This weekend my son, Jesse, daughter, Haley, and ex-husband, Mark, went on a road trip to my sister’s for Passover.
We had over three hours to be in the car together.
I drove at the beginning and Jesse sat in the front. We laughed and talked in goofy accents. Haley was in the back with Mark. She was on her phone and occasionally made derogatory comments about her father.
I could have told her to stop and be nice, but I didn’t. Instead, Jesse and I joined in, calling him “M” and making fun of some of the “dumb” things that he occasionally does.
When we switched drivers, I got in the back with Mark, Jesse drove and Haley sat in the front seat next to him.
I looked at Mark after some more ribbing from the three of us. He is not one to let things get to him, so I was surprised to see him looking hurt. I felt bad. It’s enough, I thought. This is not how I want the ride to be. We are better than this.
“I have an idea,” I said. “Let’s do an exercise that we did in my course last weekend. Let’s go around and tell each other what we like about our relationship with each person.”
This exercise had transformed how I relate to my mother. Instead of her being an annoying person who literally drains me of all positivity, she became someone new. She never withholds her love no matter how bitchy, annoyed and moody I am. She is always there, asking questions and seeing what she can do for me. And I had missed that by only seeing her as a a pain in the ass. I now relate to her as a gift, instead. One that I cherish and feel grateful to have.
That’s a big switch. So I decided what the hell? Could this exercise hurt us?
And that’s what we did. We went around and acknowledged one person at a time by saying what was great about our relationship.
It was amazing. “Instead of seeing myself as a loser, I see myself as a fun, loving contribution who inspires people,” Jesse said. “It totally shifts how I see myself. That was awesome.”
And it was the same for all of us. We all felt better about ourselves and more related to each other. I was proud of my kids, and even Mark. I felt present to the good in them instead of my petty complaints and irritations.
We continued to have empowering conversations the whole weekend. I was proud of my little family unit (even though Mark and I are divorced). And the good feeling and gratefulness has carried through to today which is Monday.
I recommend trying it. Especially when you see things getting ugly. Why not feel acknowledged instead of mean? What can it hurt?
Let me know what happens.