Family Dynamics

I always thought, silly me, that getting older meant I would be wiser, that life would get easier, and that family dynamics with my children and their partners would be a breeze. It’s been a bit of a shock over the last 15 years, as children have left home, that this is not my reality. So, I have a question for you.

balancing family dynamicsHow much should someone do to please, meet the needs of, or accommodate the requests of another family member who is not your spouse? As I get older the lines become murkier, or maybe I’m becoming softer.

It’s not much of an issue if we’re talking about one-on-one interactions. I’m happy to do things that meet individual needs if I can. In return I make respectful requests when I need help.

But as our family grows, bringing new people into our circle and adding little people too, shifting the family dynamics, it’s becoming harder and harder. Everyone has an opinion. I certainly don’t argue that we each have the right to an opinion. Everyone wants to feel important and valued. However, sometimes it is expressed in ways that say ‘everyone needs to do this my way to accommodate my needs.’ That is rarely possible in a group of 20+ with ages ranging from 9 months to 82 years.

So the first question is how to distinguish the difference between legitimate needs and emotionally charged desires (aka demands). The second question is

how to decide how much is enough, so as not to create a sense of entitlement in the recipient and without rocking the boat and throwing family dynamics into an apocalyptic mess.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about: I’m hosting a family dinner party. The menu I’ve planned uses a common ingredient in some of the recipes. Some of the people who are attending don’t like that ingredient – it’s not an allergy, just a preference. Leaving it out of the recipes ruins the result. Do I leave the menu as is but make sure there are enough other food choices? Do I leave the menu as is and not worry about taste preferences? Or do I totally revamp the menu?

I’d love some input from you. How do you balance meeting needs in larger family groups with the best interests of the whole group? How do you know when you’ve made the optimal effort and when it’s enough?

For more Reflections by Judith, check out her other blog:
Cobblestone Health A Funny Thing Happened at the Dance


2 thoughts on “Family Dynamics”

  1. Jeannette Romanofsky
    Aug 20 (1 day ago)
    to cobblestone
    Hi Judith, I have just read your ” A Day in My Life”, was interesting, I did not have to

    think of what I would do on the subject Family Dynamics, I have had large gatherings,

    some of the people did not like certain things like you said. What I did was one of your

    choices just have other dishes also. One time I made potato salad, some love onions some

    hate them, so I made two different ones, Another time I just made one and then

    put a little bowl of onions on the side for those who wanted them. Maybe not the best

    way as they didn’t have time to mix well, but it did work out.. I have like you so many

    experiences with growing families, grandchildren and great grandchildren, but things

    usually work out, we all want to be happy and enjoy ourselves and so we do what

    works for us, hope you work it out for your bunch.

  2. Families and get togethers are oil and water or fire and ice. Simple solution: do NOT change the menu. I taught my kids thy had to choose just one hated veggie (both chose lima beans) and that it is their own responsibility to neatly place that one item on the side of their plate–no throwing, feeding the dog, or passing on to someone who has not politely asked for them. No pain, much gain. Just remember to make the onions the last ingredient. All other relatives are advised of this household peace maker. Regarding potato salad just stop short of the onions, separate out a small bowlful for the onion haters, and finish the recipe with one small change–save the onions to be the last ingredient. For pizza, just leave onions on one half. These steps help keep the peace. For the noisy ones or whinny ones simply state. “These is plenty of bread, peanut and almond butter and a selectio nof jams and jellies in the top shelf of the fridge (or better yet in a portable refrigerator in a corner area) so go help yourself. I’m taking a well deserved break” And heave a quiet sigh. Stay put. Quit fretting. Be peaceable with yourself and your loved ones. You are not Our Creator. Just opening up your home is a sacrifice. We have found that the nut butter alternative eventually brings offers of guests bringing a sample of their version of the offending dish to the next reunion–just set it on a side board–once in a while it is good! Once we had four different bean dishes, one was excellent–my Mom’s!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *