Archive for June, 2018

June 13, 2018

Are you desperate?

by Rod Smith

If you are desperate, perhaps wondering if life is worth living or even contemplating ending yours, there are a few things I would like you to know:

  • You are more loved and treasured than you probably realize.
  • Your voice is your most powerful weapon. Let someone know about your experience.
  • You have abilities and talents you are yet to discover.
  • Your life is a novel worth writing.
  • If you are still breathing you have the capacity to love.
  • Even if you have encountered rejection and faced failure for most of your life you still have the capacity to forgive and to love. Both capacities come with the human package.
  • There are people who will listen if you let them know you want to talk.
  • You have probably already faced more demanding challenges so you do have the resources to face this one.

You are correct if you respond with, “He doesn’t know me” or “he’s thousands of miles away.” Being far removed does not mean that I do not care. And, I am not the only one who cares. Please, let these simple thoughts seep into your being and perhaps become stepping-stones for you to find hope.

June 12, 2018

Adoption

by Rod Smith

Things I’ve Learned – about adoption

I was approached by a woman who changed my life. She requested that I rear her unborn son as my own.

The rest, as it is said, is history.

Adoption is a beautiful institution. It’s as old as humanity and can be as enduring as the best and most powerful expressions of love. I find it impossible to believe that somehow I would love my children more were they biologically my children.

I think this kind of thinking is nonsense but you will meet it at many a turn.

Many people will insist on attaching “adopted” onto every mention of my children as if we all need constant reminders. I have learned to (usually) ignore this despite finding it quite amusing.

Children are quite comfortable talking about adoption, if the parents are. My sons freely tell people they are adopted and appear to have no idea that there was a time when people tended to keep such things secret. Our openness, of course, may be fostered somewhat by the fact that I am Caucasian and each of them is not.

In every adoption there is a set of biological parents and the adopted parent(s) – all are very powerful in the life of the child. Sometimes I feel that the absent parent wields greater influence than the parent who is present. Sometimes it feels the other way around.

These forces are not static.

Birth moms and dads usually remain intimately connected to the child even if they never see the child again. This is an invisible connection that defies distance and time, and, if the adopted parent tries to ignore this connection, or even extinguish it, the adoptive parent will learn about this connection the hard way.

Rather acknowledge it than try to deny it or get rid of it.

I had to immediately decide I was sufficient for the immediate (the nights, diapers, bottles, illnesses, teething, potty training, strollers, cribs) and long-haul (sports, school, homework, university, and so much else both expected and unexpected).

This was, I hope, not some arrogant assumption, but a decision that was and is essential to my survival.

It’s about faith, not self-sufficiency.

Who needs an insecure and unsure dad?

I had to decide that I was enough for each child.

While far from perfect, the role is mine and I was, and I am, and I will be equipped to play it.

I decided very early in the process that I would protect my children from behind. I would stand back so my sons would have to clear their own paths rather than my submitting to the pressure of going ahead and somehow doing life for them.

I believed and subsequently saw that parenting, nurturing, and knowing what to do would download into me in the manner software can be downloaded into a computer. I would have it (abilities, understanding, wisdom) whenever I needed it.

Given that my children are black I decided that at the slightest hint of racist attitudes or comments made by anyone ever in their circle of influence, I would remove my children from the ugliness no matter what the source of the bigotry.

This has (almost) never been necessary.

I resolved that each son’s future would always be in his own hands: that I’d offer each the very best of what I was capable but that ultimately the success of each (and potential failure) was always in each boy’s hands.

I decided I would focus on encouraging our strengths rather than spin my wheels trying to improve our obvious weaknesses.

I decided I would lead my children from my strengths and my love of adventure rather than through a coddling empathy or a misplaced sympathy that could emerge within them for having been adopted by a single man.

I knew I was taking on a mammoth task and that I was doing so alone. While the help and support and love of an immediate community and family has been irreplaceable and essential, I had to remind myself that if all was lost, if all were unavailable, if all ran for the hills, the joys and responsibility of rearing my children would remain mine and mine alone.

June 11, 2018

Are you whole?

by Rod Smith

The Mercury – Wednesday

Are you whole? What does whole look like in a person’s life? How does one know if one is?

I think it has everything to do with how we treat ourselves, treat others, and, and here’s a big one, how we permit others to treat us.

Doormats are as unwell as bullies, perhaps even combating similar issues.

Brokenness, weakness, vulnerability, and humility will be evident in a whole person – just as there will be the evidence of a strong backbone and an assertive voice.

Whole and pushover cannot co-exist.

To be whole is to be fully human, and the journey toward wholeness, the ever-incomplete journey, is often paved with pain.

He or she who is whole treats all others, despite rank, wealth, position or the lack of each, with mutuality, respect, and equality – and expects no less from all others.

The whole person welcomes ALL – shows hospitality to all, and is yet discerning when building potentially deep relationships.

The whole person appreciates his or her community and neither elevates nor underplays his or her place within a community. Whether the platform is an immediate family, whether the audience is a handful of neighbors or a fan club, the whole person understands that his or her wholeness is inextricably, inescapably linked to being part of others.

No one can be enduringly whole while cut off from community.

June 9, 2018

Giving children a fighting chance…..

by Rod Smith

The Mercury – Wednesday

Freely give your children a fighting chance… – note to self –

Let them off the hook of being the constant focus of your attention. Maintain a life that both includes and excludes them. Do this for the good of all. Parent your child for you child’s wellbeing, not for your own.

Babies need space. Build it into your daily parenting routine.

Children thrive with freedom. Structure hours of it. Make it as essential as healthy food.

Cramped, stifled, or smothered teens will demand opportunities for independence. If they don’t have it, they will kick against anything and anyone to get it. Tough as it may be, make freedom easy for your child so he or she never has to fight for it.

Young adults will flee, if it is necessary, to find the room to become self-sustaining and interdependent. Expect it. Welcome it. Facilitate it. Celebrate it. Do this and the inevitable journey of becoming fully adult will be as much a pleasure for you as it is for young adults.

It’s better to accommodate, facilitate, and celebrate, every person’s natural urge for space and freedom and autonomy, before it becomes a tug-of-war. Before it gets ugly. Before feelings are hurt and relationships are unnecessarily damaged.

June 9, 2018

Letter to teenagers

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Dear Teen:

Dear Teenager:

It is really possible to become a fully functioning adult without:

• Rejecting your parents’ deeply treasured and tested values;

• Resorting to the use of alcohol, drugs, or tobacco products;

• Resisting correction from those who are more experienced than you are;

• Replying with monosyllabic grunts when you are asked about your day or to help around the house;

• Rebelling.

You probably will reach adult age and be less than functional if you:

• Resist work and are given everything you need without having to earn it;

• Spend significant amounts of time on your phone and on social media;

• Demand things from your parents that you could earn yourself;

• Develop a secret life, one that you have to hide from your parents;

• Expect your parents to step in on your behalf if you’ve not met expectations at school and are made accountable for it.

Yes – you are right. Your parents and your teachers often make mistakes and imperfect adults surround you. Nonetheless, your keys to success will emerge, not through rebellion, but through hard work, remaining connected to those who have loved you your entire life, and by being open to learning from the adults who, despite their failings, remain committed to your magnificent future.

Rod Smith

June 7, 2018

Both must come to the table….

by Rod Smith

“I told you a little bit about friends and family that we have had to cut ties with over the years. Recently you have written about reconciliation in families. In our sad experience it always takes both parties to come to the table and if they don’t then it’s pointless. For three decades we’ve had to put up with verbal abuse, insinuations, insults, and then being completely ignored by a family member. How does one even begin to try and reconcile with such an obviously troubled, unstable, irrational, angry and downright nasty soul?” (Edited)

Reconciliation takes at least two people. If you have done your part in searching your soul and cleansing your heart and clearing a path toward estranged family members, and you are willing for reconciliation to occur, then you have done all you can do.

Forgiveness takes one person. You are able to forgive the person who has treated you in the manner you have described. I’d suggest you do so, for your sake, not for the sake of the “downright nasty soul.”

Reconciliation is always better than estrangements and tension; forgiveness is always better than resentment and anger.

There are times when reconciliation seems impossible.

June 7, 2018

Money…. a note to children and teenagers

by Rod Smith

A word to children and teenagers:

Save your money. Now. Save for the future and save in the future. The sooner you learn how powerful money is the better. It is one of several things that can make or break you. If you are careful now, if you get good advice now, you could be free to go anywhere in the world and do about anything you want within a fairly short space of time. Here’s the bottom line – bottom line is a financial term so I will keep the cliché: you have two choices – money works for you, or, you work for money.

Which would you prefer?

You will default to working for money unless you plan for money to work for you. Today is the time to decide. It is at this point in your life, while you yourself are debt free, that you have the choice. Money doesn’t like you to have freedom of choice. It takes its captives early. It takes its captives when they are as young as possible, and, of course, it keeps them as long as possible, preferring to complicate their lives even after death.  I am referring to money as if it is a powerful being.

I do this because it is.

 

Happiness and money

You will hear people say that money can’t buy happiness and other really tired clichés. You will observe that it is usually people who have neither money nor happiness that feel compelled to repeat this nonsense.

I am not suggesting for a moment that money makes people happy – but it is a lot nicer to have money if you are going to be unhappy.

Money won’t make an unhappy person happy, but the lack of it certainly doesn’t do much to enhance unhappiness.

Happy people are happy, rich or poor. There’s not enough money on the planet to make unhappy people happy. Their emotional condition does not have a price tag. It is not about money.

If you are good with money you could put into motion something so powerful and so long lasting that people generations from now could benefit.

You don’t believe me?

Look around your city and see how many buildings are named after people. These people were (usually) good with money. Or, you could let money rule you, and you could spend the rest of your life paying off credit cards and making bankers you will never know richer than they already are. They will go on lavish vacations in interesting places on the interest you are paying them. They will buy vacation homes at your expense. Is this what you want?

Save now. Your empire needs it.

June 1, 2018

When is it not a relationship?

by Rod Smith

The Mercury – Tuesday

When is a relationship not a relationship?

When the relationship feels like a game of chess and you have to constantly think ahead to outsmart your opponent – or be outsmarted.

When it’s conditional and the conditions include a list of whom you may or may not phone, text, or meet.

When what you choose to wear (clothing or makeup) becomes a source of friction.

When it involves dominance or control and your natural resistance to being controlled or dominated results in conflict and your commitment and your love is questioned.

When your whereabouts and your activities are monitored and you are expected to account for the use of your time, money, and mileage.

When you have to lie about visiting your family or your friends or have to deny that you crave spending time with others on the “outside” of the “relationship.”

When he or she just happens to show up – and your degree of joy and surprise is evaluated, but what is actually happening is your ability to be trusted is being assessed.

When you have to anticipate your partner’s needs, read his or her mind, anticipate his or her moods, and respond in a manner that makes him or her happy or feel loved.

When no matter how much you try to love, forgive, have fun, be serious, be carefree, be intimate, be unconditional in your love – it is NEVER enough.