Archive for ‘Children’

September 24, 2017

Fine acts of parenting

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Monday 9/25/2017 / I have witnessed many fine acts of parenting:

  • The mother who sends her adult sons and daughters Mother’s Day cards with handwritten lists of joyous memories about what it has been like to be their mother. She has done this for so long that it was some years before the children (when they were children) even knew they were the ones who were supposed to send her cards.
  • The dad who traded in his own car and settled for a used car so he could give his son the sports car his son wanted.
  • The parents who each worked two jobs so the two sons did not have to assume significant debt to attend university.
  • The single mother who has the wherewithal to leave her daughter’s academic struggles up to her and who encourages her daughter to speak up about what she needs to her teachers.
  • The dad who packs his son’s lunch each day for school and who adds an extra pack for his son’s friend who once expressed to the boy that he wished that he too had a dad.
  • The dad who taught his son to share without ever saying it but by showing it at every turn.
  • The parents who never let drinking distort or shape the way they reared their children.
September 20, 2017

Teachers

by Rod Smith

My teachers have never left me. They hover in my awareness and continue their work despite the decades that separate me from their classrooms, lecture theaters, labs, fields, gyms, and studies. Almost all were highly motivated and loved their jobs and regarded it as a calling and I can still hear them calling me to adopt high standards for others and for myself.

The few who didn’t love their jobs, those who landed in the classroom somehow against their will or to test the waters of education, also hover. Their obvious boredom, anger, or their cynicism, were in themselves powerful lessons.

I find it incredible that the teacher with the parrot (Mrs. Bradman) who dogged my third or fourth year of school and the psychology professor who was so self-absorbed more than a decade later and my family therapy professors a lifetime later and nations apart and Mr. Morey, Mr. Graham, Mrs. Hornsby, and Miss Chadwick (I could go on) do the cancan in my frontal lobe at the oddest moments.

I know, I know, someone is going to write and tell me there is medication for my condition – but I think not.

I think it’s a testimony to the power afforded men and women who are teachers.

September 9, 2017

Counterintuitive “realities”

by Rod Smith

People who are more defined, more separate, and who can live without each other are more likely to stay together in a long-lasting committed relationship than those who are very close and can’t live without each other. Even trees need space. So do people.

When a relationship is faltering people want to analyze it, work on it, talk about it and fix it; when relief and healing my indeed come from benignly ignoring the relationship as each participant commits to working on him or herself. Declaring personal goals and dreams that may have zero to do with the faltering relationship can go a long way toward its healing.

Childhoods are important (of course) and a happy one is what any reasonable parent strives to give a child, but, not every relationship malady or personal failing can be placed at the foot of flawed parenting or childhood trauma.

Understanding and talking about matters is not always helpful and is not always the golden key to possible solutions. Sometimes people have to simply change unhelpful habits, get off the couch and work harder and stop rehashing excuses for their behavior or searching for its source in a troubled childhood.

August 15, 2017

Are you a candidate for some good family systems reading?

by Rod Smith

“I have read your work for a long time and even find myself thinking with some of your terminology. I am ‘trapped’ or ‘triangle-d’ with my adult son and two daughters. Serving one means alienating the others. I have to watch my every step and filter every word. It’s like they are constantly trying to prove that I am more involved with one than the other – but they have very different life circumstances. Please help.”

It sounds like your adult sons and daughters are waiting to hear a strong word from you about who owns your time and your efforts. I’d suggest you take back your power and hold onto your own power rather than place it in their hands.

Thanks for the compliment inherent in the fact that you have read my work for a long time. The terminology to which you refer is not originally mine. I detect that you and many readers are great candidates for several books on Family Systems Theory. This is where my own training lies.

Immerse yourself in “Extraordinary Relationships,” “Extraordinary Leadership,” “The Cornerstone Principle” and “The Eight Core Concepts of Bowen Theory.” All of these titles are by Roberta Gilbert and all are worthy of study.

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 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.

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.