Playing Peacemaker

In less than two weeks I'll be leaving LA and heading back to the "Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana" area. I'm headed out for almost all of July and I'm taking the kids with me. It's going to be great to spend time so much time. I usually feel like I'm stuffing seeing everyone and everything into only a few days, so such a long trip is a real luxury.

My kids have been counting down how many days till we leave for like forever. It's our first visit in the summer and I've filled their ears with stories of the Taste of Chicago, lightning bugs and swimming in Lake Michigan. They're also looking forward to gardening with my mom, going to a water park with my sister, hearing my dad play piano and trombone, and doing whatever with all their cousins.

I'm looking forward to all that too, but now that today's Pre-K graduation is over, I'm suddenly feeling stressed out.

One, I have to get us all packed up! I've been making lists of what to take and what to leave behind for each of us because I want to try to take only one checked bag each so I don't have to pay extra fees. I think making people pay all these extra fees for everything is pretty ridiculous. However, I just don't know if one bag per person is going to be possible for my clothes and shoes for my kids.

My youngest is helping though. After his graduation today, he packed his backpack full of Legos and action figures. As far as he's concerned, he's ready!

The bigger thing I am stressed about though is that I have a bad habit of trying to play peacemaker/unifier when I go home and I need to stop it. I tend to get uncomfortable with conflict and so I always want people to "play nice" while I'm there. They may have stuff that they need to work out and I just need to respect that. I don't know why it is that I expect folks to talk and act like they have these loving, fabulous relationships just because I'm there.

You know how it is, Relative A and Relative B have long-standing issues that they could spend a couple of years in therapy over. Or, one person says they're not going over someone else's house, even if I'm there. And, I think I just need to accept that it is what it is move on from there.

What gets hard is stuff like if I mention to Relative A that I'm going to Relative B's house and then Relative A suddenly starts acting weird towards me. I've thought about trying to have a BBQ and inviting all my relatives. But will folks even show up? And, if they do show up, will they even speak?

I don't know the answer to that, but I do know I hate that the only time I see some relatives is when there's a funeral. It'd be nice to get together even if we're not saying farewell to one of our dearly departed.

Actually, I don't really care if folks want to act weird towards me or not speak to me. What I am concerned about is my kids and them being exposed to a whole new set of tensions they have no idea about and don't need to know about. They love everybody and just want to have a good time and they should get to do that.

Hmm... I love everybody and just want to have a good time too, but I'm not looking at life through the eyes of a child. Sigh. Why do some things have to be so complicated?

I know I can't be the only person who goes through this. So, tell me, how do you all navigate spending time with people you love, when the ones you love don't always seem like they love each other?


That is hard. I too would like for everyone to get along.

You are visiting from Los Angeles. The adult relatives need to realize this is not about them. You are going to see your family. Period.

I say have your BBQ.
Anonymous said…
Wow, I've never had to deal with that, my family gets along great!!! Good Luck though and have a safe trip!!!
I really do hope you have a good trip!
Anonymous said…
I have a relative that stole money out the bank account of another's who died shortly after. The amount they stole would've paid for the funeral. I don't want to be around that person. I feel sad about the entire situation but think I need to have some standards I can adhere to in life. So unless it's related to some serious abuse I think grown people need to suck it up for the sake of the children.
Jameil said…
your kids will pick up on something but i don't think they'll be unduly scarred. it could be another opp. to reinforce your tolerance msg. one bag for 3 mos? PHEW!! Taste of Chicago?? TAKE ME!! I'M BEGGING YOU!!! (Can't get off.)

i have uncles on both sides who don't speak to ea. other. i'm at the point right now where i'm like i can't impact that and won't tip toe around it. if i want to see all of you when i'm in town, everyone is invited and i'm ignoring your issues w/each other. i can't act like your mother unless you make me. and i hope that embarasses you as you're 40 years older than me. but i will do it.
Jen said…
I think kids just sort of shrug and move on. My DH lived with his Dad and his brother having a poor relationship and he still loved his uncle. C has seen some of that, and when we explained it when he was young, we just said that so and so had gotten into a conflict with such and such and they just needed a time out from each other.

He got that, figured it was adult stuff, and moved on.
Anonymous said…
At my age, and not having kids, there's not many of my immediate family left, just my mum and sister. When I was young we used to visit my maternal grandparents and they seemed to get on pretty well. The big tensions were between my parents and between me and my father. Since my father died, mum and I have rubbed along fairly well considering we disagree on most things. So I don't think I can give you much advice, sorry!
Anonymous said…
Fortunately, you know ahead of time that you'll likely have many opportunities to demonstrate your belief in unity and peacefulness in intimate situations that are less than easy to navigate through especially while caring for young children(I have 2 boys 4 and 7 also). If your boys express any feelings of negativity, verbal or not that seem directly linked to family disunity, that's a perfect time to validate their feelings, pray together for another's well being and help your children focus on only their part in a situation(to love, walk away for a while, overlook another's faults while staying out of harms way, either emotional, physical whatever). In this way, they'll know their perceptions are not imaginary if they are uncomfortable and you'll be helping free them up to enjoy themselves despite awkward or painful situations.
Likely too, the sweet time they get to spend with you and your dear friends in Chicago will be what they mainly remember and draw from in the near and far future.

I hope you all have a wonderful trip. I grew up in Evanston and still remember so many amazing hours at the The Baha'i Temple, the beach and museums. I had no idea how wonderful it was at the time.
Liz Dwyer said…
I keep thinking of the Serenity Prayer and how it says that you have to have the serenity to accept the things you cannot change, the courage to change the things you can and the wisdom to know the difference. It fits the situation because there's lots of stuff going on that I can't change, but I can change my own reactions to them. So maybe a BBQ but if people don't show, for whatever reason, I can still enjoy those who do.

LOL! You are making me laugh. Thanks, big sis!

Brown English Muffin,
I'm sure the trip will have it's ups and downs, but it'll be fine. At least, I plan for it to be so! :)

Wow, that's serious. I'm sorry that happened. Have you and/or other relatives confronted this person? I often think about how we tolerate behavior from relatives that we wouldn't from the average person we know. It can be much harder to set boundaries with family than it is with the average stranger. Although, of course, an inability to set boundaries with family often leads to an inability to set them with other people.

No, not three months! Only five weeks! I'd have to be shipping some boxes if it was five months! Anyway, not tip toeing around the issue is a good point because that sets just as bad example for the kids as anything else and it teaches them that instead of looking for solutions to difficult problems, you avoid them. Gosh, I don't want them to grow up feeling like they have to tip toe around folks or be confrontational "I'm gonna make you change" types either.

What gets hard for me is when one person either implies by words or action the, "If you talk to that person, then I'm not going to love you/talk to you either." Saying folks need a time out from each other is exactly right. We do need time outs from each other sometimes because certain people push our buttons and it's smart to know when to take yourself out of the situation.

Well, there are those that have a good-sized family but if everybody stabs everyone else in the back, they might as well be alone. Just imagine being a Medici and constantly worrying that some relative is gonna poison you. Good that you're able to work things out with your mum despite disagreeing on things. That's where love wins out over everything.

I am so glad you left your comment. I love how you said it's so important to validate what they're feeling and pray together about it, etc. I definitely don't want them to think their perceptions are imaginary at all. I miss Evanston too. I'm glad to be going back to spend time with family that's still there, and I can't wait to go to the Baha'i Temple for a visit -- I got my first bee sting there when I was three and got married there so it has a special place in my heart aside from it's sacredness and beauty. Oh, and I'm salivating right now thinking about eating some vegan chocolate cake from Blind Faith. I can't wait!
Anonymous said…
I make a vegan chocolate cake that meat eaters and people who are not much into healthy eating enjoy so much they request the recipe. I'm happy to pass it on if you like. Did you also grow up in Evanston?
Liz Dwyer said…
I'd love the recipe! I am really getting closer to the vegan reality. I've cut out almost all dairy except for the cheese on pizza and some occasional ice cream.

I'm not from Evanston but my husband and many close friends are. The only time I actually lived there was when I went to NU. I wasn't the typical NU student though because I spent more time off campus than on. :)
BlackLiterature said…
I have your issue. Always trying to be the peacemaker. It is beyond stressfull for me. I hope you share the lessons you learn this visit.

I'm happy that I am empathetic enough to recognize other's issues and want to make things better. However, my reality is that the peacemaker pays way too much and gets way too little in return. Plus, as I am expecting my first child, I do NOT want to pass on that legacy.
Liz Dwyer said…
Thank you so much for your comment because for a second there I wondered if I was the only one who sometimes struggles with these situations. Your baby definitely doesn't need the stress and neither do you. Peacemakers do pay a lot and I just can't anymore.
Anonymous said…
I put the recipe for vegan chocolate cake on my blog,
Sorry, I don't know how to create links. Hope you like it.


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