I may as well get this confession out of the way first: our family is not perfect.
Richard has this joking comment he often makes to Allison when he's handed her the wrong thing at supper, or bumped into her, or mis-heard her, or committed some other minor infraction: "I'm sorry; it may or may not happen again." It's become a common remark in our house to the point that if I say it, Allison replies wryly, "You sound like Dad." It's a really apt comment, though; after all, it would be ridiculous to rashly promise that we'll never make a mistake like that again when, in all likelihood, we will.
I was reminded of that yesterday morning when I got embroiled in a conversation that sounded all too familiar:
Jonathan was yelling.
I told him to stop.
Allison said, "It's all right."
I asked her why she was joining in the discussion.
She replied, "Because I want to make everything all right and make everybody happy!"
I told her it wasn't her responsibility to do that.
She got upset and cried.
After she came back from getting dressed, I asked if I could give her a hug, which she reluctantly agreed to. I said, "You know I love you, right?"
"And you know we all love each other in this family, right?"
"Yeah ... but the same thing is just going to happen again next time."
And she's probably right. Jonathan will yell, I'll reprimand him, she'll try to make everything okay again, and I'll tell her not to get involved. Why should I assume that something that's happened a hundred times before will never happen again?
Still, it got me thinking about this pattern and wondering what I can do to change it even a little bit. I feel sad that she feels responsible to smooth things over, especially when these types of exchanges are bound to occur in the future; that's a lot of weight to carry around. Maybe I need to have a conversation with her about how we all might better respond to Jonathan's challenging behaviour. She might have some good ideas about what would make her more comfortable. And maybe I need to remind her again that she's not expected to make everything better. And that I love her ... And that I love Jonathan ... And that it may or may not happen again ...