“99% of conflict is caused by a misunderstanding”…I heard this quote years ago, and I have found it to be quite true. In the past I have had the experience of finding out I have been misunderstood, and have lost friends because of it without knowing why. I have felt misunderstood and moved away from someone because of it, without them knowing why….and I have observed friends and colleagues divide themselves because of a perceived ‘slight’ a misunderstanding which then becomes a wound that doesn’t heal.
I have a story, it is a story that belongs to one of my children…this time my youngest son Gabriel. (we were being optimistic when we named him for an angel) It is about what can happen when a misunderstanding occurs, and the potential emotional consequences. Thank god he was too young to leave home at the time or we might still be wondering why he hates his mum and dad…and vets.
So it started with a puppy. We bought Gabe a 5 month old blue heeler pup when he was 5 years old. Gabe was thrilled, and we knew it would be a wonderful thing – boy and dog just seems a natural fit. But at 5 months, he was almost out of the puppy stage, so as soon as I had a spare moment and ‘Buzz – call vet for desexing’ came to the top of my ‘to do’ list, I phoned the local vet and booked him in for the following day. No sooner had I put down the phone, than Justin my husband walked in the door, so I looked up and said “hey honey, I’ve booked Buzz in at the vet’s tomorrow”…no sooner had he said ‘good idea’ than Gabe walked in the door…”hey Gabe!” says Justin “guess what? We’re taking Buzz to the vet tomorrow to get his balls cut off!”….well, he coulda been a little more delicate in how he phrased it, but Gabe is a natural scientist and a robust kinda kid, so no-one was more shocked than Justin and I when he suddenly burst into tears and ran out of the room.
“Good onya darl” I muttered to Justin, as I left the room after him, to cuddle Gabe as he lay crying on his bed.
I tried to console him with the following….
“Don’t worry, he won’t feel a thing, the vet will give him special medicine so he will be asleep the whole time’ – nope, he cried harder.
“Gabe, we have to do this, he’s getting a bit big, and he’s jumping up on you a lot and getting a bit dominant” – “ I HATE VETS, THEY’RE CRUEL!” nope, haven’t helped a bit.
“Gabe, how would you feel if he wandered away from our farm to the neighbours farm and he got shot because he was in with their sheep?” - “I HATE VETS, I HATE VETS!” - man I’ve underestimated this kid’s sensitivity.
Well, all I’ve got left is cuddles. And all day he was tearful, periodically bursting into tears every time he remembered about the next day, and “I hate vets, they’re cruel!” was all I heard all day. By this time Justin is saying “ah, he’s just trying to get attention” and I’m saying “no, he’s serious Jus, we’ve underestimated his feelings for the puppy” I’m now feeling protective of my child and Justin is feeling the urge to ‘toughen him up’…so now we’re feeling a bit of conflict too. In between, we keep looking at each other in despair because all our logic is not getting through one little bit…which is unusual and we are out of answers. Jus is getting cross with Gabe and I’m getting fearful for him.
It was not a great day….for any of us. And then, in the evening, after giving Gabe his bath, dressing him in his pyjamas for the night…he climbed up onto my lap, looked up at me with his big brown eyes, and said…
“Does the vet really have to cut Buzz’s paws off?”
“PAWS!? PAWS!? Oh my god Gabe! Did you think Daddy said ‘PAWS’?
He nodded his head silently…
“NO, NO darling, daddy said BALLS! He’s having his BALLS cut off tomorrow!
His little face lit up, and he smiled from ear to ear, wiped his eyes and said “OH that’s OK! I thought you were going to get Buzz’ paws cut off so he couldn’t jump up on me, or wander off to the neighbours sheep paddocks!”
The next day we happily went off to town, and Gabe happily handed his precious puppy over the vet for de-sexing, and examined the stitches like the scientist he is when we picked him up to come home.
I wonder how many times I’ve been misunderstood. I wonder how many times I’ve misunderstood someone else. After this experience, I have made an effort to give more ‘benefit of the doubt’. To ‘allow’ more…just in case we just simply got ‘Paws’ mixed up with ‘Balls’.