By Melissa Ford
Upon entering motherhood, I donned the mantle of keeper of the peace. At the outset, I gave no thought to how exhausting and never-ending this pursuit would be or if I even possessed the human power necessary to control the emotional states of others!
No matter, I plunged into the role with a commitment and fervor like no other. Why? Because unbeknownst to me, I had inextricably bound my value and success as a mom to my ability to maintain harmony in my household.
I was on a mission . . . Mission Impossible!
Over the years, I became masterful at keeping a watchful eye on flaring tempers and testy attitudes. I honed the expert skills of distracting squabbling siblings as well as artfully negotiating peace agreements (the ones involving a mutual consent to keep hands to self). I was Super Peace Keeper: arresting altercations, smoothing over ruffled feathers, calming my husband and halting mean words dead in their tracks.
But I had a problem; I was constantly on edge, waiting for the other shoe to drop. My husband had a problem, too. ME, especially when there was discord between my spouse and our kids.
Arguments usually sprung up around the dinner table (who says that families that eat together stay together?). "Don't eat like a caveman," or "Get your elbows off the table," or "Don't use that tone with me!" my husband would warn. Even though they were just your garden-variety tiffs, I felt driven to intervene. Afterwards, I'd offer unsolicited pointers and tips to my husband so that future unpleasantries could be avoided.
I wanted peace at all costs, unaware of the price tag, until one day when my mother-in-law came visiting. I know, all couples have stories about their mother-in-laws, but this one was a game changer . . .
Waking me up to the fact that I wasn't a Keeper of Peace but a Keeper of Fear.
On this particular visit, I must have been unusually active at pseudo peace-keeping, i.e., sticking my nose in other people's business because, after warding off a potential disagreement between my husband and son, she simply looked at me and said, "It's too bad you won't let my son have a relationship with his son."
I stood there stunned by the truth. She was right.
My fear of disharmony was denying them both the ability to grow and develop their own special relationship.
To do this day, I am grateful for her honesty. It helped me understand that by stepping aside and trusting my husband and son to create their own relationship (and they did), I was free to keep the only peace I could - my own inner peace.