Archive for ‘Boundaries’

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 17, 2018

Is your child a genius? If so……

by Rod Smith

It has struck me time and again how the genius within some of the children and youth I encounter will probably never be unearthed. So much is done for them, so much is given to them, so much focussed parenting, there’s no hunger (I don’t mean food) to be satisfied. If you want your child to discover and develop and use his or her latent genius you may want to:

  • Stop solving every issue that comes his way for him. Lasting lessons are learned and skills are developed when children have real problems to solve.
  • Allow “clean pain” – the kind that comes with growing up, making mistakes, and trying new things.
  • Get out of the way so she can really explore new territories of thought and experience. It’s very likely your daughter will go “beyond” you and the earlier it starts, the better. Provide the platform; allow her to write the script.
  • Allow him to be as different and unusual as he wants. “Well-balanced” and well-rounded” people who “fit in” are very unlikely to do great things or at least discover new things. If you see your son being “sharp-edged” and investing a lot of time in a singular area of interest you may have a budding genius on your hands.

 

January 15, 2018

This arrived over the weekend….

by Rod Smith

“Today is the 1st anniversary of discovering that my lady friend had been having an affair over the previous month with a fast-talking operator who is half my age. She told me it was over, a mere a flash in the pan for which she felt neither remorse nor regret.

“The revelation was devastating and reduced me to an emotional wreck. Over the next two months I was almost suicidal and had to seek professional help. I still loved her; I attempted to recover with the assistance of a therapist and researched depression and heartbreak. I lurched from one temporary separation to the next but was always so pleased to reconcile that it seemed the hurt was receding. That was until the next crisis surfaced.

“Then I read your column on forgiveness and experienced a wonderful epiphany. Suddenly I realized that I was punishing myself for actions for which I was not responsible. A huge cloud lifted and healing began. Today, a year later, I have absolutely no painful memories of the incident, feel rejuvenated and bear no resentments.

Thank you so much for your advice.”

 

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

January 10, 2018

Pocket reminders

by Rod Smith
  • Please, say please, thanks, and thank you in every interaction.
  • Make eye contact with everyone you meet.
  • Resist multitasking when you are talking to people – even if you’re talking on the phone.
  • Return calls and text messages. Don’t ignore people.
  • Apologize when an apology is necessary and don’t do it just for show.
  • Don’t drop sales people or estate agents who have helped you without announcement or explanation.
  • Be nice to all people even if you don’t get what you want from them and even if they are unpleasant to you. Your behavior always reflects on you no matter what the context.
  • Open doors for people. You are very unlikely to lose by helping someone else win.
  • Stand back – let others go ahead of you.
  • Listen very well; assume nothing; people everywhere are struggling with something or with other people. Your listening ear may become a lifeline to a total stranger.
January 9, 2018

On a personal note….

by Rod Smith

I cashed in frequent traveller awards and sent son (19) to Northern Ireland for ten days. This is third solo international trip. He handles it like the seasoned traveller he is. We’ve made it practice not to communicate much when we’re apart. I recall the tension I knew as a younger man knowing my parents were waiting to hear from me and so we shelved that expectation years ago. He knows how to find me if he needs me and I can track him in an instant if necessary.

While he has been away the weather has somewhat dictated that my younger son (15) and I spend quite a lot of time together cooped up in a snow-bound house. With the one so very close and the other so far away, I have enjoyed this brief, concentrated time.

I’ve learned:

Even cool, tall, and tough fifteen-year-old basketball players enjoy being the only young man in the house, sometimes. We haven’t talked that much, but quietness and togetherness has its own rewards.  It’s been beautiful.

The boys get what they need no matter where they are – with or without me.

“I love it here, dad, but I can’t wait to get home,” is a message he just sent from Belfast.

 The airport run tonight will be a joy. 

January 7, 2018

Music within — or not? ….. It gets in the way of hearing and loving

by Rod Smith

I have written frequently about listening as a tangible gift of love. Please ponder the following as you exercise your listening skills and grow in this love-skill:

We cannot hear others more than we are willing to hear ourselves. Until I am willing to hear from myself – which means decipher my emotional pains, discern what my daydreams may mean (if anything at all), acknowledge and de-code painful memories and secret longings, face my darker secrets – the noise within my own life will keep me from accurately hearing others.

While I refuse to, or cannot hear myself, your voice will have to compete with my discordant soundtrack.

This is why we “hear what we want to hear” and hear what is not being said. We hear what fits with our unfinished, ignored, or aching symphony. Gosh, I didn’t mean to be quite so dramatic!

It’s a fallacy to think that we have to master our own lives – or successfully expel the discordant soundtrack (to continue the metaphor) before we can really love by listening. That day is unlikely to come for any of us.

Listening to our own inner-music, allowing it to speak to us, embracing it, making peace with it, helps clear the way and empowers us to really hear others.

January 2, 2018

I am my first reader….

by Rod Smith

If you want a more spiritual 2018 do the following….

  • Tell the truth with love and with kindness. Truth may be brutal but you don’t have to be.
  • Pay your debts and pledges. If you cannot be honest about why declare your plan about how you will.
  • Be kind to everyone, especially those who serve you, annoy you, and those you have somehow misunderstood as being “below” you. None of us is above or below anyone.
  • Seek mutuality, equality, and respect in every relationship. If any of these qualities is missing from any relationships delve into why it is so and fix it. Fixing it may involve humility and courage. Be assured, both are good for you.
  • Define yourself before someone else does. This does not necessitate confrontation, but it may.
  • Take hold of your life, finances, and habits before someone else has to. Remember spiritualty is measured in how you handle money and what you do with it.
  • Join or create a community of equals. Stay with it even when, and especially when, it may become uncomfortable.
  • If your faith or religion has made you hard and certain and rigid find a new church.

Please, dear reader, know that I am my first reader, my first audience. I write what I need to hear.

December 28, 2017

Last column of the year…..

by Rod Smith

The next time we “see” each other in the newspaper it will be 2018!

It’s 28C in the Durban area and negative 13C in Indianapolis as I write.

We did have a white Christmas.

Distance, weather, and many gross and subtle cultural differences separate me from you, but writing “You and Me” for all these years and getting loads of mail, has served to connect me to you and hopefully you to me.

This column will begin it 17th year in March 2018. By grace alone its impact has spread from the Mercury to a loyal and growing readership in about 160 nations.

Thank you Mercury readers. Thank you Mercury leadership and administration.

You have helped me write myself well (or at least well-er) and afforded me a platform to reach lots of people.

May you all have a happy and safe New Year.

In closing for 2017:

Yesterday I referred to my father’s idiom, Don’t carry your fish in a violin case. It stimulated questions.

Allow me illustrate:

In 1994 my dad and I visited a bookstore in Indianapolis where he saw a sign announcing “Books by the Yard (meter)”. It dawned upon him that people buy impressive looking books for show.

“That,” my boy, he said, “is carrying fish in a violin case.”

December 27, 2017

Guiding idioms…..

by Rod Smith

Monkey’s wedding; buite blink; binne stink; and boer maak a plan are terms I frequently use around here. Here being the Midwest of the USA and about as far removed from where those terms originate as possible. Life is beautiful; life is brutal I coined quite some time ago when I saw the principle working in my sons’ lives. Don’t carry your fish in a violin case echoes in my head from my dad:

  • Monkey’s Wedding – the sun is shining and it’s raining. The metaphor is obvious.
  • Buite blink; binne stink (Afrikaans for if the outside shines the inside is probably rotting) – a person who puts excessive energy and focus on outer appearance is probably attempting to conceal a stinking interior.
  • Boer maak a plan (Afrikaans for a farmer will find a way to make it work) – no matter how dire a situation there’s a plan or a compromise available.
  • Life is beautiful; life is brutal – like the proverbial horse and carriage, the beauty of human experience seems inextricably attached to the brutality life also offers.
  • Don’t carry your fish in a violin case – flee pretentiousness at all cost.