“There might be another way to say that,” I suggest to my child who has just bluntly announced an opinion about another child in a semi-public setting.
“It’s no big deal. It’s only one evening,” I tell my spouse when our son wants to invite ten loud young adults over to hang out before they return to school when we had planned to watch a movie.
“I think we’ll have to agree to disagree,” I say to a relative with very different political leanings.
More and more, I find myself in the role of peacemaker. That wasn’t always the case. There was a time, not very long ago, that I was ready to tangle with anyone whose opinions, actions, or words offended me. I was comfortable on my soapbox and not afraid to sign my name to any Letter to the Editor or viral e-mail.
Now, though, I’m softening. I’m realizing that I’d much rather enjoy the people around me than confront them about opinions or behaviors I have no hope of changing. I’m certain I’ve lost more than a friend or two thanks to my righteous certainty over the years.
Women are peacemakers. It’s a role we seem to gravitate to, some sooner than others. Maybe it’s instinctive, knowing that sticking together we have much better odds of surviving.
In my novel, Practicing Normal, Kate is the ultimate peacekeeper in the Turner family – moderating the interactions between her teenage daughter and her husband, soothing her aging, cranky mother and enduring her verbal abuse, while sadly ignoring the signs of her husband’s infidelities, simply in the name of keeping the peace. She finds it easier to placate than to confront.
There’s quite definitely a fine line between peacekeeper and enabler, and we must be careful not to cross it.
Moms naturally hone peacemaking skills as we navigate the selection of the video to watch tonight, the lunchtime menu, or who gets the car keys (or the front seat). Perhaps it’s because we value all the sides at war in a family situation, that we become default peacemakers.
As my children grow up and leave my nest, there are too many goodbyes in my life. I’m realizing that I don’t want the final memories to be ones of strife. If I haven’t taught them to hang up that wet towel by the time they’re eighteen, there’s probably no hope that one more nagging reminder will change anything. Ditto for the milk left out on the counter or the recliner left in the up position. This month I waved goodbye to two college-bound children and now that they’re gone I no longer need to right the recliner or put away the milk. Small comfort for how much I miss them.
As a mom and as a woman I’m called on to be the peacemaker again and again. It’s a role I’ve grown into. But as of late, it’s a role I’m also happy to assume. How about you? Who makes the peace in your life?
Cara Sue Achterberg is the author of three novels, I’m Not Her, Girls’ Weekend, and Practicing Normal, all published by The Story Plant.