Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Striking a balance (1) - Parenting

I’ve been having a few difficulties reconciling some areas of life and wanted to share them with you. Some of these issues are with Parenting, others with Society, one or two with Spirit and most with Myself. They’ve been buzzing round my head and my feeling is that I can’t move on without finding a balanced view and an acceptable integration with them and my personal Belief system.

I’ll start the ball rolling with Parenting as this is I see as the most important role in my life. I’m in a strange place at the moment having four children aged 10 (A), 8 (B), 5 (C) and 2 (D). They all have vastly different needs and different backgrounds which makes for an interesting ‘blend’ and very real challenges. Bear with me on this and I’ll try to explain.

(A) is my partners first son who has no contact with his father and is just coming up to moving to ‘Big School’ in September. He has ‘adopted’ me totally as his Dad and we have a very close relationship where he talks to me about most things quite openly. He is soon approaching his SATS tests which will ‘decide’ his placement in Secondary School and probably the future course of his schooling. He is a very helpful kid and is absolutely brilliant with boys (C) and (D) but has no time or patience with girl (B). His biggest downfall is his ‘attitude’ and a very big mouth which often lands him in real trouble both at home and in school.

Here lies the first of my issues and it relates to his ‘attitude’ in general. Don’t get me wrong he’s no different than any other 10 year old boy but here’s the crux. During a number of conversations where I’ve attempted to invoke a strong work ethic, morals and identity he’s expressed the idea that it doesn’t matter what he does there will always be someone else to pick up the pieces. He has no grasp of personal responsibility, importance of choice or that his actions have an impact on others.

I recently attended an open evening with him at his soon to be Secondary School and they spent more time talking about their Social support structures than they did about Education. I came away feeling that I had Victorian values and he came away with his ideas about ‘having his hand held through life’ totally confirmed. Just what is happening when our children will leave school thinking that life is full of people just waiting to leap out and save them from the ‘Bad stuff’ – that is NOT the case.

I personally strive to make the world a better place but unfortunately I’m in the smallest minority. The Education system has a responsibility to help with my endeavours to guide and develop my children – but to do so in reality. It’s great to tell children they can be whatever they want to be if they only believe in themselves but I’m sorry that will lead to a lot of disappointed and frustrated adults.

There are only Eleven players on the England football team and I’m sorry but my eldest just hasn’t got the natural skill to be one. He tells me that he doesn’t need to work hard at school because he’s following his dream – WHAT! – even if I could afford to hire David Beckham himself for the rest of my sons life he’d still be lucky to play for a mediocre team. Thus comes a BIG issue – what do I do as a loving, supportive and inspirational parent – cut to the chase and destroy his dreams with a good dose of reality or tell him to follow a dream that will never happen?

So on to Child (B) who still regularly sees her father, every other weekend, and worships the ground he walks on. This isn’t sour grapes but rather a stark truth but the guy is one of the least responsible and lacks morals and ethics by the bucket-load. I drop her off with him each Friday night and pick her up again Sunday evening religiously because it’s ‘the right thing to do’. The girl needs to spend time with her father and I’d never step in her way unless she was in danger.

My issue with this is that he tells her not to listen to me and undermines my guidance. She is struggling at school and no matter what I do or say to try and support her she simply looks at me with a knowing smile. If we weren’t living in this ‘politically correct’ world I’d have quite happily given him a good hiding by now but I’m wise enough to know that this would be turned against me. He’s been a petty criminal most of his life and I know she sees this as exciting and fun. His idea of taking her out at the weekend is to a local pub that has swings so he can still drink with his mates while she plays. So here goes again guys – How do I sit back and watch someone I love dearly, under achieve because her Daddy just doesn’t ‘get it’?

Child (C) still lives with his mother with whom I still have a good friendship and child (D) is mine and my current partner's and both are thriving well – so no gripes there you’ll be glad to know. Thanks for listening and I look forward to your input on these and any other issues that you may wish to comment. I promise I’ll pen some more inspirational articles before moving on to ‘Striking the Balance 2’.

Take care and I send you Love and Light to face up to the challenges in your own life,



klm said...

As you know, I don't have kids, so have no authority whatsoever to comment.

So thoughts.

Be love. Be compassion. Be detached.

Be the type of character and person you wish your children to be.

Remember, it is not for us to know another's path in life.

It is the obstacles and the struggles that we encounter that develop our strengths and character.

You have brought these two souls into your life to share love with them, and learning.

What can you learn from them?

What are they here to teach you?

Encourage their dreams. Support their choices.

England may only have 11 players on it's team... but striving for that dream may lead your son to unexpected places.

Coaching troubled teens he'll relate to because of his own teen years.

Step inside their eyes and see the world as they do.

See the exciting father who's only around on weekends and never has to worry about discipline and takes you to unusual places and treats you like a grown-up.

Understand this will change and in later years it will be your wisdom and love that she'll hear in her heart.

You can only offer what you can offer.

Be content in knowing you do the best you can.

The rest is not up to you.

Much joy and no authority whatsoever,

Jeff Lilly said...

Hi Damian, I wish I'd seen this post sooner -- I never have time to do all the reading I want. :-) I think I have a pretty good perspective on what you're going through, partly because I DO have four children about the age yours are (though none are step-children) and partly because I come from a broken home myself -- my mother and father were divorced when I was six.

I think Kara-Leah has it pretty much spot-on. The basic issue you're having here is that you have a core set of values that you believe in and you'd like to pass on to your children. But values can't be taught! As Kara-Leah says, you can only try to set a good example.

Let me be concrete. After the divorce, I lived with my mother. My father was a successful businessman, and he believed quite strongly in certain things -- about how important wealth and societal status was, about the importance of getting a "good job" regardless of what your personal preferences were, and about honesty. (His personal belief was: be honest. Always. Unless it's inconvenient.) He tried to teach me his value system by talking to me at length about my choices ("Can you get a real job in linguistics? Have you applied to colleges yet? You should lie on your tax forms." No kidding!).

My mother was a Zen Buddhist. She had no job at all, which shocked many people in the family but was true to her own path, which was basically that of a monk (who happened to have children). She was always absolutely honest -- she is the sort of person for whom lying is simply impossible. As far as I can remember, she never tried to teach my sister and I any values whatsoever. When I said I wanted to go to college, she asked me why. When my sister started smoking, she did nothing. She simply lived her life as perfectly as she could. As time went on, my sister and I came to dread the times we would have to be with our father, even though he lived in a large house, with color television and video games and a large yard and other children for us to play with... I ended up spending most of my time in my room while I was there.

So I would say -- simply live the best life you can. Give them a standard against which they can judge themselves. Remember they are still young, and while the choices they make now are important, they have free will and can remake themselves from the ground up whenever they choose to. Make sure they see the joy in your life as well as the values, and show them how the joy arises from those values.

And -- oh yeah -- if at all possible -- send your kids to a Waldorf school. :-)

Damian said...

Thank you so much for your input on this - your words have given me solace, confirmation and some directions to seek for clarity and inspiration.

Kara-Leah - being so close to the action I often forget to step back and 'see through others eyes' and your words struck a real chord with me. Additionally it is all too easy to get lost in my own 'role' and become distanced from the higher good at work.

Thank you - and do not put down your 'authority' - you will be a wonderful Mother when you are blessed with the nurture of another :-)

Jeff - your honesty and insight also shine through and my thanks to you for sharing your life. I endeavour to 'let them in' to the activities and knowledge that give me joy in life and you are right - that's when I see the sparkle in their eyes shine brightest ;-)

They currently enjoy collecting crystals and visiting magical sites - walking in the woods and identifying constellations in the night sky - these are the 'gifts' I share with them and I look forward to the day the books start disappearing from my collection ;-)

Many, many Thanks to you both for helping me see through the smog - as Kara-Leah quite rightly points out I have much 'to learn from them'.

Take care,


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