Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Four Wolves in Sheep's Clothing Make Me Nervous.

In our Family, as in nature; trust in the pack... but watch your back.

Being the Alpha is tough. You keep the others in check, not just by your ferocity, but by your cunning, your stealth and your intelligence. No other animal on Earth lives in as complex a social society as wolves. The cast of characters is deep. The Alpha Male and Alpha Female rule the pack. Keeping dissidents in line, ensuring the integrity and structure (and therefore well being) of the pack in check. Then there's the Beta wolf. This one acts as a Lieutenant and a sort of second-in-command. This one is always there to settle scraps in the name of the greater good of the pack, but is always keeping one eye open for when it can take over in the endless struggle for power.

Last is the Omega wolf and you guessed it, this one is at the bottom of the totem pole is often ridiculed and even attacked by fussier pack members.

Any of this sound familiar? In our home, these positions constantly shift but not to a great extent. They are, mostly, fixed to a member of our family.

For my part, I play the role of the Alpha Male. I am in charge. I have the strength, knowledge and cunning to do so and remain in charge. For now.

I first made the observation that my four children essentially made up a wolf pack a few years ago. Constant in-fighting, struggles for power, temporary alliances – it's all there. It has all the makings of a Rudyard Kipling tale. And conflict resolution becomes a matter of overcoming adversity by either (literally) barking the loudest, or by taking your adversary out. Conflict in our household is almost a given and is NOT resolved by eliminating a sibling, parent or offspring (though the temptation has arisen). So we resort to more refined means of argument conclusion. Or so you would think.

Enter: the Ambush. The attack in the name of sport or of establishing one's place of dominance is epic. The ambush comes in many forms. Many of them cunning and all of them unexpected. If I hand down a consequence (I try no to use the word 'punishment'), each of the non-offending pack members will taunt the afflicted or remind the Alpha (me) of the specific details of the reprimand (if only homework and chores could be remembered and executed with such meticulous detail). Heaven forbid I fold on following-through on a consequence, I am besieged with an endless shower of reminders of how the child in question has NOT been properly scolded.

And it's not just each other they attack.

I am continuously told of how the grandparents are "mad at me" for doing something or for my not following through on something. Or how an aunt, uncle or grandparent are told something incomplete – if not untrue – and are relayed details to sensitive topics like what someone is getting for a birthday or Christmas or why I can't invite someone to a recital or play. I have had more long-winded over-explanatory conversations with family members than I would like to say trying to clarify things that were misinterpreted, relayed out of context or weren't correctly conveyed info of an event or conversation that some child has inaccurately shared. In short, my children (the Pack) inadvertently attack the alpha (me!) as well as each other.

It's biblical to refer to your followers as a flock of sheep. It is also a common business term. However, in our home, I can't help but think, the pack has overtaken the flock and are waiting to pounce.

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