Archive for ‘Blended families’

April 30, 2017

Ten reasons talk therapy ought have a warning label:

by Rod Smith

The therapist may:

  • expose you to several new perspectives on your life and the experience may lead you to significant change
  • have guts enough to show you how you may be thinking and behaving like a victim and the experience may lead you to change
  • strip you of your God-talk and your handy clichés to the point where you really meet yourself and encounter the divine
  • show you how you fit into a network of family and friends and how you may be resisting your legitimate place in that network.
  • ignore your focus on your weaknesses and help you to capitalize upon your strengths
  • insist that you create new orbits no matter how entrenched you may be
  • help you get your focus off the endless task of trying to make unhappy people happy
  • stir the lion within you until you see the fruitlessness of accommodating poor treatment from anyone
  • expose you to the joy of being out of control while keeping the rules all at the same time
  • show you how your future may be brighter than your past if you embrace the courage to plan and to implement what you really want.
April 30, 2017

My sister is caught up with her son

by Rod Smith

“My sister changes plans on me all the time because of her son (4). We will make a plan to meet and then it gets cancelled because the child had a tantrum. I wouldn’t think this was an issue but it has been repeated many times. This is really testing my patience. If we do meet she brings him with her when we have lunch but we cannot talk because he takes so much of her attention. It’s so bad my boyfriend won’t come with anymore. I just want one time when we can talk like it used to be. Is this too much to ask?”

It’s not too much to ask but you may never get what you are looking for.

Your sister’s relationship with her son will probably always trump her relationship with you. She’s his mother; she’s your sister. If she really is too caught up in mothering then that is not news she will probably be open to hearing from you.

Declare your wants. Do it kindly. Do it clearly. Then, understand that your sister will place what she determines as the needs of her child above the needs of her sister.

Join her; love your nephew, rather than attempt to compete with him.

April 24, 2017

My observations of Adult Children of Alcoholics

by Rod Smith
  • They (we) tend to mistrust relationships – from casual to intimate.
  • Relationships are about winning or losing, about using or being used.
  • Mistrust trust – they (we) are suspicious of you if you trust them and suspicious of you if you don’t.
  • They (we) are experts in the “double bind” meaning that no matter which option you choose, it is the “wrong” option.
  • They (we) are constantly on duty and have little or no conception of what it means to let go, to relax, and to live with some abandon.
  • They (we) assume there’s always a hidden agenda.
  • They (we) misread authentic innocence and regard it as a cover designed to pull them in.

To succeed in a casual or intimate relationship with an adult child of an alcoholic persistence and patience are essential. They are likely to test the validity of the relationship time and time again. They are going to put roadblocks in the way and will sabotage any meaningful connection to test if it is real.

In the extreme adult children of alcoholics replicate the chaos of their childhoods in order to replicate the discomfort and the mistrust that was their normal.

Please use this column wisely – it is not intended as a means of judging or hurting anyone.

April 22, 2017

Monday meditation / Nine simple truths

by Rod Smith

Nine simple truths –

May they be your first thoughts every morning and may they infiltrate your every move and every relationship:

I am….

  • To be respected and treasured and able to respect and treasure all other people.
  • Capable of expressing my opinions and will do so with growing and greater confidence.
  • Uniquely gifted and my gifts are useful to my immediate and broader community.
  • As unique as the proverbial snowflake and yet part of the human family, tainted with its vulnerabilities, failures, and frailties.
  • Capable of forgiving the worst of offenses I have endured, and capable of seeking forgiveness for the worst offenses I have committed.
  • Able to encourage the discouraged and offer hope to the hopeless.
  • Unafraid of the talents of others and able and willing to help others find their greatness.
  • Capable of becoming the most generous person I know.
  • My own best friend so that I may be a friend to others.
April 17, 2017

No matter how highly functional or not, here are some family challenges worthy of pursuit:

by Rod Smith

Talk about what you would like to do more as a family and what would we prefer to do less as a family. The list may include monumental challenges that take years to address. The list may include things that can be changed in an instant.

Talk about what you would each like to do more, and less, as individuals in the family. As above, some may be really easy and some may take seemingly forever.

Plan something meaningful and unusual (“off the charts”) that the family agrees to work toward. This may be a trip, a building project, or entering as a family into a race.

Discuss (according to age, ability, and appropriateness) topics that are usually taboo like death, sex, finances, and family secrets. Discuss why they are taboo in the first place. When and why and how did the secret become a secret. Who decides what is and what is not a secret?

Consult a professional who is able to construct a Genogram with your family. Request that it span three generations. This will (potentially) alert family members to troublesome trends and urges that pre-exist within the family system and therefore (potentially) equip members to face them if and when they emerge again. Nothing in families is new!

April 10, 2017

The parenting challenge continues….

by Rod Smith

Finding the delicate balance between knowing, being aware, and invading or conquering.

My teenage sons deserve private lives that are quite separate from me. Yet, they need me to be knowledgeable about their difficulties, their confusions, and some of their discomforts. I’ve noticed that when I am comfortable with my own life, my relationships, with setting and achieving my goals, I am quite relaxed about theirs. When I am discontent with my own life I tend to want to meddle with, or invade, or fix their lives.

Finding the balance between serving my sons and letting them do necessary tasks without my help.

I usually do the laundry – but both boys are fully capable of doing their own. When I do it for them I am happily serving them and they are grateful and we are all happy with what is mostly an unspoken arrangement. When my sons are annoyed or picky about the way I do the laundry (and this is quite rare) then they have lost their grateful edge and have moved into entitlement and expectations. At this point my help is not very helpful.

May our struggles in our home, as different as they may be from yours, inspire and encourage you.

April 9, 2017

The company you keep…..

by Rod Smith
  • Embrace people who believe in you. Seek out the men and women who are in your unofficial support group and spend your effort in their direction. It is necessary and acceptable that you define your boundaries with men and women who pull you down and who try to minimize or ridicule your contribution to your family, your work-place, or your broader community. Be cordial, be kind, to such people but limit the power you give to people who denigrate you.
  • Embrace people who have a vision for their own lives. The more you can rub shoulders with people who are “going places” and are invested in building their futures, the greater the likelihood that you will get caught up in similar healthy habits. Drainers and downers and doubters are easy to spot but often harder to avoid. Disillusioned people love a target and are especially attracted to bringing happy and motivated people into their fold.
  • Invest or reinvest in a cause bigger and more meaningful than simply enhancing your family and yourself. There is so much need and suffering everywhere and you are fully capable of reducing some of both for people in your immediate environment.
March 29, 2017

High and low functioning

by Rod Smith
  • Lower functioning people require more and more control.
  • Higher functioning people want greater levels of freedom for all.
  • Lower functioning people place obstacles (hurdles, doubts, misgivings) in the way of those who are higher functioning often without even knowing it.
  • Higher functioning people know that self-definition and acts of strong leadership will face resistance in the form of doubts and misgivings from those who are less inclined to grow.
  • High functioning people want mercy and justice and equity for all even if it means great personal cost.
  • Lower functioning people operate out of a desire for revenge or to “teach them a lesson.”
  • High functioning people do not regard themselves as victims while lower functioning people arrange their lives and often their livelihood around victimhood.
  • The person who wants a relationship the most (any relationship) shifts the balance of power into the hands of he or she who wants it least.
  • Every time a person wants to do something great or adventurous or thrilling someone will try to put a stop to it.
  • Grace and forgiveness and generosity are among the most powerful forces of change in any family or community and the one who embraces them immediately increases his or her level of functioning.
March 15, 2017

Things I have learned from being a solo parent with my sons almost 19 and 15:

by Rod Smith
  • The children are seldom the issue – it’s earning a living, running a household, and keeping it all going that is the constant challenge.  When the children are very young it’s quite acceptable to let the household chores remain undone if the trade off is time to be with the children.
  • Trying to be both dad and mom is a fruitless and impossible pursuit – many a successful person has emerged from a solo parent family and trying to do the impossible will ensure failure. This said, there’s a mother and a father in us all and children get what they need despite our failings.
  • Getting beyond the “guilt” or the remorse attached to children who have one parent is best done as early as possible. It’s amazing just how resilient children are and how, what others consider unusual, is absolutely normal for my sons.
  • Staying out of the middle of as much as possible has been a real boon – letting my children deal with their teachers, their conflicts, without my interference has compelled them to advocate for themselves and to see just how capable and powerful they (and all people) really are.
March 14, 2017

Mrs. Run Away Bunny

by Rod Smith

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.