Live in the moment: It’s easy to get caught up with the logistics of life (what’s for dinner, did I schedule swim lessons, where the heck are all of my son’s socks?!) – these details are important, but I’m trying not to let them rule my life. In the same way that I try to unplug from technology every now and then, I need to make an effort to unplug from my to do list, and just enjoy unplanned, unproductive time with the family.
by Mary Jo Rapini
When I was a child my parents use to say, “We’ll see,” when they couldn’t commit to a promise, either a “yes” or a “no.” The dreaded, “We’ll see,” use to leave me feeling anxious and hopeful that it would evolve into a clear yes or no depending on what I was requesting. I didn’t place much value on my parent’s commitment to keeping their words until I became older and realized that the whole world didn’t function like that. In fact, much of the world is okay with saying definitive Yes and No’s that hold less value than the air it took to force them out of the mouth they came from.
One of my areas of work is in media, and if you want to hear a lot of yes and no’s with little value, this line of work will keep you well supplied. It is so common to not keep your word in media that when I find someone who actually commits to their word, I send them flowers, candy or promise to take their kids for the weekend (keeping my word). Part of the empty promises is due to the fickleness of the business. Things change fast, and what was true yesterday is not today. My concern with the media field is that when truths are rare and lies become so casual, the teller of the lie no longer feels as if it is wrong. Many of them don’t trust one another and they aren’t trustworthy themselves. I am not sure how they are with their real lives, because I no longer trust who they say they are, nor do I believe they trust themselves.
It’s one thing when promises are made and not kept at work, but when broken promises and untruths are brought home to your family and friends it is destructive. Children, parents, friends and family members form expectations and plan their days around what those closest to them tell them. If you promise an aging parent that you are going to spend the day or part of the day with them, and then you don’t show up or even call, it is experienced as a letdown for the parent. Your parent most likely told every grocery clerk or postal service person who would listen that you were coming. Along with your promise, they imagined things they wanted to share with you, getting a hug from you, and feeling important enough that you mom & daughter talking would want to spend time with them. Your promise was more than your word; it was an anticipated experience for them. When a divorced parent promises their child that they are going to have a great weekend together, that child may talk about it to their friends and teachers with great excitement! Can you imagine how that excitement fizzles if you don’t show up? Or maybe worse, you pick your excited child up, but drop them off with a babysitter or parent because a “better offer came up?” This happens frequently. You are teaching your child that your word means nothing, and they interpret your behavior to mean they are nothing to you either.
If your word means nothing, you neither have nor stand for anything and it keeps building. There is a better way, and it doesn’t involve saying yes when you mean, “I cannot commit to you, but I don’t want to hurt your feelings.” Being honest with what you can and cannot do, and then following through (no matter what offer comes up) is the solution to being a trustworthy person.
Here are a few more suggestions to rebuilding your trust with people you have let down.
1. The next promise you make, tell the person up front that you are sorry you have not kept your word in the past. Acknowledge how that must have hurt them. Ask them if you can try again, and commit to a smaller promise (share breakfast instead of a whole morning) this time.
2. If the answer is going to be NO, just say it. The person hearing no is angry at the word, not you. They become angry with you when you say “YES,” but were too weak to tell the truth.
3. If you are going to be late with a promised meeting or agenda, call the person in advance. Don’t leave them waiting by the door or the phone. That is just plain rude. You are no longer just untrustworthy; you are also an insensitive liar.
4. If unfulfilled promises have a financial impact, you are wise to get any and all promises written with a legal document. Somehow when people know they may have to pay for an unkept promise, they are more motivated to keep their promise.
5. Usually when a promise is made to someone and not kept there is a fall back person (the person who picks up and builds up the person you let down). If you continually make promises you don’t keep, you may want to consider apologizing to the fall back person as well. They won’t believe you because they most likely have lost their trust in you, but you do owe them an apology.
Every human I know has made at least one promise they didn’t keep. Hopefully, it’s only one or two. If this is a consistent pattern for you, it’s time to work on this. If you destroy someone’s ability to trust you, you have destroyed someone who had faith in you at one time. With each year that passes, you will realize there are less and less people who have faith in you. Life gets lonely when no one trusts you anymore. Life becomes hell when you don’t trust yourself anymore.
~ ~ ~ ~
Mary Jo Rapini Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC, is a licensed psychotherapist and co-author with Janine J. Sherman, of Start Talking: A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex or Whatever. Read more about the book at www.StartTalkingBook.com and more about Rapini at www.maryjorapini.com.
For adults, high school is as near or far as the next or last reunion. But for thousands of teens, high school is a present hell of isolation, confusion and negativity, says novelist Ryan D. Pearson.
“Think about the young men who live in infamy because they somehow couldn’t channel their energy in a positive manner – Adam Lanza in Connecticut; James Holmes, the ‘movie-theater shooter;’ the two Columbine shooters; Jared Loughner, who shot U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords – some were extremely intelligent, and they were passionate, too,” says Pearson.
Precocious in high school, Pearson earned his law degree at age 21 and went on to write “The Element Series,” (www.theelementsseries.com), which follows a teenager blessed with wealth and fame who discovers he has the added responsibility of super powers.
“One aspect I love about comic books and fiction is that the character arcs show how some become the villains, and those who stand by their values – the heroes.”
Teens, who have experienced life only as children, suddenly find themselves in very adult circumstances in high school – that last step toward adulthood, he says. For many gifted, talented, sensitive or otherwise misunderstood teens, he offers tips for surviving this last step toward independence:
• Embrace what makes you different: Perhaps the most important struggle a teenager faces is self-acceptance. Many may believe that that straight-A, all-star jock with a perfect complexion has it made. Meanwhile, he may be experiencing his own inner turmoil. If you care about things no one else seems to care about; if you’re better at chess than football; if you think you don’t fit the mold of “pretty” or “handsome” – you might just be on the path to happiness. A great example receiving plenty of attention is the It Gets Better project, which encourages gay teens to embrace their sexuality. However, the concept can be applied to anyone who feels like an outsider. “There is only one you; don’t be afraid of who you are,” Pearson says.
• Perhaps the greatest commencement address: While life is just beginning after high school and college, it’s rarely easy – that’s the thrust of George Foster Wallace’s 2005 speech to the graduates of Kenyon College. Wallace, a giant of contemporary literature, touches on some of the most important adult challenges: the potential loneliness of adult life, the importance of being well-adjusted and the difficulty of empathy – “Think about it: There is no experience you’ve had that you were not at the absolute center of.” Truthful, unflinching and humorous, the speech has since resonated online.
• You can change!: A depressing mindset for unhappy high school students involves the idea that nothing about one’s experience will change. “Everything changes – this is the one rule of life you can count on,” says Pearson, whose went on a worldwide adventure after college. “Teens who go the villainous route often have an attitude that nothing about them or the world is going to be different unless they intervene with extreme behavior.” In reality, one or two key shifts in thinking can change the course in a young person’s life trajectory. Friends, parents and educators have the best access for helping a troubled teen to “see the light.”
About Ryan D. Pearson
After completing a Bachelor of Laws degree at age 21, Ryan D. Pearson took a leap of faith by leaving the beautiful beaches of Australia to travel the world. He eventually landed in Montreal, where he lived for several years before returning home to write about his adventures. He overcame many challenging personal experiences and now embraces an audacious new lifestyle. Pearson writes about his own character arc – involving a supernatural and overzealous way of life – via character Reagan Jameson.
Cynical adults may sneer when they say, “Youth is wasted on the young.” But young world-traveler Ryan Pearson sees a more positive message in George Bernard Shaw’s often repeated quote.
“I see it as meaning that youth is an opportunity to seize direction, enlightenment, significance and to expand one’s powers,” says Pearson, author of “Green Hope” from “The Element Series,” (www.theelementsseries.com), about a teenager blessed with wealth and fame who discovers he has the added responsibility of super powers.
“It’s sad that so many teens get sidetracked by trying to fit in with a crowd, or worrying that they don’t measure up somehow. At a time when they should be enjoying a new sense of independence and capabilities, they’re often paralyzed by self-doubt.”
Pearson says all teens have super powers – they just need to recognize them:
• Your inner “mutant”: Many teens like to make a big deal out of not caring what others think about them, precisely because they care about what everyone thinks of them. This can make them sensitive and anxious about how they express themselves and what they enjoy, from what they wear to the music they like to the grades they earn. Embrace what sets you apart! No one else in the world is quite like you. Explore your interests and find what you love – whether or not it’s what other teens love. You’ll get a head start on developing valuable skills.
• “Punisher” fitness training: You don’t have to be built like the renowned vigilante from the Marvel universe, but you’ll look your best – and feel your best – if you establish a good exercise routine now. Not only will working out give you a nice physique, it’s a good way to reduce stress and it even gives you a natural high thanks to the release of endorphins, chemicals that make your brain happy.
• Batman’s first rule in fighting: Despite the fact that it would make his crime fighting much, much easier, the Caped Crusader absolutely refuses to use guns. That’s because a deranged criminal with a gun shot and killed Bruce Wayne’s parents when he was a child. The result is that his fighting methods are more moral and creative, and he always knows what to do when a quick decision is needed. Getting into the habit of making your own decisions based on your values and your understanding of right or wrong, instead of following the crowd, will help make even the hardest choices easier.
• Cultivate your “spidey” senses: Teens are naturally impatient, impulsive and impetuous. Slow down! Take your time on the road, in relationships, during confrontations and when contemplating big decisions. Part of why Spider-Man is so fast is that time slows for him during tense situations. Likewise, teens who can slow down emotionally-driven decisions and better understand their consequences, much like a “spidey” sense, will make wiser ones.
• Know your kryptonite: Some kids just seem to have it all: academic excellence, athletic accomplishments, popularity, and a clear complexion to boot. But everyone has their limits, like Superman’s kryptonite. Knowing your limits and learning how to worked around them, or strengthen them, is a lifelong challenge for everyone.
About Ryan Pearson
After completing a Bachelor of Laws degree at age 21, Ryan Pearson took a leap of faith by leaving the beautiful beaches of Australia to travel the world. Eventually, he landed in Montreal for several years before returning home to write about his adventures. He overcame many challenging personal experiences and now embraces an audacious new lifestyle. Pearson writes about his own character arc – involving a supernatural and overzealous way of life – via character Reagan Jameson.
Before Karen Kataline knew what a calorie was, she was restricted to 500 of them a day. At dinner, she was not served the same foods as her parents and brother. She remembers being hungry all the time.
Kataline was a toddler beauty queen and performer.
“I’d started performing in dances and beauty pageants at the age of 3 in the 1960s,” says the author of a new, award-winning memoir, “Fatlash: Food Police & the Fear of Thin,” (www.KarenKataline.com). “My mother wanted me to be a star, and she was obsessed with my weight and appearance. She wanted me to be thin.’’
Years of being forcibly held to a restrictive diet had a profound effect. As a child Kataline learned that she could “win” by eating as much food as she could sneak without getting caught. She especially sought the foods that were denied her, from gravy to chocolate bars.
“When parents – or some government agency or official – make food choices for individuals, it sets people up to develop eating disorders,” says Kataline, an experienced mental health therapist with a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University. “Many times, a child wouldn’t have a weight problem at all if his or her parent weren’t superimposing their own fear and anxiety about it onto the child.”
Likewise, Kataline is troubled by increasing efforts to legislate food choices for adults, from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempt to ban super-sized sugary drinks to Los Angeles City Council’s prohibition against fast-food restaurants in certain minority neighborhoods,
“The attempt to control a choice as personal and critical to our survival as what we put in our mouths creates serious consequences – whether the control is imposed by an overzealous parent or an army of food police,” she says. “Government attempts to force people to eat in a particular way will have the backlash of actually making people fatter.”
Kataline offers these suggestions for families who want their children to have a healthy relationship with food – and with themselves.
• Teach children “body integrity” – that they have autonomy over their own body. Ultimately, each of us is responsible for the choices we make, and that includes the choices involving our bodies, Kataline says. Teach children to recognize the differences between healthy and unhealthy choices, and encourage healthy choices by emphasizing its their body and they must both expect and accept the consequences – good and bad – for the choices they make. “Children will learn to moderate their eating habits when they are in touch with their own hunger signals,” she says. “When someone else takes responsibility for that, they lose touch with it.”
• Set boundaries and respect them. It’s normal for parents to revel in their child’s accomplishments. But there’s a problem when they desperately need their child to look a certain way, or excel in a particular area, Kataline says. They are imposing their own issues and arrested development on their child — she calls it “Princess by Proxy.” Living through their child and having their child’s appearance and accomplishments feed their own need for attention and recognition, or their own political agenda, makes the child a proxy for the adult’s agenda and can result in mental and emotional damage to the child. “Parents need to work out these issues for themselves, or with the help of a therapist, and establish boundaries that respect the child’s autonomy,” Kataline says. “By the same token, we as citizens need to set similar boundaries for our politicians and take responsibility for our own choices.”
• If your child is making a lot of unhealthy food choices, encourage her to “check in with herself” to identify the cause. “Sometimes the body says what the mouth cannot,” Kataline says. Significant weight gain can be a child’s body armor, protecting her from something that feels painful but she’s unable to articulate. As a young performer and pageant star, Kataline says she was sexualized at a very early age – given a sexual persona through hair styles, makeup, costumes and even dance moves. Adults’ response made her feel vulnerable. The overeating that began as a way to beat her mother’s strict dietary rules eventually became a way to protect herself from the looks that made her uncomfortable.
About Karen Kataline, MSW
Karen Kataline is a social worker, public speaker and performer whose professional and personal perspective on the effects of beauty pageants on young children has won the 2013 Sponsor’s Choice Award for the National Indie Excellence Awards; the 2013 NIEA Award Winner for Women’s Issues and Addiction & Recovery; 1st place Evvy Award, Colorado Independent Publishers Association; and was a finalist in Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Awards. Kataline received her master’s degree in Social Work from Columbia University and has worked with teenagers, the elderly and the profoundly traumatized. She taught communications at the New School for Social Research, Parsons School of Design in New York, New Jersey’s Montclair State College and Fairleigh Dickenson University, among others. She also continues to perform as a talk radio host, broadcaster and voice-over artist, in musical comedies, and in television and film.
By Alison Smith Co-Founder of ECHOage.com
Children become more charitable when they believe that their actions have impact. A few small, yet tangible ideas, put into action early on in life, can set the stage for a more charitably spirited and rewarding future.
1. Pass it On
Nothing is better than receiving a completely unexpected, delightful, surprise. Next time when you are at your favorite coffee shop with your kids, let the cashier know that you would like to buy the person behind you a cup of coffee or a muffin. No need to let them know. The cashier can let the person know that it was a gift from the person who just left. Your child will see how nice it feels to put a smile on an absolute stranger’s face.
2. Cookie Delivery
At some point in time, we all have friends who could use a hug or need a little lift. Why not bake cookies with your kids, have them draw a “happy” card and deliver an unexpected package to a friend’s doorstep. This act of kindness will allow you to have the compassion conversation. Being aware that grownups have feelings too helps kids to think outside of themselves and be more aware of the world around them.
3. Plant Seeds and Give Them Life
What could be better than watching a little garden grow (especially in the dead of winter?) Give your little ones a pot, some earth and seeds to water and nurture. Seeing the progress take shape before their very eyes shows kids that when they are patient and nurturing, beautiful things occur.
4. Allowance is for Sharing
One of my personal all time favorites is encouraging kids to give a small portion of their allowance away. Setting aside a small amount each week can quickly turn into to a sizable amount after a few short months. Together you and your child can discuss where that money can go. It begins the dialogue of giving and sets your child on an early path that places giving as a party in their everyday life.
For orthopedic surgeon Sean Adelman – a father of three, including Dev, a high-school age daughter with Down syndrome – life lessons are not the exclusive province of the young.
“As a dad, I have often been reminded of the poet William Wordsworth and his line, ‘The child is father of the man,’ ” says Adelman, author of Sam’s Top Secret Journal(www.raiseexpectations.com), the first in a the first in a Nancy Drew-style children’s book series featuring a protagonist with Down syndrome.
“I think most parents have this experience that, while it’s our job to teach our children how to grow up and function in a society, we are constantly learning ourselves. They force us to rethink the basics as we help mold them into mature human beings.”
Of course, much of a child’s development is out of the hands of parents, he says. School and other social functions provide many first worldly experiences that are so important to developing students. And that makes diversity so important.
Various studies have shown that not only do those with learning challenges benefit from “inclusive education” – a movement that integrates special-ed students with non-special-ed students – but also the rest of the student body.
Adelman explores how inclusion benefits the entire student body:
• Empathic development: To a significant extent, society is a social contract among citizens. That means, at the very least, good behavior is required of individuals. At best, however, citizens recognize that we are social creatures who need each other, and the best way to a better society is to have empathy for our fellow human beings. During the 1990s, inclusion of special-ed students jumped from 48 percent to 70 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Despite concerns at the time about teachers’ ability to attend to the needs of all their students in such classes, a Zigmond and Baker study showed teachers did not lose their effectiveness. The famous study also showed that the students treated each other better in general. Children learn that everyone needs help from time to time, and it’s as gratifying to provide it as to receive it.
• Diversity and the real world: Children who attend inclusive schools, where all children are mainstreamed, are better able to navigate the complexities of our diverse adult society. Students with and without special needs benefit from exposure to classmates who face different life circumstances. Studies from the National Center for Special Education Research, among others from throughout the world, support claims of mutual benefit from special-ed and non-special-ed students with integration. For a well-rounded character and personality, young people need to be exposed to the many faces of humanity in terms of race, economic background and those with special needs. In addition to this personal edification, a professional career demands social grace and comfort in a diverse work environment.
• The meaning of friendship: Children need to develop social skills and to know how to create and sustain meaningful friendships for a healthy adult life. We may lose wealth, youth, health, and spouses. Friends, however, are often the most reliable emotional resource in life. Friends must learn to accept one another’s limitations and flaws, and to complement one another’s weaknesses by contributing their strengths. Friends also quickly learn that superficial differences are far less important than shared values, trust and humor.
About Sean Adelman
Sean Adelman is a practicing orthopedic surgeon and advocate for exceptional kids in Seattle. He and his wife, Susan, have three children. Adelman wrote the “Sam’s Top Secret Journal” series to show the similarities the protagonist shares with other children, and to explore how differently-abled individuals benefit society.
It’s only appropriate that fantastical genres of storytelling are often geared toward preadolescents, says writer Elayne James.
“It’s an extremely impressionable time, with the wonder of childhood firmly established and a dramatic transformation about to take place,” says James, author of “Destiny’s Call,” the first installment of the fantasy series “The LightBridge Legacy,” (www.lightbridgelegacy.com).
It’s also not surprising that the “Lord of the Rings” movie trilogy from 2001 to 2003 was one of the most successful in film history – and that fans were eagerly anticipating director Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth on Dec. 14 with the release of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” she says.
In addition to being masterfully interpreted on the big screen, many of us were attached to the story from the books, which are often introduced during the middle school years. The narratives and personal experiences we have during preadolescence tend to stay with us more than those from other phases of life.
Researchers frequently cite pediatric neuroimaging studies, which show that during the ages of 11 and 12 our brain development is at a fundamental stage. A four-month journey across America at that age left an indelible impression on James. The trip culminated in New York City which became the launching point for the “Tolkien-esque” adventure in her most recent novel.
“Think about what you were learning at that age, your interests, the dreams of who you might someday become, all taking shape as your sense of self comes slowly into focus. Those things you loved as a child, whether it be drawing or basketball, music or dance, will likely be what brings you back to yourself later in life.”
James says there’s much to value about pre-teens experiencing narratives like “The Hobbit”:
• Preparation and a sense of identity: In “The Hobbit,” the prequel to J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous trilogy, Bilbo Baggins is the protagonist on a quest for treasure. Throughout his journey, he grows and matures, learning to accept the various aspects of his personality, including those that are less appealing. He must be brave at times, and rely on his common sense at other times. This is the journey pre-teens face when entering adolescence, and discussing it with them through the prism of Bilbo Baggins can be a wonderful teaching moment (as well as a potentially entertaining conversation).
• Puberty, the universal “adventure: ” Everyone must endure that first plunge of major physical transformation with puberty. As the body is flooded with adult hormones, adolescents must rely on their still-developing young minds to deal with mature situations. This can be a difficult, even frightening, time and, of course, kids are never the same after puberty. Baggins’ ordeals show children that high adventure (including puberty!) and the most important experiences in life, leave us forever changed. There may be frightening moments, times they grieve what they’re leaving behind, but ultimately, the journey is rewarding.
• There and Back Again … This is not only the expanded title of Tolkien’s “The Hobbit,” it is also a reoccurring theme in James’ career as a writer. After reading “The Hobbit” at age 11 and chronicling her own adventures across America a year later, she decided to create her own stories. “Without Tolkien’s invitation to Middle Earth,” she says, “I might have followed a very different path. Tolkien made me view my own life as an adventure and I believed that I, like the unassuming, shy little Hobbit, could succeed, even against all odds.” Returning to New York as an adult, and as an author, she claims, brought her journey full circle.
“What occurs during adolescence stays with you,” says James, “so it’s important to make sure children are exposed to positive stories and experiences.”
About Elayne James
Elayne James started her writing career at age 11 – after she read “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien and discovered she wanted to spend her life creating worlds. In addition to being a lifelong writer, she has been a singer/songwriter, sound effects specialist, a video editor, a playwright, a theatrical lighting designer, a graphic artist and a professional photographer. She lives by the Pacific Ocean in Southern California.
It seems every time we turn around, another financial giant is accused of lying, cheating and stealing.
It’s not your imagination, says Rakesh Malhotra, a longtime COO who has worked in Asia, East Europe and United States and led cross-cultural diverse teams.
“White-collar crime convictions in the United States alone have increased 17.8 percent in the last five years alone,” he says. “Last year, the Securities Exchange Commission filed a record 735 enforcement actions.”
And it’s not just hedge fund operators and money traders. White-collar crimes include identity theft, cheating on taxes, health-care fraud – crimes as readily committed by employees at the local big-box store as suits in penthouse offices.
“The problem is one of values,” says Malhotra, author of Adventures of Tornado Kid: Whirling Back Home Towards Timeless Values (www.FiveGlobalValues.com). “I have worked in several countries, recruiting, hiring, training and retaining employees. I found that in every culture, the same core values play a key role in the success of both employees and the corporation.
“Unfortunately, they are not taught in school – not in grade school or in most business schools. While we would benefit from having values taught at all age levels, for now they are learned mostly from parents, mentors, inspiring teachers and others who shape young lives.”
It’s as important for the business to have what Malhotra has identified as five essential global values as it is for the employees, he says.
“The business has to show that these ethics are implemented and acted upon. Otherwise, the employee with values, the one instructed to, say, lie about a product, will feel secure about reporting such conduct without being fired.”
What are these values and how can they be taught?
• Responsibility: There is nothing more fundamental to being an adult in our society than accountability. Parents can create cause-and-effect circumstances, such as letting a teen borrow the car provided they put gas in it. Breaking such a pact though, because of a bad grade in school, creates a mixed message. When children learn responsibility, they know that happiness comes from doing the right thing.
• Compassion: It’s not just a term for being nice; compassion is a form of intelligence – an empathetic ability to see a situation through another’s eyes and to feel what another person feels. When adults are compassionate, they reach out to help others because they can feel others’ pain – and the relief and gratitude of help, sympathy or encouragement.
• Integrity: Integrity is the glue that holds together all of the values. When given an option to stray from our values, such as lying for the sake of convenience, integrity is there to hold us accountable.
• Peace: Our ability to manage conflicts amicably is a direct result of a peaceful mind and attitude. Those who value peace view anger, jealousy and hostility as the barriers to communication that they are. In all settings, business and domestic, conflicts will arise – it is inevitable. We must work through these peacefully if we are to move forward.
• Love: You must love what you do, passionately. Do your work and your organization in some way contribute to the welfare of people? That is the reason for your passion. With love, you contribute to the greater good and feel gratified.
About Rakesh Malhotra
Rakesh Malhotra has worked in, lived in or traveled to more than 40 countries. During this time, he studied human behavior in relation to core values as a means hire, promote and manage effectively. He has focused on what influences performance and what makes some employees perform at a higher level than others. Malhotra holds a master’s in Public Administration and several diplomas in business education.
So we have established that people change. If this is not established in your mind, take it and believe it. Everybody changes, whether they want to or not. The only question is whether you will allow healthy growth or painfully resist but one way or another change will occur. Knowing this, what do you do about it? As a parent, how does this come into play?
The role of change and parenting is something that we can speak about with authority. We are the parents of an 18 year old daughter, a 7 year old son, and a 4 year old son. Our daughter did not have the same parents as our 4 year old. Sure, their parents were the same in genetic structure but not in psyche. Our daughter’s parents were paranoid, constantly waiting for the boogie man that would tear apart our happy home. And, of course, she has special needs which only confirmed that at any moment God would reach down to smite us when we least expected it. Therefore we always expected it. That will teach the Big Guy not to mess with us.
By the time the boys came around our relationship with God and reality had mellowed a bit. God is on our side, the boys are armor plated, and we have learned to keep our worries in check. Obviously the only thing in this scenario that has changed is us. The Big Man has stayed pretty constant and there is no new indestructability technology that is protecting the boys. (But it would be cool if there was. Like an Iron Man suit or something.)
The important part of this change in parenting is the acknowledgement that we have and are constantly changing as parents. Nothing good can come from pretending that the same rules and beliefs that we had with our daughter still have to apply to our boys. Nor will it work to assume that the same relationship we had with our daughter a year ago applies to now. This weekend, our daughter will come home from college for the first time and spend Thanksgiving with us. Last time she was at home, she was dependent and ‘under our roof’ with all of the poopoo that comes with it. But she has changed and our relationship has to change with her. The first step in creating this evolution is to acknowledge that it is happening.
This evolution continues all through our lives. Even in our 40’s, our relationships with our own parent’s changes for better or worse. As things out of our control influence us and force change, the threads of relationship bend and flex to accommodate the changes. A parent or child becomes ill and we change. If they get better then we must evolve the relationship. If they do not then we still must evolve the relationship.
Changes in the body, alterations in hormone levels, and the human experience flowing through Erikson’s developmental stages are not just confined to specific areas or times in our lives. They do not solely belong to adolescents and menopause. They are not confined to birth and end of life. We change every day. We evolve constantly. With every blink of the eye, we have a new opportunity, a new responsibility, to create something wonderful in our relationships.