Every Monday I take two of my sons out for a pizza lunch before they head into back-to-back speech and occupational therapy sessions. And every Monday they claim that they are “sooooo hungry” and “just have to have two slices.” And every Monday I fall for it, hook, line and sinker and then am left with at least two slices – except yesterday. Yesterday, I said, “Uh, uh. Not happening. You never finish the slices. Today we will get three slices and if we need another, we will get another.”
Well I’ll be, they didn’t finish the three slices. In fact, they didn’t even finish one combined! I asked my boys again and again if, “are you sure you aren’t hungry? You can’t eat for an hour.” And they insisted again and again that, “No mommy, we’re not hungry!” So I relented, assuming that in the worst-case scenario they would realize that they were hungry and should have eaten. I packed up the two and half slices in a to-go box and turned to the boys; I had my own bag to carry so I asked them to take turns carrying the box.
“I’ll carry the box Mommy,” said my almost six year old, “I want to make sure that it doesn’t tip and my pepperoni doesn’t fall off.” Good answer child because after practically wasting another couple of slices, I had no desire to carry the box. (And because, as I realized later, I was totally in a mood.)
Funny, I still had no desire to carry the box an hour and a half later when we pulled into the garage.
“Boys, one of you needs to get the pizza box. It is not my leftover pizza it is yours. It is your responsibility to bring it in if you want it.” I said firmly. My four-year-old son, also known as my thoroughly sarcastic and stubborn child replied,
“Well mommy, I don’t want it. So I’ll just leave it here.”
At that point, his brother had already darted into the house and besides he had carried it early. I turned to my four-year-old again,
“You are going to carry the pizza in. My hands are full and it is yours.”
“No I am not. I simply am not,” he said to me as stubborn as stubborn can be.
Cue my blood starting to boil. I felt sweat appearing on my hands. I felt a yell crawling up my throat. And to be clear, I felt all of this over a pizza box. A pizza box!!! I was going to lose it and yell over a pizza box?! For real?!
Okay, well of course it wasn’t exactly the pizza box that was the real issue; it just symbolized my frustration at the moment. I felt frustrated because my son wouldn’t listen, because he was being stubborn, because he wouldn’t help out. I felt frustrated because the pizza box needed to make it into the house to keep the car from smelling and I needed, no wanted it, to be moved into the house faster. Okay, well of course these weren’t the real reasons. I felt frustrated because to be honest, I had too much to do and wanted to get on with my day.
Yes, I felt frustrated because my mind was going so fast thinking of all I had to get done in forty-five minutes, that I couldn’t slow down enough to be flexible and more patient with how a pizza box would get into a house. My mind was moving so fast that I couldn’t slow down enough to find perspective, to realize that it was just a pizza box and that the car wouldn’t smell that bad and if it did, well, then the boys would remember to bring the food in next time.
So yeah, the pizza box wasn’t the real issue pushing me to almost yell, my stress was the real issue. Luckily for all parties involved (pizza box included as it might have been thrown rather abruptly), my now two years of Orange Rhino training helped my mind get in check before the yell erupted. As I opened my mouth to yell, my eyes saw the infamous pizza box and my mind talked to myself as it has been engrained to do:
“You don’t want to yell because the pizza box ain’t moving. You want to yell because you have too much to do; you want to yell because you always take on too much; you want to yell because you know this stress was brought on by yourself.”
Realizing and fully acknowledging that the real source of my frustration, my anger, had nothing to do with my kids, immediately helped me to chill out – as it so often does. After I did chill out and my son did finally bring the pizza box in after saying to me, “You know mom, I actually am hungry for a snack. I was just tricking ya,” I actually found gratitude in the pizza episode.
Sure, I felt grateful that I didn’t yell especially since my son finally did bring it in and on his own without yelling (it always amazes me what my kids are capable of if I chill out and find a little more patience!) but I also felt grateful because the pizza box served as a great reminderDuring the early days of my journey on The Orange Rhino Challenge, I realized that so often I wanted to fly off the handle over small things like pizza boxes, socks left on the floor, toys not put away, and toothpaste on the counter. Just to name a few – and an emphasis on the few! I quickly realized that whenever such a small external thing pushed me close to yelling, it was because something not so small, but rather quite big was pushing me internally to yell.
Now I know that when I am going to lose it big time over something small, I really need to step back and take a look at my life and what is going on and what I need to do to adjust.
The pizza box reminded me today to slow down, to re-evaluate my to-do list and to re-think everything that is so called “stressing me out.” While I didn’t come to a clear “aha!” as to how to make my life a little less crazy right now, I did at least come to clear awareness of how stressed I actually am. Yes, at least I am more aware that I need to at a minimum focus on taking care of me and finding ways to unwind as much as possible so that I don’t unravel and start yelling unnecessarily. And at least, in irony of all ironies, are you ready for this, at least I actually did slow down enough to literally read the box:
“Savor the Slice.”
Ah yes, savor the slice. I’m sure it meant, savor the slice of life you are eating right now because that is a great way to unwind and is way better than stressing out, right?! Yes, of course it did. I am most certain. Again, thank you dear pizza box. Thank you.