March 30, 2017
The Mercury / Friday
Adolescent boys can be very unkind to girls.
I have heard many sad stories.
I implore you to teach your sons to value all people and your daughters to expose poor behavior.
If you are a parent to girls:
• Listen for what your daughters are NOT saying. What they are not telling you will reveal reams about their experience. No – I am not trying to be obscure.
• Affirm your daughters when they advocate for those they consider victims and ask if they need someone to advocate for them.
• When girls are victimized they may not immediately inform but believe they have to tough it out. Like learning to cross the street, you may have to assure your daughters that it is safe to speak even though it may be scary.
• Encourage your daughters to show up, stand up, and speak up and that doing so is essential and not selfish. Literally applaud them when they do.
• Repeatedly assure your daughters that you are the only parent they will ever need, that it is safe for them to test everything about life by testing it with you.
• Know that the most powerful means to teaching anything is by modeling it yourself – your words will be hollow and meaningless if you do not display what you teach.
March 28, 2017
I admit I live a charmed life. My sons, now 19 and almost 15 are easy (compared with what some parents have to deal with) and I travel extensively. We live in a comfortable home among splendid neighbors in a city that has everything but mountains and an ocean. I love my job working day-by-day with some of the most gifted men, women, and children who grace the planet. I have a platform and an audience for my writing that I never anticipated. We are in good health. I earn enough money for our needs and we have everything we need.
Yet, there is room and a place and a desire for grief.
I grieve friendships lost.
I travail over errors of judgment and at times I find surges of primordial regret barreling from within me.
I grieve wasted time, squandered moments with my parents who’d have given anything to know me better, to talk with me more deeply, to reach into matters more substantial than I was apparently willing to offer.
I grieve not being more fun with my sons, not loving sports as they do, and my lack of ability to discard a sometimes-overwhelming sense of responsibility to offer them a more carefree version of myself.
How about you?
March 27, 2017
“My son (23) is moving to London. We lived there as a family when he was very small. My husband is very upset. He says he is too young to be heading off into life on his own with so little to his name and hardly a completed education. Now since the attacks of last week my husband is saying the UK is unsafe. How do I support both my husband and my son? Right now they are not talking which is very upsetting. Our son leaves in 3 weeks.”
This is a complex family circumstance (aren’t they all?) for several reasons:
- Your husband may be finding a way to make this inevitable separation easier for himself by stimulating conflict. It’s “easier” to watch someone go if you’re peeved.
- The UK is no safer or more dangerous than anywhere on the planet. Recent events, as sad as they are, give credence to your husband’s fears of facing his son’s departure.
- Heading off alone to London at 23 is a sure-fire way to become more completely educated. It’s a fabulous city that is bounding with opportunity.
I hope they make repair soon. Conflict face-to-face is tough enough. Stretching it across the oceans will make it even more intense.
March 22, 2017
I know, I know, it’s counter-intuitive
- Defining yourself, setting personal goals as if you are alone in this world, and getting your focus off others, will deepen your levels of connection and intimacy with others. Authentic intimacy is contingent upon the development of a secure self. To work on your Self – to set and achieve goals, to develop and new skills, – is not selfish. Not to do so, usually is.
- Freeing others of their debts to you (gross or trivial, real or imagined) will make you free. The resentments we love to collect poison our vision and taint all our relationships. Our resentments may be specific and targeted at one or a few people, but the emotional toxins they promote are generic and impact all of our relationships.
- All growth requires some loss and will probably elicit some grief no matter how much change is wanted or necessary. Men and women grieve the loss of even the worst of marriages and even the most abusive of circumstances. People become accustomed to the most trying of circumstances and will often grieve quite unexpectedly when those circumstances change.
- “Getting a life” outside of your children and “outside” of your marriage is (usually – there are often exceptions) good for you, your children, your spouse, and for your marriage.
As I said, it’s counter-intuitive….
“You and Me” is 16 years old this week. Thank you, readers.
March 14, 2017
It is not only some exotic insects that eat their young. I’ve seen parents do it quite regularly. It happened to my friend when we were boys. His mother ate him. She tried to eat me too but I got away. I ran as fast as I could and after I did that once she left me alone. After I ran away that first time I could visit without her making a meal out of me. She knew I knew what she was up to and furthermore, I knew she knew I knew. Before all this “knewing” gets ridiculous I know that because of what we both knew I knew, she didn’t like me much which was okay with me. If you don’t like someone very much you are unlikely to eat him. Knowing made me safe – which I think it usually does.
Mrs. RunAwayBunny (I call her that just for fun) didn’t eat her son all in one bite, it was just slow, steady mouthfuls. Every time he expressed a view that wasn’t also her view, he got tongue lashed. She chewed him out when he showed any desire for independence or if he laughed at anything she didn’t find funny. Then one day it finally happened, she swallowed him altogether. His pinkie toe of his left foot was my very last glimpse of the real him. All this adoration and love wasn’t very pretty.
Of course she “loved him to death” and because he was “so adorable” she could just “eat him up.” So she did. She did spit him out after a few days much like I imagined the whale regurgitated Jonah. Unlike Jonah, my friend stopped thinking, seeing, feeling, and speaking for himself. Something happened when he got swallowed up, I guessed it was getting so near to the womb he’d already left, that stopped him up or it was something to do with getting too much mother juice. She loved him into what she wanted, into seeing things through her eyes, and when he did, she thought these triumphs were remarkable signs of just how much he loved her. She measured his love by how much of him she could occupy even though it was “Mrs. RunAwayBunny” (I’m liking her name more and more and you’ll know why if you’ve read the story) who wanted to occupy him. If this confuses you now you must know how much it confused me then.
We still rode our bikes together and we sometimes still walked through the forest at the bottom of the yard but after she ate him and coughed him up like a cat and a hairball it was like riding my bike with her and walking through the forest with someone who was always careful and afraid. After she loved him to death he wouldn’t cross Blackburn Road when there was no traffic without being terrified.
Yes. One day, as I told you, and because she loved him so completely and she was always willing to sacrifice her needs for him, she ate the boy out of him altogether. I know. I was there. I watched it happen.
March 14, 2017
I ask a woman how her life is going and she tells me about her children. She’s very forthcoming. I hear about their failures and successes and their disappointments and their accomplishments in sports.
So I ask again how she is enjoying her life and she tells me about her children’s teachers and how dedicated they are and how they go the extra mile for her sons and how much she appreciates it and how happy her sons are at school.
I persist and ask her if she has any close friends and how much time she spends with her peers and she tells me how her sons’ friendships are a little disappointing to her and that sometimes they get left off birthday party lists and how much it hurts her when that happens and how she wishes adults were more sensitive to her children.
I ask the same woman who happens to also be a wife how she is enjoying her husband and she tells me they “work together” as parents and they are almost always on the “same page.”
I press in and ask the woman if she has a life outside of being a mom and she gives me that blank look as if I have no idea what I am talking about.
March 12, 2017
When it comes to my sons, I remind myself of these things:
- Their lives are larger at their ages than mine was at their ages. Of course, they’re starting late and the world is a very different place. Their platforms are more complex, and more dynamic than mine was and, I admit, I am somewhat limited in my ability to identify with it. This means I should not be taken aback when I am blinded to possibilities and experiences they see and want to embrace. Rejecting an idea or a possibility simply because I couldn’t envision it is a good way to widen a gap than is mine, and not theirs, to bridge.
- While the world is a very different place than it was in my formative years, some things remain unchanged. Good manners, using please and thank you, looking people in the eye, standing up for adults, dealing honestly with money and time, working hard, and displaying empathy in the face of those who are suffering – are values that cannot be discarded just because the world is faster paced than it once was. One of my jobs as a parent is to encourage, even enforce some of these things if necessary.
- I am enough for my sons and the only dad they will ever need.