Life’s easier amid Peace with the Parents

By Terry Pluto, Beacon Journal columnist

A friend is middle-aged. Her mom is well past middle-aged. They went through a period of not talking… or something.

The flash point happened in church; a couple of silly things were said. Then it degenerated into a “What did you mean by THAT?” debate. Soon, mom and daughter were not in the mood to sing Kumbaya.

When the tempers simmered, silence broke out. For days.

It didn’t sound like a big deal to me, and I suggested the daughter apologize.

“What for?” she said.

“She is your mother,” I said. “She’s older, and the last thing either of you needs is this tension going on. Just make peace, and don’t worry about who is right or wrong.”

We talked about how the Bible says we are to apologize for whatever we did wrong, rather than trying to figure out how much of the problem is our fault. When we do that — keep score — we always win. We may have been wrong, but not as much as the other person — and besides, they started it.

Finally, they talked, and all is well, at least for now.

I thought about that when I heard Sean Covey interviewed on the radio, and he mentioned that one of the most important decisions teenagers can make is to get along with their parents. He was talking about his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. Yes, he’s the son of Stephen Covey, best-selling author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Is it a great idea for teens to respect their parents and live in some semblance of peace at home?

Don’t need a Ph.D. in psychology to figure that out.

But it never ends. At least not until our parents die, or we die. And if you happen to believe in heaven, then you may have all of eternity to work out some of the relationship dynamics.

For some parents/children, that prospect may inspire everyone just to live a little longer here on Earth.

Here’s the disclaimer: I’m not talking about sick, abusive, insane parent/children relationships. You can forgive a parent or a child, but there may be safety reasons to avoid reconciliation.

But for most of us, we do have to decide to get along with our parents, no matter if we are 15 or 55. I know of some 70-year-olds who are taking care of parents in their 90s. In some cases, they have been arguing about the same things for 60 years — such as how to dust the house or wash the dishes.

Several years ago, my brother and I had several conversations, and suddenly I realized that he believed our father liked me best. And I was convinced that for years, our father preferred him.

That probably means our dad did it right.

Both of us were over 40 and talking about this, and our father had died.

Another friend didn’t like the way her mother treated some little kids in her care “because Mom didn’t let me get away with that stuff like she does now.”

That was 40 years ago, but so often, we feel reduced to little kids around our parents — especially when we are sucked deep into the swamp of sibling rivalry.

“Honor your father and mother so that you may live long in the land the Lord has given you” is Exodus 20:12, the fifth commandment. I believe “living long in the land the Lord has given you” means that life is easier when we are at peace with our parents — which often takes effort and honor.

Part of honoring is letting go. It’s knowing that if you’ll argue when talking politics, don’t talk politics. You and your dad are not about to settle the Iraq war anyway.

It’s that often no one is better at annoying you than someone in your family — maybe because they’ve had more practice. Of course, they may say the same about us.

It also is accepting that they may not be the parents you wanted… and realizing that you may not have turned out to be the son or daughter that they dreamed of… and we can still get along anyway.

Finally, it’s deciding that every day I will respect them, even if today I don’t feel it. I’m going to pray my way through it, making nice. That really is where honor and love come together.


1 Comment »

  1. sam Said:

    great points as usual Mr. Pluto. Now how can I share this w/ someone who might not want to hear it.

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