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.
How 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?