Keeping the peace

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could tell your family members exactly what you were thinking most the time? Not all of it. Not the petty things like “those shoes are hideous,” or “you’ve put on some weight,” or “sometimes I think your child is the devil.” Those thoughts would just get you in trouble, but when it comes to the things that really make you upset, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to really let your family have it?

Maybe this isn’t a concept that most people struggle with. Growing up as the middle child in a family of five, telling my family when I’m upset has never been something I’ve been comfortable with. Instead, I fell into a role as the peace keeper of the family. My older sisters would fight and my younger sisters would fight, and for the most part I was the one in the middle trying to keep the peace. I failed, a lot, but if I weren’t there to say “I think we should put down the crow bar” or “I’m sure she didn’t mean fat” or “Ice, oh my God, we need some ice,” I’m pretty sure emergency room visits would have increased by at least 50 percent. With five girls in a house with only one bathroom, getting ready for school every morning was an event capable of causing World War III. After years of experience like that, I’m pretty sure if they let me mediate the Middle East peace talks, I’d have everybody holding hands and signing “Kumbaya” before the day was over.

After being in the peace keeper role for my whole life, it’s hard to move to the role of the instigator, but sometimes there is just no one else to do it. It’s not that I want to cause trouble, just to explain why something might not be OK.

In the past few weeks there have been numerous times when I wanted to call my sisters and give them some advice – like “don’t be stupid” – on a situation. However when I get that sister on the phone, I chicken out, mention it briefly and then change the subject.

“So you left work during a massive ice storm, didn’t go home or tell your roommate that you were going somewhere else and basically disappeared off the face of the earth for 48 hours and you’re upset that she overreacted. Yeah, OK. So how’s school?”

No matter how much mental preparation I have, in the end it always turns out the same. “I’m sure you’re right girls. Yeah, mom’s house just burned down, but I’m sure she really wanted to take you shopping and buy you stuff. Good idea.”

I’ve never been very good at confrontations, but sometimes I really wish I could train myself to tell my sisters what I really think. On the other hand, if I’m the instigator, I’m not sure who would convince them to put the crow bar down and walk away.

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