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.
April 9, 2017

Parenting challenge 

by Rod Smith

My daily parenting challenge which I hope you will also adopt…

  • Be the adult you’d want your child to become. 
  • Negotiate deals, resolve conflicts, compromise on disagreements, in exactly the manner you want your child to emulate when he or she is an adult. The most powerful learning happens by watching – and by much more than watching. Such living will transform you, and the transformation you undergo will transform your family. 
  • Use money, save money, leverage all your resources in exactly the manner you hope your child will one day utilize resources. Attitudes leak. How you behave becomes the norm. 
  • Treat your parents in exactly the manner you hope your children will treat you in your advancing years. Modeling endures. 
  • Love and serve your brothers and sisters so your children will have absolutely no ambiguity about what love looks like in immediate and extended families. Authenticity prevails. 
  • If you want your child to be a reader, be one yourself. It might not “take” in the immediate, but chances are it will in the future. Some things take time, not nagging. 
  • If you want your child to be well-mannered, courageous and kind, allow your every interaction with lover, friend, or foe, to be well-mannered, courageous, and kind.
April 6, 2017

Before I protest……

by Rod Smith
  • Do I know what I am doing as I protest and do I know why I am doing it?
  • Will I be a conduit of peace, kindness, honesty, humility, mercy, and justice?
  • Will I be demanding a level of justice that is incongruent with the measure I use with those who in my own immediate family and with my neighbors?
  • Am I aware that rallying for justice, if I myself, treat others with unfairness and disrespect, makes a mockery of my efforts and my efforts will be wasted?
  • Am I being authentic, knowing that I am not protesting to maintain ill-gained wealth or ill-gained privilege but rather seeking justice and peace for all, despite our many differences?
  • Am I willing to stay at home rather than take to the streets if I am angry, bitter, or wanting to settle a score or seek revenge?
  • Am I will be stay at home and avoid protesting if I want to join a protest to trivialize the efforts of others.
  • Am I willing to stay home if I seek to divide rather than to unite?
April 6, 2017

Driving lessons for my sons

by Rod Smith

It is helpful to think of every other driver as drunk, unpredictable, and crazy. This approach kept my father accident-free for more than 50 years (although it is unsure how many he caused). This attitude will keep you alert and will go a long way to securing your safety and the safety of others.

Never ride in a car with anyone who is under the influence of alcohol or any legal or illegal substance or substances even if this person is not the operator – and I don’t care if it is your favorite aunt. While I am on that subject, it’s not your job to transport drunk or drugged people.

Don’t drive any vehicle, not even a golf cart or ride a skateboard or bounce on a pogo stick, for goodness sake, if you have consumed anything that distorts, or potentially distorts, your judgment. If you have been drinking or even if you feel you have been out too late, call me, use a taxi or Uber.

I will NEVER refuse your call for help.

Don’t compromise your safety – even if it a very short ride in a very safe car in a very safe suburb. Cars are dangerous missile in the hands of sane, experienced drivers, and the danger quotient radically spikes in the shaky hands of anyone under the influence of anything – even anger.

Treat cars and the privilege of driving (it’s not a right) with great respect. If, from the minute you may legally drive and for at least the first five years, you never enter a car without humbly bowing for three to five minutes at the hood (bonnet), and then for three to five minutes at the trunk (boot) in quiet, humble reverence, with your hands folded in a typical stance of a person at prayer, you might develop the necessary awe cars and driving deserve.

Cars are like pulpits. They should be entered into in a spirit of humility and avoided by the proud, the angry, and blowhards. Driving is for getting from A to B. That is it. It’s not for the music, or texting, or eating, or watching movies. The journey is not the party Don’t make car ride into a party – there’s no quicker access to an ambulance.

April 5, 2017

Prayer for Wednesday 

by Rod Smith

May you….

• Be unafraid, unafraid to dream great dreams for your life and to work every day at making it exceptional. World changing and exceptional people do not wake up one day and discover they are key figures in the betterment of the world. They work at it every day. They work at it for many years before it becomes a reality. They design blueprints that stretch years ahead.

• Be adventurous and embark on some new area of discovery, be it some area of personal research or on some literal journey to a new place. May you go somewhere you have heretofore been reticent to venture. In so doing, may you find some degree of fulfillment or even of healing, healing you may have not known you needed.

• Love in ways you have not loved before. May you reach out in fresh ways to those whom you have loved for years in ways that surprise you and others. May you also find love for the stranger, the men or women whom you have previously excluded from your social circles, the “them” and “those people” – may they hear from you (and from me) in ways none of us expect.

April 4, 2017

Liquidizers unplugged….

by Rod Smith

The Mercury

Written and published with permission – I learned a long time ago NOT to write about immediate family (or even distant family) without permission. 
On a personal note…

Almost every night I before I go to bed I reduce a handful of greens and fresh fruit into a delicious drink using a powerful liquidizer. I wash the jugs, clean the blades, and get it all ready for a similar ritual in the morning. I know I leave the liquidizer plugged in the wall-socket. Every morning when I come downstairs it’s unplugged.

This very slight annoyance grew mostly because it made no sense and because both my sons were asleep when I faced this minor irritation and I’d forget to ask after the day got rolling and my attentions were focused elsewhere.

This week we have all been home in the mornings and so I asked.
Thulani (19) said that of course he unplugged the liquidizer every night as a “safety issue.”

He enlarged:

Well dad, what if you walked in your sleep, came downstairs, put your hand into the liquidizer, turned it on and you lost your fingers? You won’t be able to play the piano anymore.

I pointed out that none of us sleepwalks and that I never put my hands into the liquidizer even when awake. He agreed.

I asked if he’d be unplugging the dishwasher and washing machine in case I drowned and I think he said I was being ridiculous.

April 2, 2017

Celebrating Mondays

by Rod Smith

Mondays – celebrating the first workday of the week:

I love Mondays although I have not always done so. I especially enjoy the first Monday of the month.

Mondays are a reset button. They are an opportunity to set new goals and to reset goals that have lapsed. They are a new beginning, a fresh start and an internal blank slate, a new baseline. Whatever metaphor you employ, I’d suggest we reject the term “blue-Monday” from here on out and switch it for “Magnificent Monday.”

Mondays are an opportunity to love life and to love the lives of those around you and I don’t only mean family and loved ones. Mondays are an opportunity to see the miracle within all people and to affirm human resilience.

Mondays are an opportunity to affirm the spiritual nature of all things, from the most mundane, like getting up and getting ready for the commute to work to the most glorious, like the opportunity to pay debts, thank coworkers, and be part of a vibrant, even conflicted community.

Mondays are a wonderful opportunity to be generous, to be forgiving, and to encourage. They are an opportunity to set the stage for the change you’d like to see in your own life and to measure and assess progress 50-plus times a year.

April 1, 2017

Growth…..

by Rod Smith

The Mercury – Thusday

Building blocks that will bring powerful shifts to your life:

• Deliberately become the most generous person you know. This is not about already possessing wealth before you can be generous. If you’re not generous when you have little you probably won’t be if you become rich. 

• Hold everything you own with an open hand. Share, just as you learned (or as adults tried to teach you) as a five-year-old. 

• Empower others. You lose nothing when you help others to gain. 

• Say “yes” more than “no” to the adventures that come your way (Ed Friedman) although it’s necessary to learn how and when to say a firm “no.”

• Develop the capacity to “see beyond” the limitations set by your family history, your nationality, and your faith story. (Also Friedman) 

• Learn to live within your means. In other words, make more money than you spend. 

• Determine to embody forgiveness, freedom, and grace for all who will repeatedly and naturally attempt to sabotage you. You will meet more and more resistance as you become more and more intentional about your choices.  

• Acknowledge and embrace your inevitable dark side. Try to understand it and accept it so that it will not try to take you by surprise in response to your denial of its presence.

• Be gentle on yourself as you would with a treasured loved-one. After all, you are all you’ve got.

March 30, 2017

Parenting girls……

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Friday 

Adolescent boys can be very unkind to girls.

I have heard many sad stories.

I implore you to teach your sons to value all people and your daughters to expose poor behavior.

If you are a parent to girls:

• Listen for what your daughters are NOT saying. What they are not telling you will reveal reams about their experience. No – I am not trying to be obscure.

• Affirm your daughters when they advocate for those they consider victims and ask if they need someone to advocate for them.

• When girls are victimized they may not immediately inform but believe they have to tough it out. Like learning to cross the street, you may have to assure your daughters that it is safe to speak even though it may be scary.

• Encourage your daughters to show up, stand up, and speak up and that doing so is essential and not selfish. Literally applaud them when they do.

• Repeatedly assure your daughters that you are the only parent they will ever need, that it is safe for them to test everything about life by testing it with you.

• Know that the most powerful means to teaching anything is by modeling it yourself – your words will be hollow and meaningless if you do not display what you teach.