SHUT YOUR MOUTH. Just so you know right up front, that’s the secret to a happy family – if family tension I’ve seen in recent years is any indication of the world’s best advice.
Year-end holidays seem the perfect time to mention this.
When I look at families I’ve seen with my own two eyeballs and my multi-focus contact lenses (thank you son-in-law the eye doc) I don’t see “Leave it to Beaver” in any of them. I see Beavis and Butt-Head.
And they’re women.
At least in the first half-dozen families that come to mind.
They are strong-willed, blunt-talking, passionate matriarchs, some of whom have sense.
I don’t think I’m gender-challenged and bigoted against the ladies. The problem spins around women because, at least in some cases, their old men up and kicked the bucket. “I’m outta here.”
Left behind: estrogen explosion.
I know guys can stir up a stink, too. It’s just that in the scenes playing inside my head at this particular moment, it’s old women. They’re rocking the world like it’s their baby. And baby just climbed up on Mommy’s head and pooped.
Mommy is not happy. If Mommy’s not happy, nobody’s happy.
Not even God.
I could detail some specific problems, but then I’d have to go and watch Antarctica thaw.
But try this on for size:
- Mom thinks you should do one thing.
- You’re grown up and you think you can do another if you want to.
- Mom says you better not.
- You do it anyhow.
- Mom damns you to hell and goes home.
- You sing, “Thank God and Greyhound you’re gone.”
If I’m not in that old woman’s generation, I’m pretty darned close. I have grown kids.
Like matriarchs I’ve seen, I’ve got a mouth that can blow words direct from my diaphragm to my pie hole, without passing anywhere near the neighborhood of my brain.
But I’m learning: how to speak wisely, and when not to speak at all.
Oddly enough, learning to keep our mouth shut is like learning a foreign language. Only harder.
Saying whatever’s on our mind comes natural.
Here’s an example of the one time I think I got it right, in a clutch moment.
My boy raised the possibility of moving halfway across the country, to a city with a better football team.
If you’re a dad with a son you love more than you love your own life, you know I wanted to kill him.
But I thought about the time I moved 800 miles away from my family. They didn’t want me to go. Yet they did nothing but encourage me, and they never tried to talk me out of leaving.
…Now that I think about it. Nah.
I told my boy about that memory of leaving. And I told him I’d support him in whatever decision he made.
What I really wanted to do was rattle off a list of pros and cons for him.
Okay. Mostly cons.
Instead, I told him one more thing.
“I’m going to say this just once, so you know what I think. And I’ll never say it to you again. Don’t go.”
That was the end of that.
Short. Sweet. Over and out.
But don’t look to me for a sage example. Instead, how about looking to someone else who knew how to hold her tongue when it seemed the wisest thing to do? Wouldn’t holidays…or any days…go better if those of us who knew so much would follow the example of the world’s first Christmas matriarch:
“Mary kept all these things to herself” (Luke 2:19).