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-Peacekeeper: 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 sprang up around the dinner table. (Who says 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. Afterward, 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 mothers-in-law, 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-peacekeeping, 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 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 inner peace.
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