With so many inhabitants wandering our halls, we’ve been advised that a great way to bring everyone together and hash out discord is to hold family meetings, whether it’s over a meal or while we’re sprawled on the living room floor. The idea is to give everyone a chance to speak his mind with the implicit understanding that each person’s input will be heard and heeded. Underlying this, of course, is the spirit of democracy – no doubt our founding fathers would be proud, but democracy is painfully slow and creates the delusion among the minors in our midst that their votes count just as much as ours.
When G and I started talking about holding family meetings, we thought back to whether our own parents ever did such a thing. I reminisced about my early days in the regime and G was thrown off by the suggestion that the words family and meeting were ever spoken at home in the same sentence. Back when we were kids and thought we knew it all, no one cared to include us in any important decisions about our house, our meals, our vacations, our schedules, our activities or our responsibilities (case in point – my ten years of piano lessons). Now, as mothers, we hearken back to the glory of that era. At the same time, we’re modern day women, treating our motherhood like a career (while trying to cultivate our paying ones as well), and we read a lot of literature about how to build self-esteem in and make good people out of our kids. So, we get caught up in the temptation to let them lead us.
Frankly, I’m torn. I want my kids to be active participants in governing their lives, but I must admit, all this inclusive family decision making stuff makes me feel robbed. That long-promised day when I could look my children in the eye and explain my actions by the well-earned conversation killer “because I said so” is finally here and I want to milk it. Another tricky thing about family meetings is that you need your family around to have them. This may seem simple, but with five kids coming and going on an hourly basis between sports, movies, rehearsals and hanging out (formerly known as playdates), it’s not so easy, and when we are all together, sometimes we just want to bond over a creepy sword-swallower on America’s Got Talent.
So far, we’ve managed to call two family meetings to order and they’ve gone reasonably well. That’s not to say, of course, that we achieve a meeting of the minds, but we do give each mind a chance to share what’s ruminating inside it.
Sadly for those founding fathers and the revolutionary war soldiers who fought for our freedoms, our kin don’t yet recognize their good fortune in having a right to vote. At our latest gathering, Red said the meeting was silly and left the premises, and Blue turned his back on the proceedings and said that he couldn’t bear to look at any of us. At least we had partial participation.
I figure, family meetings can’t hurt. At the very least we get to convene some portion of our crazy clan to discuss issues of the day, and after hearing everyone out, tell them how it’s going to be.
All hail totalitarianism.
Liz Kingsley lives in Westfield with her girlfriend and their five children. During the day, she teaches Special Education and Basic Skills at a local elementary school, writes poetry and columns about her family, and directs The Writers Studio. At night, she collapses from exhaustion.
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