Archive for February, 2019

February 28, 2019

Essential decisions for parents

by Rod Smith

By grace and grace alone:

  • No matter what the circumstances, I am equipped to handle the responsibility, challenges, and  the joy that comes with parenting. I am enough for my child.
  • My child is loaded with potential and sufficiently equipped for a full and meaningful life. I will respect my child’s freedom to explore his or her uniqueness and the giftedness that comes to each one of us with our humanity.
  • My life is as important as my child’s life, even though if it were necessary, I’d be willing to sacrifice everything for his or her well being. Unnecessarily sacrificing myself for my child’s sake is a cop-out and serves no one, especially not my child.  
  • Many people have overcome huge obstacles in the search of meaning and success and there’s no reason my child should not do the same. If, in my heart of hearts, I consider my child incapable of securing success, it is I, and not my child, who has to change.  
  • The earlier I allow trusted extended family, teachers, coaches, and life to do their respective parts in shaping my child, the better things will be for both for my child and for me.
  • The sooner my child understands that he or she really is “the architect” of his or her future, the better off we all will be.  
February 27, 2019

Rhino days…..

by Rod Smith

Some days a person needs double courage.

You have to face a tough audience or speak up at a difficult meeting, or address an inconsistency you see within your sphere of influence. Perhaps you have to deliver a tough message to a trusted employee or get yourself out of an intimate, complex, but uncomfortable circumstance.

These are what I call “rhino-courage days” and on such days I wear one of my several rhino ties.

If things are really challenging – on “double-courage-rhino-days” – and, to the amusement of some, I will even carry a little plush toy rhino in my pocket.

A friend calls them “paint-your-chest-blue days” with obvious allusion to the movie Braveheart. There have been times she would literally paint her chest blue before engaging in some struggles and it made her unstoppable.   

Steeling myself with playful rituals helps me engage my creative brain. It helps me to remember that I will not return evil for evil, that it is more important to be loving, kind, and assertive than it is to bully my way and be right. My playful rituals help me see the “big picture”, the larger war, rather than the nearest battle.

What do you do?

Please, let me know.

February 26, 2019

Reducing the power and the pain after divorce

by Rod Smith

Reducing the power and the pain of separation and divorce for children…..

1. Speak no ill of your former spouse or former in-laws and friends. No matter how right you may be or how wrong everyone else may be, your children will not benefit by being trapped your unresolved conflicts.

“It’s like my dad divorced our uncles, too,” said a child recently.

2. Talk to each other as friends, not enemies.

“I wish they could just be friendly to each other,” is something children of divorce have often say.

3. Be as flexible as possible with schedules without presuming upon your former spouse about anything.

“My dad doesn’t seem to think my mom’s job is important,” reflected a young boy of divorce.

4. Pay every penny on time as decreed or decided.

“They fight over money the most,” said a divorce-weary teen.

5. Don’t pry at all, but most importantly, don’t pry through the children.

“She asks me about my weekend but she really wants to know what he’s doing,” said a teen of her mother.

6. Plan ahead as much as possible so moving between homes can be done as efficiently as possible.

“The worst part? Going between homes. Not living in ONE place,” said the 12-year-old when asked about his parents’ divorce.

February 25, 2019

Breaking up is hard to do…….

by Rod Smith

I have had a ringside seat on romance lately. I recently hand-delivered a Valentine card for a man in his nineties to his Valentine in the care facility where they live and I watched my son (16) shop for 2 hours for the right card and right gift and finally spend all of $12.00. In past years when I worked in a private school I watched children write sweet cards to their classmates.

It’s the break ups I’d like to weigh in on.

The same sweet children could be rather brutal when it came to moving on and we all have at least a few horrendous stories of lousy adult breakups. If you are 11 or 19, 85 or 100 and no longer want to be dating:

  • If you have to break up do it face-to-face and not via text or a third party.
  • Say something and don’t just disappear.
  • Don’t blame the other party or point fingers.
  • Take responsibility for the reasons you want the break up and leave it at that.
  • During the face-to-face showdown try to recall at least one good memory you will treasure.
  • Be kind – it really is possible to end things well.
  • Remember that how you break up or terminate any relationship is a window into your character – keep it clean.
February 22, 2019

The heathy student

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Tuesday

The Healthy Student

• Doesn’t appear to be hiding from adults or peers – he or she is somewhat of an “open book” with a focus on the somewhat

• Shares openly with others but not necessarily easily with parents – the journey toward interdependence will often seem to exclude parents for brief periods

• Seeks out the company of others – he or she is a vibrant part of a community of peers

• Is readily included in social invitations but is not derailed if not – he or she does not over-personalize omissions or being apparently overlooked

• Is not overly sensitive but is rich in empathy – he or she is more caring for others than seeks the care of others

• Learns to be organized and sees its benefits – he or she has seen that life and its demands get more complex and requires more planning than at younger ages

• Is wide awake and ready to engage life at some time of each day – and it is not necessarily in the morning

• Has a few really close friends but is comfortable being alone – when he or she is alone the time is not spent feeling left out or excluded.

February 21, 2019

Enjoying your humanity

by Rod Smith

Here are just a few of many reasons for us to fully enjoy our humanity:

  • We have second, third, fifth, and seventh (and often many more) chances at almost everything. We can start over, try again, we can embrace opportunities in order to succeed where we have formerly failed.
  • We have the capacity to identify beauty everywhere. No matter where we are, and no matter who we are with, there is beauty. It’s in people, all people, and in surroundings, all surroundings. It’s in the eye and the heart of the beholder and available for the person who is open to seeing and enjoying it.  
  • We have the capacity to plan, dream, and imagine, and therefore we have the power to shift trends and move things into a place that is better than what we may have known in the past and be experiencing in the present. While it may be limited, we have power over our own lives.
  • We have the capacity to give and to receive love, support, forgiveness, and to extend kindness to others even when it appears undeserved.
  • We have the capacity to experience and express gratitude and therefore be agents of grace both to ourselves and to those around us.


February 20, 2019

There are many ways to say I love you….

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Friday – there are many ways to say, “I love you…..”

Other ways to say I love you:

Speak to me. I am listening. Nothing will change how I feel about you. I won’t interrupt you, or finish your sentences, not even in my head. I will do everything necessary to understand your point of view. I will ask you for necessary clarification.

I want to love you more than you have ever been loved. Sharing life with you is thrilling. I am interested in (almost) everything that interests you. I want to be the most generous, most understanding person you know. I will make time for you.

The years ahead will be more exciting than the years we have already enjoyed. You give meaning to the ordinary tasks of life. I trust you. I treasure you. Let’s turn off our phones and talk for a few hours. Tell me what you need. Tell me what you want. Don’t be afraid to ask. It’s important that I understand whatever may be troubling you. I’ll support you if you want to get more education.

I love how independent you are. I know you cannot read my mind. I will work very hard at telling you what I am thinking and feeling. I am listening. Speak to me.

February 18, 2019

Young men, read at your own peril

by Rod Smith

The Mercury, Expanded / read at your own peril

Dear Teenage and Young Adult Men:

First: It won’t surprise me if you think I have nothing to teach you. This sentiment often comes with youth. There was a time when I too knew everything. Nonetheless, I hope you will learn willingly, before life forces its necessary lessons upon you as it most surely will.

Second: I do not address you because of my successes. Rather, it is because of my failures. I write from painful experience, as one who has needed a lot of forgiveness from many people. I write because, at your age, I was unavailable for correction or learning.

Third: There are controversial points up ahead, and so if you are easily offended, stop now. Read no further. This is especially true if you are religious.

Here goes:

1. Combat deceit. Treat it like a mortal enemy. Tell the truth. Your masculinity is most clearly demonstrated when you are true to yourself and lovingly truthful to others. Being a “real” man is not measured in or how far you can kick or throw or hit a ball. A “real” man is a truthful man.

2. Find people to whom you can really talk. Look first for this in your parents. If there’s a hindrance, some blockage, that seems to prevent this, work doubly hard at removing your side of it. I know it’s not always comfortable to let a parent in on your life, but you do want to be exceptional, don’t you? Exceptional ALWAYS begins with the people closest to you. If this is impossible to achieve with a parent, get yourself “outside” mentors. Pay for this if you must. It’s worth it.

3. Chase a fine education. The harder you work NOW and the more education you get NOW, the more options you will have later in life. The less you plan NOW, the more free time you have NOW, the fewer options and the less free time you will have later – when you really need it.

4. Understand that there’s more to life than sport – watching it, playing it, and winning. If winning costs your integrity, rather lose. Scores come and go. Reputations stick. Playing sport supposedly develops character. This is hardly evident if you look at the lives of many professional athletes. Crave good character, not wealth or fame. Wealth and fame are fleeting. Integrity is not.

5. There’s more to relationships than what you can get. If you focus on what you can give, how you can serve, how you can improve yourself – as opposed to seeing how you can triumph over others, you will pave your own way to a life of deep fulfillment. No one can love and control the same person. While I am unsure this is possible, try to get rid of your jealousies before you fall in love.

6. No matter how rich or poor you are, or where ever you live there are seven major INTERNAL battles you will inevitably face – beat them (more than they beat you) and you’ll probably “win” at life. Lose repeatedly at one, even one, and life will be an uphill battle for you for a very long time:

(a) The urge to be deceitful (covered above).

(b) The urge to steal (time, money, or credit for things you did not do).

(c) The urge to use others (which of course includes pornography).

(d) The urge to use illegal substances or over-the-counter drugs (even those that help you stay up and study).

(e) The urge to spend more money than you have.

(f) The urge to blame anyone or anything for how things or you are.

(g) The urge to think life or someone “owes” you something (entitlement).

Resist these urges while you are young. Get used to them – regard them as “default struggles” since not one goes away permanently.

7. If you run in Church circles, you are going to hear a lot of veiled talk about the horrors and dangers of masturbation. The western church, it appears, is somewhat obsessed with this topic while apparently lesser matters like equity in society, world hunger, the voice of women, and human trafficking fall off the radar screen of many Western churches. Relax. You are no more capable of escaping the love of God by ANYTHING you EVER do or don’t do than you are cable of emptying the oceans of all water with a teaspoon. Anxiety and guilt over masturbation are far more damaging to your spiritual life than the act will ever be. Besides, the Will and the Love of God are Infinitely more Resilient than your natural urges. Don’t let your youth leaders guilt you into thinking you’ll ruin your future or damage the Will of God by anything you do or don’t do – it’s hogwash. Relax.

7. Engage in meaningful causes greater than your own comforts, pleasures, and security, and you’ll be amazed at how little of your time will be spent on the trash that occupies your entitled, self-obsessed peers.

Peace. May you be more available to guidance than I was at your age.

Rod Smith

February 17, 2019

A sort of emotional jet-lag

by Rod Smith

I had a rather odd experience a few days ago. We were snowed in and I was somewhat caught up with my housekeeping and bookkeeping (tax-time is looming) and the laundry was all done and folded – no ironing in this house, we don’t even have an iron, and Nate (16) was in his room downstairs and Thulani (20) was at university some 60Ks away.

And, it came over me. I began to miss my sons, both of whom were very reachable. One so near I could hear his TV.

I was missing an era. I was missing times when they were both on top of me, getting in my way. I was missing their running all over the house, chasing each other. I was missing their rapid shift from fast friends to seeming enemies they had mastered and how they’d immediately make up as soon as I tried to play peacemaker.

I was missing the early years; the baby years, toddler years, and it all seemed to hit me at once, a kind of emotional jet-lag taking its toll.

Oh, I love them exactly as they are. I want them to be exactly where they are.

But something deep inside was longing for what was.

If something similar ever occurs with you, please describe it in a email.

I’d love to know.

February 16, 2019


by Rod Smith

The Mercury – Wednesday / Pitfalls of Leadership / No matter who you are or what you lead…..

• Using your role and influence for personal gain or for matters unrelated to your position as a leader. These can be as “innocent” as using your influence for premier seating on planes or thinking you’re too important to wait in lines. The minute you use your role outside of its scope you create “us and them” and you will begin to lose the heart of your constituents.

• Believing that somehow you are above or superior to others and seek to be served an honored rather than seeking to serve others and honor your constituents. When you do this you may get temporary obedience but you will never have the heart of your constituents.

• Believing you are owed more than the joy that’s imbedded in leading anything at all. This shows you are leading for selfish reasons.

• Manipulating people and groups by being aloof when it serves you and being vulnerable and connected when it serves you. “Playing” people in this manner confuses your constituents and will create unwanted resistance when and where you don’t need it.

• Elevating people “beneath” you into a special or private conversations and ignoring others who occupy similar status within your hierarchy. This kind of power-play will come back to haunt you.