Archive for ‘Blended families’

January 18, 2018

Yes, No: teaching both….

by Rod Smith
Teaching children “yes” and “no” is, in my mind, as important as teaching a child how to read, write, and to count.

I want my sons, according to their respective ages, to…

  • Say YES to opportunities even if they involve risk or if they involve venturing into the unknown, learning new things, and breaking unhelpful habits.
  • I want them to say YES especially if the opportunities involve meeting new people and people other than those with whom they’d usually mix.
  • Say YES to opportunities to travel, to serve, and to build and to assist in mending broken places.
  • Say YES to reading new ideas and to writing responses to them.
  • Say YES when they encounter opportunities to offer hospitality.
  • Say NO to toxic secrets, to behavior that judges or excludes others.
  • Say NO to religious teachings that limit their capacities for generosity and for freedom.
  • Say NO to anything that will potentially delay their formal education no matter how appealing or adventurous the idea may be.
  • Say NO to those who disrespect them or encourage them to treat the adults around them with anything less than utmost respect and close-to-perfectly good manners.
  • Say NO to those who dismiss their ideas and who treat them as a means toward their disclosed or undisclosed ends.
January 10, 2018

When your parents tell you they will be divorcing*

by Rod Smith
  • You may not be able to think about anything because such news can be like a powerful anesthetic. Do not be surprised if you feel dizzy and your thoughts and feelings jump around inside you. This may last for a while. You will settle into the new truth about your life and new routines.
  • Your parents will probably tell you they still love you and each other. Try to believe it. This can be very confusing. Parents can often forget they are finishing something they started as adults. They’ve had lives without each other before you came along. It can feel like you are losing everything because you’ve never known life to be any other way. For you love, security, and feeling safe are all wrapped in one package. The package always included both parents. Their change shifts everything about your life.
  • Now that you’ve been told, don’t be surprised if you think you are the only one who did not know it was coming. Your world is the only one you know. This was how you thought life was supposed to be.
  • Many young people create successful lives even though their parents divorced. Decide to do the same.

*Written to 13 and 14 year old

December 26, 2017

The doldrums are for planning…

by Rod Smith

I call these few days between Christmas and New Year the doldrums. They’re a breather: a time to drift between calendar high points. I get nostalgic. I experience strong elements of necessary regret as I wait for the promise of the new calendar year to kick in.

I am always reminded:

  • Integrity, honesty, kindness, forgiveness, and reconciliation – all captured by the word holiness, is local. By “local” I mean immediate and with the people with whom I share every day life.
  • If it (idea, principle, program) doesn’t work right here, now and with this family member, neighbor, colleague, it’s worthless.
  • All worthwhile positive change is first internal – the outward follows the inward. It may be convenient to switch this – thinking the inward follows the outward – but doing so is a waste of time.
  • It is possible for people to regard each other with deep, authentic respect but it is impossible without commitment to profound listening. All love begins and is demonstrated with listening and listening takes commitment and time.
  • Things are not fair or reasonable or kind while one party is gaining or advancing at the expense of another.

Please, let me know the things you think about as you prepare for your year ahead. I know we can learn from each other – it just takes a commitment to listening.

December 13, 2017

Definition of family…..

by Rod Smith

When my first born was a few days old a woman whom I had known for a few years, and was really well-meaning, arrived at my house and suggested I give the baby to a real family.

Her understanding of the context and reason my son’s birth mother choose me to be his (solo) parent was very limited. While the immediate (minimal) shock and pain of that encounter has long worn off (and healed), the exchange – which happened to be the first of many strange or unexpected encounters – did give me what I believe to be a greater acuteness or awareness of what it is that makes a group of people family.

I’d really like to hear your views. Here are a few of mine. A family:

  • Is a place where people are most often related by marriage or blood but often they are not.
  • Is a place where people, who usually share space (but not always), are enduringly committed to each others highest good even if and when the highest good is painful and costly.
  • Is a platform where people can express their differences without being alienated or made to feel bad or wrong for expressing or embodying differences.
  • Is a place where members feel safe (mostly) and when they don’t (feel safe) they can say so and someone in the family will listen and hear and try to understand.
  • It’s a place where, if someone doesn’t feel safe and says so, the person who listens and hears will be able to help discern if feeling unsafe or unsure is appropriate. The process of growing and learning can be very unsettling and feeling unsettled can lead to increasing feelings of vulnerability.
December 3, 2017

Ego rush

by Rod Smith

You’ve heard about an adrenalin rush. I’ve seen ego rush. I see it in in groups, teams, and in classrooms. I detect it rumbling in me. Perhaps it’s natural and part of survival.

Symptoms of an ego rush occurring:

  • Authentic conversation – the give and take and the sharing and building on ideas of others – seems impossible. It’s verbal arm-wrestling or nothing.
  • Perceived insults, rebuffs, refusals, or dismissals are stored. They lurk in awareness, crouched for attack when the timing is right.
  • What a person knows must be known and he or she will nudge and provoke until you share his or her belief in his or her superiority.
  • The ego will win by winning or it will win by losing but humility and backing down are not options.
  • Actual loss, perceived as humiliation, is temporary – a matter of perception. The “loser” will circle around and get even.
  • Everything spins around hierarchy and real engagement, the wrangling, is delayed until the hierarchy is figured out.
  • Conversations are calculated and are a means to advance an undisclosed agenda.
  • The presence of authentic humility escapes or confuses those caught up in the ego rush as much as witnessing or trying to engage in a conversation using a totally foreign language.
November 30, 2017

Toward being more human

by Rod Smith

When referring to my brother’s generosity I wrote that I believe generosity is among several of the most powerful human abilities. I’ve seen it time and again do its fabulous work.

Here are more of what I believe to be innate human capacities.

Exercised, they make us “more human.” Neglected or ignored, I believe they render us rather cold, even inhuman:

  • The capacity to forgive even the most grievous offenses – yes, of course it’s hard, but NOT doing so may be even harder.
  • The capacity for empathy – to see and understand, but of course, not necessarily agree with, the perspective of another, even that of an enemy.
  • The capacity to influence for good (and, to influence for ill is bundled within the same set of human strengths). We have the power to influence – let’s hope it is used for good.
  • The capacity to learn from mistakes and errors, and to learn that it is possible to not repeat them.
  • The capacity to move up the brain and therefore allow ones self to think more objectively, engage in better long-term planning, and form the habit of responding rather than reacting.
  • The capacity to listen more than to speak. If we listen we may actually learn something – when we speak we are usually repeating what we think we already know.
  • The capacity to calm the ego rush – or the ability to see and understand that being right or recognized or winning doesn’t come close to the joy of learning to be loving.
November 16, 2017

Lessons: what is life teaching you?

by Rod Smith

What is the year teaching you? Please, reflect and let me know. Here are a few things I am learning afresh and re-learning:

  • Trust broken is hard to restore. My experience is that forgiveness can restore broken trust but the ability to trust again can take a long time to restore. This is especially so with close friendships and infidelity in marriage.
  • No one is more important than anyone else. To be intimidated by another is a waste of opportunity and energy. Yes, we all have different roles. We are afforded a variety of degrees of power and responsibility that come with our varying roles, but using that power to lord it over another is the surest indication that the power is in the wrong hands.
  • Some individuals are so significantly hurt that the real person has disappeared behind shame, regret, and pretense. The defense has become the identity. The vulnerable person inside died a very long time ago and, sadly, will probably never be known.
  • Ignored conflicts and family issues that are unaddressed will remain and usually grow. The issues may change shape, may go into hiding, may remain latent for decades – but they will surface and get necessary attention.
November 7, 2017

Anxiety – chronic and situational

by Rod Smith

If you find yourself identifying with the chronic list I would strongly urge professional help. Please, if you use my list at all, use it for yourself, and not to identify others.

Two kinds of anxiety: chronic and situational

Chronic:

  • You worry and you don’t know why – it’s generic and floating; it’s not connected to anything specific.
  • You worry even when things are going well – there are times when you worry about having nothing to worry about.
  • You worry as a way of life – when people tell you they are not in a state of constant concern you think they are surely in denial.
  • You worry about everyone you love and regard the amount of worry as proportional to the depth of your love.
  • The rumbling feeling of anxiety feels like it is deep inside you and has lived in you for as long as you can remember – it’s as if you were born with it or it came from another life.

Situational:

  • You are facing an examination, a tough conversation, or an important interview. You know the tension will ease once you get started or once the trial is over. Your worry is attached to something real and when that is dealt with the worry will ease and then be gone.

 

November 6, 2017

(Extended) Family leadership

by Rod Smith

Every extended family (usually) has the need for a leader or leaders. He or she may vary as needs and issues change. The role may be offered through covert means – a sort of passive pressure – or readily announced and openly assumed.

That person may be required to:

  • Initiate meetings and facilitate conversations where there has been a falling out.
  • Empower family members to take a hard and loving stand against cruel or harsh treatment at the hands of another member of the family or even someone outside of it.
  • Go first – and be the first person in the family to travel or to go to university or to branch off into an area of interest or study that no one in the family has done before.
  • Go back, and visit childhood places and long-lost relatives and to hear the family stories that may have never be heard.
  • Demonstrate grace, generosity, and forgiveness in a family that may have for many years traded in selfishness, resentment, and judgment.
  • Speak well and kindly of those family members who for whatever reason have been rejected by some members of the same family and be willing to reach out to them in order to draw them back into the fold.

 

If it is you, may you have the courage and the wisdom to exercise your calling.

October 22, 2017

Monday confessions

by Rod Smith

Of course I cannot do all of the following – but reading them through each day helps set my daily trajectory, especially on a Monday. My ardent hope is that reading this list will do the same for you:

  • I will be proud of my behavior when I review it at the end of the day.
  • I will take full responsibility for my actions while anticipating that others might not do the same.
  • I will pay my way, live within my means, and seek and act on opportunities for generosity.
  • I will be kind no matter what.
  • I will seek to be as low maintenance as possible.
  • I will try to know the difference between what are my responsibilities and what are not, with the understanding that some things are everybody’s responsibility.
  • I will give others the benefit of the doubt.
  • I will allow people to escape their reputations even if their reputations are well earned.
  • I will speak up about what I want or don’t want so that others, even those very close to me, will not have to spend any energy guessing or interpreting my behavior.
  • I will remain out of control and unpredictable; I will break my own rules and habits without hurting anyone and without damaging any treasured relationship.