Family Meetings

      When the Queen of England calls a family meeting, everyone in the world sits up and takes notice. When a family meeting is called at my home in Stoneham, it’s a very similar situation. Maybe that’s why my wife is affectionately called The Queen Mother by members of my royal household. Family ties are universal. And family meetings share the same importance whether you’re in a castle in London or home in Stoneham.

     Family meetings were serious business when my children were growing up. I noticed a subtle change in my children the first time I announced a “family meeting” was going to be held. My two sons immediately flipped a switch into good behavior mode. Even if my announcement was not earth-shattering, I realized I could use these meetings as a parenting tool to strike fear in the hearts of my kids.

     “Don’t make me call a family meeting,” I would threaten – and my children would immediately wonder what the outcome would be for them. A family meeting was serious business. It meant A.) someone died, B.) Someone in the family was in deep trouble or C.) There was a family vacation planned. Most times it was “B”. Each of my sons hoped it was the other who was the focus of the forthcoming roundtable discussion.

     With an age-span of seven years between them, my parenting skills had to span generations. Solutions and advice was forced to change with the times. When my oldest son became a teenager, my youngest son was only six-years old. I got to correct all the mistakes I made raising my older child as I made better decisions while guiding my youngest. I came up with an entirely new parenting rule book and began with a clean slate. Or as my oldest son says, “You let my little brother get away with everything.” Ah, the joys of parenthood.

     Because “official” family meetings were used sparingly in our home, they carried a tremendous amount of weight. Somber meetings, regarding the death of grandparents, were handled with strength and maturity. The family meeting regarding my son’s trespassing arrest at a closed skateboard park in Peabody was serious enough to ensure my son never got in trouble again. Other family meetings I thought were serious were diffused by unintentional humor. I was heartbroken when I had to explain our family dog was euthanized.

     “We had a dog?” was my teenage son’s reply. Maybe If he walked the dog once in awhile, he would have had a different reaction. 

Another family meeting occurred after my wife and I planned our first cruise without the children. At the time, my older son was starting his freelance news videographer career. I explained to him that he was in charge while we were away. I told him not to get involved in any assignments that would prevent him from being at home with his younger brother. As the cruise ship sailed to Bermuda, I got a phone call from my son telling me he had a chance to do production work for CBS television at a national golf tournament in Connecticut. The money was good and it would be invaluable on his resume as a career milestone. 

     “You can’t leave your brother by himself,” I told him. I was hundreds of miles away and powerless to do anything from the deck of the Norwegian Dawn.

     “It’s okay, my girlfriend will stay at the house while I’m gone,” he told me, thinking that would ease my mind. There would be a huge family meeting when I returned. I somehow enjoyed the rest of my cruise, my son’s work experience was elevated a few notches, and his girlfriend became my daughter-in-law, so it was a win-win for everyone involved.

     Let’s hope the Royals have worked things out better than they worked out for my son after our most intense family meeting. He was asked to move out of the house due to circumstances of his own creation. I hated being part of that decision, but tough love was necessary for everyone involved. Within his thirty day deadline, he found an apartment in Chicopee and a job at a television station in Western Massachusetts. He not only survived, he thrived. He was able to turn things around and make his way back to the Boston area and back into his family’s heart. 

     Maybe Prince Harry can contact my son for a few tips on how to successfully navigate the dangerous waters of family obligations while striving to become your own person. I’m sure the Queen Mother in Buckingham Palace was furious about Harry and Meghan’s abrupt escape from the royal family. To save face, the Queen “let” Harry and Meghan sever ties from their monarchy obligations. A huge weight was lifted from the royal couple after that meeting was over. Family meetings are all about honest communication. 

     I wonder what Harry and Meghan think of pop-singer Lorde’s 2013 hit song “Royals”. The chorus was tailor-made for them: And we’ll never be royals / It don’t run in our blood / That kind of lux just ain’t for us / We crave a different kind of buzz…”

     Meeting adjourned.

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