiny cabin. My wife tried to figure out how to eat dinner, realizing that we had not brought utensils, nor plates, and they were not furnished in the cabin. “I should have checked on that,” I said, a little frustrated that I’d forgotten about that important detail. I began to get irritated with the noise of the children, and barked out, “Keep it down guys!” The idea of getting back into the van and driving ten miles into town for dinner or a grocery store run was not appealing to anyone. Then I heard a loud thump and I realized the kids had discovered the bunk-bed and were jumping off of it. My irritation rose. I felt myself getting ready to snap. I knew that I was about to yell at the kids and make them miserable. I was miserable, and they might as well be miserable too!
Right then and there, I stopped.
I told my wife I’d be back. In the tiny cabin bathroom, I washed my face at the sink. I realized the kids were tired too; they had been in the car just as long as I had. I came back out, determined to put a different ending on this story.
She and I huddled and decided to take the kids to the playground, less than a five-minute walk in this idyllic campground. We decided to let the kids run and then just eat the travel snacks that were left from the day’s drive. I was astonished that the feelings of exhaustion I had experienced so keenly only minutes ago, seemed to just disappear.
We laugh about it now, and also appreciate how simple it was to make a different choice. On reflection, making this choice led to a serious question for me: where else in my life does that sense of irritation sometimes show up? Several thoughts came to mind. In meetings I may ignore the contributions of others when I feel I have been working hard. I tend to shut down or quit when I believe I am tired. And when I think I am “at my limit,” sometimes I feel that I am entitled to being treated a certain way.
I realize now that my irritation that night had nothing to do with my children, or with the drive or anything else. It had to do with the perspective I was choosing, and a perspective that was changed when I was able to view it for what it was. The O-FLAG (Opportunity For Learning And Growth) was about making a choice to stop a reaction and turn it into a response. But it also provided another opportunity for me – a much deeper learning experience. Our O-FLAG’s teach us about ourselves. They give us the opportunity to look inside and in so doing, we can discover better ways to serve our families, organizations, and our communities.