Archive for ‘Difficult Relationships’

December 6, 2019

I want my children…….

by Rod Smith

The Mercury

I want my children….

• To know and to love the world and to be as comfortable and free abroad as they usually are in their neighborhood and always are in their home.

• To be aware and proud of their race and history without allowing the bigots of this world to determine anything about their futures or to wield any power over my sons at all.

• To know and to love a small group of peers and to discover the power that friendship has to shape and inspire.

• To live in respectful, equal, and mutual intimate relationships where they are challenged to speak their minds, explore their hearts, share dreams, and understand and deploy the qualities of mercy, freedom, reciprocity, and creativity.

• To understand the power generosity, forgiveness, and hospitality have to heal the scars of meanness, madness, and cruelty.

• To understand their boundaries and have growing knowledge of who they are and who they are not, what they can and cannot shape, what they are and are not able to control.

• To have a growing, vibrant faith that includes, loves, accepts, and learns from those who mainstream faiths have, very unfortunately, traditionally rejected or marginalized.

• To have “unconquerable soul(s)” – heads that are “unbowed” and to become people who are unafraid as they learn to be “master(s) of their fate” and “captain(s) of their soul(s)” (INVICTUS).

December 5, 2019

Naming my fears

by Rod Smith

Sometimes my fears are loud, dominating, even crippling. Usually, they whisper or lurk beneath the surface.

If one of my sons calls unusually late at night my anxiety surges. It subsides when he expresses a typically benign request. Sometimes one calls just to say goodnight.  

A really large tree fell on our house once and sometimes I fear it happening again. Although not enough to avoid certain foods, I fear my arteries clogging. I fear my children rebelling in ways costly to all of us, although neither overtly reveals harmful inclinations.

My fears, perhaps like  yours, are linked to experience, to regrets, to horrible mistakes, and therefore they do make some sense.

My more subtle, even ominous fears, are about living with my successes as if there are to be no more. I fear my age rendering me invisible. I fear my sons treating me like I treated my dad when I was their age. I don’t fear a heart attack as much as I fear living halfheartedly. I don’t worry as much about a tree falling on our home as much as I do about living in one that is unwelcoming to strangers.

Naming my fears, I find, fuels my faith.

Let me know yours, please. 

December 2, 2019

Some boys want to be like their daddies

by Rod Smith

I wasn’t the child who wanted to be like his daddy.

I am now.

As a boy I could see only his failings. As a man, I see his successes.

His addiction to alcohol ruined so much.

When I was 12 he went to Alcoholics Anonymous and got sober.

It took me quite a few years to see that he was sober for much longer than he was a drunk. It took me longer to find out that In his sobriety he helped many, many men re-establish their broken lives as they too joined AA and had my dad as their sponsor.

Also, he was also ripped off a lot.

But, here’s the thing, he almost always knew it. The people who ripped off were seldom fooling him.

As I assess his apparent willingness to be ripped off I know it was always attached to a perceived need. I know because I heard the debates.

“Yes,” he’d say to our mother, “I know they probably won’t pay the loan but there are children involved.”

Of course no one wants to be ripped off but I am not sure he was given that he was a willing accomplice with a benevolent goal.

These are just two of about 12 reasons I want to be like my dad.

November 19, 2019

Thanks teachers, librarians, coaches, counselors

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Wednesday

Thank you, teachers, librarians, school counselors and sports coaches:

• You have given treasured memories to our children and to the parents when we ourselves were children. Your names come up at random times. We speak of what we learned from you. It was easy to believe you knew everything about everything and it was comforting and encouraging to believe someone did.

• You have corrected, cajoled, encouraged, and willed our successes. You believed in us when it was often very hard to believe in ourselves. And then, most of us did – at least at some point in this magnificent journey.

• You have created a warm welcome into a warm environment – a home-from-home – when at times home itself was neither warm nor welcoming. When parents were at war with each other your classroom was a haven of safety. You, yourself, were a safe place when it seemed there was none.

• You made transitions a part of life and then we discovered that they really are a part of life, right to the very end.

• You modeled good manners, you promoted the values of good, hard work; you imparted age old values in a world that seems bent on trying to escape them.

November 18, 2019

Do your children a few favors:

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Tuesday

Do your young and older children a few favors*

• Get out of the way so your children can learn to forge their own paths.

• Resist the urge to speak for your children especially when others (teachers, coaches, other adults) are engaging them in conversations.

• Trust life itself to teach valuable lessons. You can probably reflect on your life and acknowledge that some of the most valuable lessons you have ever learned you learned on you own. You might agree that the best attempts of your parents to teach you these same lessons probably failed.

• You may have noticed parents who seem to be afraid of and even intimidated by their children. Combat this. It’s unhelpful and unnecessary in every direction. You are the parent your son or daughter needs. Backing off in fear or in hoping to remain popular (or for whatever odd reason) helps no one.

• Learn to hold your tongue. Not everything you think or feel has to be said. This is especially necessary when you are stressed by matters unrelated to your children.

• Speak your mind but give yourself room to think before you do. Blurt out good news but if you are sitting on a difficult or tough message allow yourself time (usually 24 hours) to offer your approach time to mellow.

• Show up for events, sports, shows, and presentations. Your support will be appreciated especially if you are well behaved. You may have noticed that some parents are not.

* As always I am my first reader.

November 14, 2019

Three pivotal truths

by Rod Smith

Mercury Friday

Note to self:

Love and control cannot live in the same relationship…. it’s one or the other. You can’t have both. You don’t “allow” your spouse or your close friends more freedom, anymore than you “allow” wild birds to fly, or the seasons to change, or the morning to follow the night. Freedom is a divine gift. Caging, or restricting another, or manipulating another, (and often it is done in the name of love) is the very antithesis of love. It kills relationships. Sometimes the death is slow, sometimes it’s quick. But, it is never helpful.

Generosity, forgiveness, and hospitality, are among the most powerful gifts people can offer each other. Give freely and your heart will grow, your courage will multiply, your chances at true happiness will all-the-more likely become yours.

Chasing more education, committing time and energy to a small group of friends, finding a place to regularly serve and love others, will cumulatively, add greater meaning and happiness to your life, far more than any acquisition usually associated with happiness. It’s not in what you’ve got or what you have not got – it’s found in who you serve, who you love, and within the joy of constant discovery and learning.


Unrelated pic: this is from a year ago. I’ll be forever grateful to the pack of young men (these and several others) who immediately embraced Nate on our arrival in this new city. Thank you, Gentlemen:

November 11, 2019

My hopes for you today

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Tuesday

May your heart be renewed and full of great expectations and may it be resilient enough to embrace those who are unfamiliar with a warm and indiscriminate welcome.

May you know and see and experience the goodness of which you are capable and have the courage to let it have its full way with you.

May you have childlike eyes and may they be filled with joy and wonder as you allow them to see familiar things in new ways.

May your thoughts dwell on the goodness around you and may you spread the goodness you enjoy and focus on your great and healthy future.

May your words be soft and sweet and encouraging, while, at the same time, you remain unafraid to speak your mind with courage and conviction.

May your hands be open to give and receive. May your the touch be gentle and comforting on the lonely and those who are afraid and may your touch bring comfort and healing and kindness and relief to those who most need it and who may least expect it.

May your friendships deepen and expand and may all malice and contempt from you, and for you, cease.

November 4, 2019

Hats off to educators and coaches

by Rod Smith

The Mercury – Tuesday – to educators of all disciplines and who teach and coach students of all ages

(reprint by reader request)

Hats off……

• Hats off to teachers and coaches who love the world and its peoples and whose zeal for both rubs off on students.

• Hats off to teachers and coaches who love what they teach and coach and whose passion for their subjects and sports rubs off on students.

• Hats off to teachers and coaches who are as hard as nails with students over matters of integrity but as soft as warm butter when it comes to listening and attempting to understand students and their home-life, peer and social struggles.

• Hats off to teachers and coaches who know their students well enough to be able to anticipate problems so they can be addressed before they get out of control.

• Hats off to school administrators who have the courage to support teachers and coaches in the face of difficult parents and who have the courage to listen to all parties before they act.

• Hats off to school administrators who aspire to serve rather than be served, who understand the power of humility, and who see their essential role as empowering coaches and teachers and students to get the very best from each other.

• Hats off to parents of students who seek to respect and learn from their children’s school teachers and coaches and administrators rather than demand rights or seek to chastise or correct.

October 22, 2019

What do you do with emotional pain?

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Tuesday – Pain

What do you do emotional pain?

If, in the midst of emotional pain, I tell myself that “all people have pain” or that “it’s normal to have pain” or that “my pain is not as bad as the pain others have to endure” I know I am not really dealing with it.

It’s not serving its useful exposing or healing purpose.

This form of self-talk retains the experience in my head and blocks its necessary journey to my heart, my inner being.

This can go on for years, running around my head forming a pathway, a deepening, inescapable ditch.

If I admit that pain is a useful messenger and that some of it is a result of poor choices, the result of misguided self-importance, unique to me, and give myself some time, space to mourn the lack of connection I am experiencing, then the pain makes its rejuvenating transition to my heart.

I escape the ditch, the circular thinking and strongly experience my frailties, my vulnerabilities.

Once the inner-journey is made, from head to heart, I find I am able to treasure the growth rather than endlessly self-punish for things I did when I knew better but lacked the wisdom to behave accordingly.

October 14, 2019

The most powerful impact on your children’s futures……..

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Tuesday

Powerful impact on a future……

The “right” schools, and carefully considered and monitored diets, guarded vocabulary, regular affirmations from attentive parents, and monitored internet activity are all very well but none of these solid parenting disciplines will shape a child’s life as powerfully as the ongoing presence of parents who are each living a mature life.

The mature parent:

• Has interest, passions, pursuits, and ambitions unrelated to the children. The children know they are one of several family priorities. The children receive divided attention.

• Loves the children without being unusually worried about, or preoccupied with them. The children are free to explore childhood without constant reminders to “be careful.” Mom and dad know “love” and “concern” and “worry” are not synonyms.

• Gives priority to a spouse or peers who are equipped to be in adult-to-adult relationships despite the natural pressure to defer to the children and their many demands. Adult-to-adult appropriate connections help keep the parent-child connection as free and uncomplicated as possible.

• Does not regard parenting as a path to redemption or proof of success as a person or parent. Mom and dad understand that redemption parenting is far too heavy a burden to place upon any child.

• Intentionally recruits multi-generational family involvement as much as possible.

• Is now, today, as much as possible, being the adult she or he hopes his or her children will one day be.