Be the fountain, not the drain...
Updated: Apr 4, 2021
Be the thermostat, not the thermometer...
These sayings and phrases have a pretty similar theme and underlying meaning. My overall takeaway is that there's always room to be a better person! Always. You make the world a better place by making yourself a better person.
As the thermometer, you do not want to react to the environment you're in. Instead, you want to be the thermostat and change the environment around you. As the fountain, you're either filling someone's life with value or draining the life out of them.
There's ALWAYS opportunity to practice my thermostat and fountain like qualities in blended family dynamics. I can choose to be a fountain in how I treat people, how I respond, and giving my best effort, and how I carry myself.
At times of crisis, the key role for a leader is to set the tone--mood over emotions. This can be an extremely difficult task to manage in blended families especially if the family is multi-faceted i.e. several exes, children, etc. It’s easy to slip out of the mode you've set and allow one or more external factors to regulate the emotional temperature in your home.
I recall an opportunity presented itself and challenged me to be better. We were on family vacation back in 2019. We rented a loft in Breckenridge and took seven kids with us. It was a great trip despite the two emotionally taxing, yet very important things that happened during the trip. One of the kids in tow was my husband's 15-year-old son. This was the first time we had ever spent time with him and quite frankly, we were all in shock that he was allowed to come on the trip. The years of co-parenting issues between my husband and his mother often resulted in complete disappearances. Sadly, I never had a relationship with the son, his mother, or knew neither personally.
The second day of the trip was interesting. My stepdaughter and my niece pulled me aside to tell me that they were questioned a lot by the 15-year-old. Every question surrounded my marriage, it's current state, our dealings, etc. The young man concluded the conversation with, "Well, my mother looked all of this up online because you can see what's filed with the court. They must have a lot of problems."
I was completely blindsided, but not surprised. Given the tumultuous nature of the relationship over the last 13 years, my expectations were low. Still, I was somewhat puzzled. I didn't know that she was that invested in me, my life, my marriage, etc. And if the need to research, as mentioned, was for 'safety' concerns for her son, why hadn't she had an adult conversation? The entire thing seemed weird and stalker-ish. BUT I remained calm. I continued to treat her son the exact same and made no mention of the conversation. I texted her pictures of him rafting. I texted her when we returned to get a copy of his school supply list. I showed up as exactly who I know I am. I have a firm understanding of how I like to feel on the inside and I empower myself to protect my internal environment from the unexpected storms blended families experience on a daily basis.
I don’t always get it right, you’d be surprised how easy it is to become absorbed and attract negativity into your life, to deviate from where you want to be, but a quick prayer to God asking for discernment is usually enough for me to turn my fountain back on and stop looking at things through the lens of my emotions. Man, oh man, it can be hard. Sometimes I want to be at the same temperature as others.
To be a fountain is a wonderful thing. It means contributing to other people's lives to brighten their day. To be a thermostat is a wonderful thing. It means being proactive, not reactive. Thermostats are able to work past criticism and negativity and push forward even when the odds are against them. Thermostats exhibit self-control and stability. Dee Hock, the Founder of Visa, once said “Make a list of all the things done to you that you didn’t like DON’T DO THEM TO OTHERS…EVER. Make another list of things done to you that you loved. DO THEM TO OTHERS…ALWAYS."
The next time you're walking by a fountain or thermostat, pause and think how you've allowed yourself to function in the same way. May your spirit nourish those around you and may your relationship thrive on the wholesome goodness you are passing on!