Archive for ‘Parenting/Children’

July 26, 2018

Friday (hearty) applause for:

by Rod Smith
  • Parents who hold demanding jobs, yet are involved in their children’s academic and sports lives.
  • Men and women who love and enjoy their in-laws and who break the stereotypes of the alienated or rejected in laws.
  • Grandparents who lavish their grandchildren with love and attention while supporting the family values treasured by their grandchildren’s parents.
  • Men and women who work the late shifts and serve their communities while most of the population are asleep.
  • Men and women who have beaten their addictions and live productive, sober lives as recovered addicts.
  • Teachers who have worked faithfully, decade upon decade, so their students may learn and grow and be equipped to find great success.
  • Bosses and supervisors who are kind, who listen, who seek to understand more than they seek to whip things into shape or to wield their power.
  • Churches and places of worship that embrace and welcome all people.
  • Single parents who are able to hold things together and provide stable homes for their children.
  • Divorced parents who are able to be kind and cooperative with their former spouses, even if it is just for the sake of the children they co-parent.
  • Men and women who deal graciously with the pain of the distance of having family living overseas.
July 15, 2018

Teaching personal responsibility

by Rod Smith

It’s never too early to model and teach children about personal responsibility. There are people of all ages who persistently refuse to assume it for their lives, treating it as some heretical or selfish notion:

  • It is not selfish, unkind, or “unchristian” to expect people of all ages to be responsible for themselves. Of course there are exceptions like the ill and elderly.
  • It is usually unkind and selfish and “unchristian” to expect others to bail us out of the consequences of our own irresponsible behavior.
  • Teaching personal responsibility is more modeled than it is taught, but it must also be taught and talked about.
  • The sooner a person assumes full responsibility for his or her life the better. The evolving plan, beginning at birth, will hopefully have children fully prepared to be responsible for their lives by age 15 or 16.
  • If we rescue and enable others (especially those whom we love) we deny them the joy of taking responsibility for their lives and endorse a message that they can’t get on without us.
  • Rescuing, saving, running interference for a sibling, parent, child teaches that person a way of life and sets the rescuer up for a lifetime of rescuing. Avoid behaviors you are unwilling to perpetuate.
April 9, 2018

Be the adult you want your children to be

by Rod Smith

Today, and every day, be the adult you hope your children will become. How else will they learn it?

  • Stop blaming the teachers, coaches, or the school for your child’s every challenge, difficulty, or hurdle. Blame restricts maturing, yours and theirs.
  • Stop blaming the government, the economy, or prejudice for every distress or dilemma you face, unless you think blame will be a good tool for your child to take into adulthood. If you want your children to be adults who take responsibility for their lives then show them how it’s done.
  • Your children won’t forget your temper tantrums no matter how young they may be; they will emulate them.
  • Demonstrate, by your own display of excellent manners, the manner in which you hope your child will navigate life and relationships. It is true, they are going to watch and learn from multiple sources, but you are their primary resource when it comes to how they will respect and treat others. Little eyes are watching.
  • Respect, visit, and be kind to the elderly so they know exactly how to do it when it’s your turn.
  • Dismiss no one; look down on no one. Young eyes and ears are absorbing how to be in the world, and you, parents, are the primary teachers.
February 21, 2018

Helicopter parents

by Rod Smith

It’s easy to knock so-called helicopter parents – the ever-present, ever-serving, ever advocating parents who are perpetually running interference with schools and coaches, often in ways that can be stifling, even damaging the very children around whom they hover.

All behavior has meaning. Parents “helicopter” their children (I’m amused that I used “helicopter” as a verb) for deep, powerful and hidden reasons, reasons often vastly beyond simple formulae or fixes.

What I do know is that it has nothing to do with the child. I’d motivate for understanding, empathy, awareness, and acceptance for the helicopter parent. Perhaps it is fear driven. Perhaps there’s a lack of trust with that lack originating long before the child was born. Perhaps the child is regarded as a lifeline to something saner, something more tolerable than the parent has ever known. Perhaps the parent has been used and discarded in the past and is dead set on safeguarding the child so history will not be repeated. Perhaps the marriage is perched precariously on hopes of the child’s success.

There are reasons to fear, lack trust, to want a life more powerful and meaningful than the parent may have known.

Empathy, awareness, acceptance, and understanding may go a long way to secure the helicopter’s safe landing rather than the humor or rejection used to shoot it down.

February 15, 2018

Tribal code

by Rod Smith

Each of us brings to every relationships a backdrop of how we view the world, understand commitment, view, and value people, join groups, terminate friendships, love, and leave home, nurture babies, pack the dishwasher, engage in or avoid conflict, and many things too numerous to mention.

Everything about our relationships is influenced by who, where, and how we were reared – among countless other variables, including natural endowment, and deeply held dreams and desires.

From these countless sources, experiences, and codes, both known and unknown, each of us was handed a Tribal Code or our truth about how life ought to work. How life was done, how relationships were conducted, talked or not talked about, became the folklore, the “correct” or the “right” way to live.

Your formative years did what they were supposed to do: they formed (and informed) you.

They taught you what, and how, to see, think and feel. They showed you what “normal” is to your family, and your experience became your measure of how life is supposed to work.

Then, when entering relationships, be it in marriage or if you are talking with your child’s teacher – the person opposite you has his/her own, and different, tribal code. He/she has his/her own lenses through which to see the world.

No wonder we can have a tough time getting along!

January 21, 2018

Mother-daughter connection

by Rod Smith

“My daughter (12) is almost overnight asking me questions about my past and my habits – and the truth is very painful for me. I know I can’t tell her everything but I am more interested in why the sudden interest. We have been very close as mother and daughter in the past. It seems to have drifted in the past year. Please offer insights.”

You are deeply linked as parent and child.

There’s a flow of awareness, of presence, of exchange, going back and forth between parents and children from before a child’s day one.

This “downloading” and “cross-pollinating” is something many parents appear unaware of or certainly don’t offer it much recognition.

It’s powerful.

I am suggesting your daughter may be aware of the pain embedded in your history as a hunch even though she may be totally unable to detect when it comes from.

Affirm her for her questions.

Tell her you have much in your history that brings you both joy and pain and that when you are ready to let her in you will.

Not all questions have to be answered and not all information is her business.

She is a child.

Your daughter is growing into an aware woman – encourage her in her journey.

Perhaps this is the end of “the drift.”

December 9, 2017

Of course I believe in Santa

by Rod Smith

I saw Santa at the Children’s Museum with a feather of a child pleading her case. They were locked in discussion, a confessional of sorts, as she entered into detail of her every Christmas wish. Hands, eyes, and all of her face enticed Santa closer lest he miss a detail living so clearly I her head.

“Oh, you want, oh, I see it. Why yes, of course. Perfectly,” Santa said, his voice tapering off into her ear, “I will see what I can do about that.”

Then she nestled into his side, her shoulders comfortably enveloped by his plush red suit as if to declare her mission accomplished. He was a perfect depiction of everything I imagined him to be and the sight easily immersed me in the voices and music of my own Christmases past.

Santa came all year round to our home. I’d look through the window in April or mi-August and Santa would be strolling up the driveway on his return from visits to every home on the street. He’d be wearing dad’s shoes and one of his ties underneath the tatty red coat, but I knew better than to expose his identity. I wanted to believe in Santa and he I turn needed me to believe. Such faith had rewards and I knew better than to dash my own hopes. I wasn’t ready to lose my trust in Santa for anyone and certainly not by my own hand.

He couldn’t resist visits to the whole neighborhood and would drop in from time to time and inspire children toward good behavior, perfect obedience and remind them to count their blessings one by one. At every appearance in our home we’d sing “The Little Boy that Santa Clause Forgot” and we’d all have to cry. He insisted on it.

The lines “he didn’t have a daddy” and “went home to play with last year’s broken toys” really got us going.

It was clear he sang to all the children I the world who’d had to skip childhood and known poverty, children who’s fathers had gone to war or whose fathers or mothers had fled their families.

Donning the suit, surprising the children, was Santa’s way of making the world right.

His visits created intrigue in the neighborhood, and to every child he repeated the promise that this Christmas, no child of his street would be forgotten. As far as I could tell none ever was.

The last Christmas we had together was in August of 1994. We were riding in a car and in the curves of Bluff Road when spontaneously he began to sing, “Christmas comes but once a year.”

The car became a holy place as I heard once more of the boy who “wrote a note to Santa for some soldiers and a drum and it broke his little heart to find Santa hadn’t come.”

The tears we both shed required no encouragement for we both somehow knew this would be the last time he’d sing this nostalgic hymn.

Now, to this old song is top of my list of Christmas songs.

The melody emerges randomly in my awareness, most particularly when faced with children who are in need, and I have had to silence it at all times of the year.

It was the little girl’s confidence, Santa’s grace, and the loving parents looking from the side that caught my attention last week. As she touched his flowing beard and told him her every Christmas dream I was listing my own requests with childlike zeal. It gave me renewed hope that you and I, the real Santas of the world, could deliver a more hopeful tomorrow for “those little girls and boys that Santa Claus forgot.

First published December 9, 2000 in the Indianapolis Star     

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.
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.
August 13, 2017

Mind your own business

by Rod Smith

Telling someone to “mind your own business” may come off as rude or uncaring. Neither is my intention. As always, whatever I write I know doubly applies to me.

Getting immersed in other people’s business, while it may offer feelings of comfort and provide and sense of importance, it is a fail-proof track to burnout.

It’s a seemingly acceptably way, as it can appear caring, to avoid your own business. Minding the business of others can offer protection from facing your own responsibilities.

So what is your (my) business (the listed order here is unimportant)?

  • The state of your immediate relationships
  • The condition of faith and your place in a community or faith
  • Your finances, your daily work, everything pertaining to house and home
  • Your children’s welfare, safety, and education while they are children
  • Your health, physical, emotional, and psychological – with the understanding that they are all inextricably connected
  • The greater good of your immediate and broad community.

So what is none of our (my) business?

  • Adult relationships where you are not one of the parties
  • The manner in which other families parent – until there is neglect or laws are broken
  • Organizational complexities (schools, churches, businesses) where you do not hold an official role or responsibility.