It seems almost silly to say, in your mind or out loud, but there is a simple fact of my life: “I want peace and harmony.”
But if you don’t put it out there as a goal, it will be impossible to achieve.
Living with teenagers can put the harmony ideal to the test, of course. By their very nature, adolescents are looking to buck up against their creators. I can almost hear the words behind their defiant looks: “So what if you made me? I’m not part of you anymore.” (There are some expletives I’ve left out, that are definitely part of the look, but, like I said, I’m angling for harmony).
I try not to bite. Their defiance is necessary, of course. Instead of letting it trigger my own (necessary and innate) defiance, I try to counter it with humor.
“Okay, li’l bastard,’ ” I said to my younger when he was being, well, a little bastard. “Should I just start calling you ‘LB?’ ”
I usually frown at name-calling, but with that little humor in my voice I was trying — and continue to try — to shine a little mirror back at him to help him see his behavior. The nickname comes out every so often as a reminder of that undesirable attitude he can sometimes exhibit.
Turnabout, of course, is fair play.
Names have been hurled at me I won’t repeat, with that little lilt of humor, if I get into one of those pre-menopausal moods that can tear everyone in the house to shreds. And I am forced to hear in those “jokey” names some kernel of truth that reminds me I’m being just awful. It happens. Parents, too, can be defiant and rude despite being years past adolescence.
It takes a lot of honesty to make harmony. It might take some joking banter, some deep breaths and — definitely — some stepping back to see that so much of family strife is just testing one another’s mettle. Intimate relationships are like wrestling matches where it takes getting down on the mat and really getting entangled to be able to stand up victorious afterward.
Keeping sight of the goal is the key. I’ve been using it as a mantra lately, saying it over and over through tougher moments: Harmony, harmony, harmony!
And a friend even pushed me to think of a greater goal for 2017, a seemingly impossible-to-reach place of “unimaginable bliss.”
What? Sure, I thought when he wished me such a crazy thing, I’ll get right on that between the dishes and the laundry and my various and sundry deadlines. “Unimaginable bliss.”
But then, like with my goal of harmony, the idea began to fester and I thought “Why not?” What would I do to make myself and my family super happy? Hmmm...
For the Giants playoff game we practiced: The boys and their friends got homemade nachos with a big mound of guacamole, chicken wings their Dad picked up from their favorite restaurant, as well as fresh, homemade cookie sandwiches I enjoyed making. And then — as they whooped and moaned in paroxysms of sports-induced emotion — I got into the bath surrounded by candles and incense and a good book.
Now, we just have to figure what bliss looks like for all of us every day, and there’ll be perfect harmony.
Fingers crossed. We have school and work and lots of things that might get in the way, but what could be wrong with aiming for the top?