conflict chicken

Dear blog friends: Meet Cher!

Cher is a Conflict Chicken. She’s new to our household, and we’re happy to have her with us.

Last night, J and I got into a stupid fight. No screaming; nothing like that. Just the typical hurt feelings. Oversensitivity on my part. Hormone-induced anger on hers. We’re not conflict avoiders, and I think that’s served us well. We’re usually good at talking through disagreements. It feels a bit harder now – no doubt because this is a vulnerable time – but I think we’ve weathered this year fairly well. Still: there’s fear. There’s a lot of unknown. It’s difficult to trust. We have a resolve.this.before.bed rule. Well, I have that rule, and J has begrudgingly acquiesced to it for the whole of our relationship. We’ve never gone to bed without resolution.

Since neither of us came into this marriage with great (respectful. patient. strong listening.) argument strategies, I’m proud of how good we typically are at this. But lately, I’ve been thinking that our childless good won’t be good enough when there’s a baby here. I mean, I know that our children will witness conflict. I even think that they should because conflict is normal. But I know that they’ll learn how to fight from us, and I know that if you learn disrespectful or unproductive ways of fighting, they take a lot of work to unlearn. We’ve been moving for years towards more respectful disagreements. When I think of our early fights, I am both horrified (as in: how could we say those things to each other!) and impressed at how far we’ve come.

Still: I like a tool. I like a strategy. And a few weeks ago, I came across a really great one. I was waiting for an adjustment at my chiropractor’s office, which he shares with a therapist. She (the therapist) has a table in the waiting room featuring business cards, recommended books, and a small metal chicken. Next to the chicken, there’s a card explaining its purpose. It seems that Conflict Chickens are a tool that families can use during arguments. The rules seem to be that, if anyone in the family thinks it’s time to bring out the conflict chicken, everyone has to agree to its presence. Once it’s out, whoever is holding the conflict chicken has the floor. If you’re not willing to speak while holding the conflict chicken, or cede the floor to whoever has it in hand, you have to go for a walk, or a drive, or a time out until you are.

So this morning, after a nice breakfast, we poked around in a nearby shop looking for a potential conflict chicken. That’s when we found Cher (who looks, to us, like a Cher.drag.queen version of a Conflict Chicken…which is to say: perfect). Cher was originally a Halloween pen, but we plan to put her to much better use. We hope this will help us take our fights less seriously, and we’re even hopeful that it might be a solid tool to use with kids. I mean, sure: it might take some therapy later to get over needing a chicken in hand to argue, but there are worse associations for conflict. ;)

So a test: Scroll back up to the photo of Cher, with her sexy mane, her devil horns, and her wide-open beak. If you had to hold her while talking, could you take yourself seriously? If someone were holding her while telling you why they were angry, could you be as defensive?

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