My daughters are 21 and 19. They both live at home. The older one is attending a local college and the younger one is trying to launch herself onto her chosen career path. Generally, our family is very supportive and loving. Other times we have communication breakdowns that need to be addressed.
During the past few month my older daughter and I have had a few more squabbles than either of us would like. They have all had a common theme even thought the details have varied. Basically, my usually thoughtful, kind, respectful, and compassionate daughter has tried to marginalize my involvement and contribution to our family. Generally it begins when my hubby and I are having a conversation. My daughter tries to interject her thoughts and ideas and dismiss mine. She presumes to answer on behalf of my husband as if she knows exactly what his thoughts, actions, or reply will be. Since she has not yielded to our repeated requests to modify her behavior I have been guilty of snapping at her when "please let us have a conversation" doesn't work.
At brunch today we started talking about our upcoming family reunion in SoCal. We most likely will need to take 2 cars down due to the extra supplies we need to bring. It became clear that neither of my daughters wanted to travel with me and that if one of them were "forced" to do so they would view it as a horrible punishment.
Although it was a stressful conversation we seemed to restore a happy tone by the time we were paying the check. We even developed a strategy to avoid future conflicts which included a few hand signals to acknowledge that I heard my daughters comments but still had some questions or comments that were most appropriately answered by my husband. We then went shopping and enjoyed watching Monsters University at our local theater. The troubles of the day seemed well behind us.
Then it began to unravel completely......but for what started out as a pretty silly reason.
Once we were in our car I called my husband to let him know we were out of the movie and headed to Walgreens. I asked if he needed us to pick up anything. Then I asked the dreaded question that started a downward spiral in our car.
It was nearly 4PM when I called Joe and asked if he was still at work or at home. When I spoke with him earlier in the day he wasn't sure if he was going to get off at 3PM or need to work a few extra hours of overtime to complete his work for the day. If he worked extra hours he would probably not grocery shop. If he got off on time and the store was not busy he would shop as planned. Since he works at a grocery store he does most of the shopping.
Well, my innocent question was met with a few comments from my daughter about how I should know that on Friday's he usually gets home at 3:30 so of course he would be home. Then the "silent disgust" kicked in because I had "bothered" Joe with such an idiotic question that she could have answered so I wouldn't "disturb" him.
I will spare you the details of the next several strained hours. Eventually my daughters and I had another talk. This time my daughters were able to get to the real root of the problem. My oldest daughter is feeling that her time living with us is drawing short. Therefore, she feels the need to become a more important voice in family discussions because she fears that her place in the family will be eliminated once she is gone. She sees a definite pecking order and is afraid to be downgraded to the bottom rung. She is rather like a school yard bully who tries to squash others to build up their own self esteem. Interjecting her thoughts and opinions so strongly is her way of saying she has a more important role in the family than I do. So if someone gets dropped from the family it will be me and not her.
We discussed that in some aspects of our lives and decisions that we make there is a hierarchy. We may discuss some decisions as a family but in case of a tie my husband and I have the ultimate power to decide what course of action we believe is best. We have the responsibility and the power. When my daughters are financially independent they will have earned the power to make the decisions concerning their lives. Taking on the responsibilities of life grants you the power to make the decisions effecting your life.
We also discussed that in almost every other aspect of our daily lives the hierarchy doesn't come into play. We are not each linked by a ladder but collectively form a delicious pie. Each one of us are to be respected and valued. Therefore the answer to our troubles is not that my daughter should stop interjecting her thoughts, comments, ideas, and preferences appropriately into conversations but that she needs to leave room for an effective dialog in which no ones ideas are disrespected or devalued.
Once we came to a meeting of the minds and developed a strategy to help us communicate better in the future we decided to go out to dinner and enjoy the last few hours of our girls night.
We went to Gio's Pizza. It was such a delightful evening. It was out first time visiting the pizzeria but will not be our last. It was one of the most enjoyable and memorable dining experiences outside of our own home that we have had in years. The food, atmosphere, staff, and owner made us feel like we stopped in to my Italian Uncle's hand thrown pizza kitchen just to say "Hi!" We even texted my husband to join us after his poker game. It will definitely be my go to place when we decide not to cook for ourselves.
In the end, our special day together turned out to be better than I could have dreamed. It was a little rocky at first but ultimately we all learned a little bit more about each other. We learned that each of us form an important piece of our family pie. We can each stand alone on our plate but together we form a perfect pie. That no single slice is better or worse than the other. And as my children marry and form their own pies that their expanded families will also be welcomed into our pie even though we may need a bigger pie pan.
It's nice going to bed knowing that even though my family may have challenges from time to time that we can discuss them and resolve them with love and compassion. After all, every good pie needs to have some well placed steam vents!