Have you met anyone who’s been a victim? Of course you have! Almost everyone has been a victim of something. A victim of a crime. A victim of an unjust system. A victim of bad parenting.
You’ve probably met people, that despite being a victim of something, have chosen to forge ahead.
On the flip side, you’ve probably met people that have allowed their victim status to become them. They frame the world in terms of their victimhood and proclaim the ills of the person, system or events that ‘caused’ them to be a victim. You see this often when people have been abused by a church, by a family member or someone that should have been protecting them.
I read an article the other day, that was posted on facebook between two sisters. It essentially talked about being raised by parents who were emotionally unavailable and emotionally illiterate, and the impact this had on the person who wrote the article. One of the daughters discussed very openly on how she believed her parents were emotionally unavailable, unaware and, in her words, ‘brought them up in an environment of rage’.
I’m a parent. Like pretty much most parents I know, I put in a stack of effort in raising my children to become happy, well adapted, engaged, productive adults. I know my parents did this, too.
With the benefit of hindsight, I know my parents made mistakes. They’ll even admit their mistakes. There’s no hurt, malice or anger there – we’ve had some pretty honest conversations and they’ve often said they would of done things differently.
I’m not going to lie. My life probably would have been different if my parents did do things differently. If I learned different skills, was pushed in different directions and had and different focuses during my upbringing.
One of the greatest lies someone can tell themselves is that their life would be better if their parents were better. If their parents were more emotionally in tune, wealthier, kinder, more loving. Your childhood may have been easier and you may be imparted with better skills, but to say your life overall would be better is a falsehood.
It is an unfair, and honestly, wrong assumption to expect your parents to teach you everything. To give you every single tool to become an adult. Some parents will impart financial skills, others emotional, some practical or vocational. I truly believe parents will impart the skills that they have to raise the most well rounded children. Are there abusive and neglecting parents? Of course there are. Do they have an impact on a person’s ability to grow into a well adjusted adult? Without a doubt.
Part of being a grown up is identifying areas where you lack a skill or capability. There may be areas in your childhood where hurts were caused, where you don’t feel your parents gave you the right skills to manage a situation. Guess what? Learn from it. Learn. Grow. Develop into a well rounded human.
You can go around, blaming your parents for whatever slight they caused – real or perceived. You’ll grow into the victim you believe you are, and that victimhood will enslave your whole life.
There are situations when parents have genuinely abused or neglected their children. Genuinely. That’s horrible, it’s wrong and it’s rotten. As trite as it sounds, you can get healing from this – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. This will be a process, but again, you can choose to let healing in, or you can choose to be a victim.
I suspect with many ‘victims’, they’ve allowed themselves to be ensnared in their hurt. They’ve chosen to let the vines of hurt choke the otherwise beautiful garden of happy memories.
It’s unfair to expect your parents to solve all your problems, equip you with every tool to succeed and provide you with an easy life. It’s not going to happen. It’s an unrealistic expectation – unfair to yourself and unfair to them.
There’s nothing wrong with talking to your parents about the joys, disappointments, hurts and happiness of growing up. That’s a pretty mature thing to do, it helps you grow and helps build relationships between people. Focusing a locus of disappointment on your parents for not meeting a particular need, however, is unhealthy and will cause you a lifetime of hurt.
Parents aren’t perfect. You’re not perfect. Your parents probably have disadvantaged you in some way. Guess what? They’ve probably given you a stack of help, too. Don’t let your disappointments enslave you. You’re a grown adult – you’ve got agency about your decisions and choices about your emotions and your life and your wellbeing. You can choose to be a continual victim, or you can choose to learn, grow and adapt.
What choice will you make?
Have you ever Googled ‘Family Trees’ and checked out all the different types of family trees? Do it. Tell me what you see.
One thing you’ll notice with most family trees is they start with the trunk, and branch up and outwards.
Most family trees place the genealogy above the soil line. Everyone is just an offshoot of another offshoot. A branch, seemingly blowing randomly in the wind of existence.
I suspect, however, we’ve got the concept of family trees wrong.
In Australia, (not including Indigenous Australians, who have a rich history and identity in this great land), we really don’t have a real concept of ‘generations’. Unlike a host of Indigenous communities worldwide, plus Europe, Asia and even America, we really don’t have a strong generational connection. Many families can’t map out more than two or three generations in Australia. As a result I think, Australia has an absence of a generational family culture. Certainly, we see pockets of it with some cultural groups. We see it sometimes with special events, like Christmas or Easter when the family gets together. As a whole, however, I don’t think we have a close-knit family and generational influence culture. The reasons for this are many, and maybe we’ll explore those in another post.
The concept of ‘strong foundations’ is used in many contexts. We see it in building, for any structure that does not have strong foundations is set to shift, move and not be stable. We see it in education, where to build a love of learning needs a strong foundation of literacy. We see it in the spiritual, where adherents of a faith need to be strongly grounded in their beliefs for them to stay strong in their faith. We also see it in both individuals and families.
I mentioned above that I think we have the concept of the family tree wrong. I think we need to look at family trees in reverse. What roots have nourished the tree?
Most would agree that you are the biological product of your parents genes. You might thank your dad for your big ears or your mum for your fast metabolism. Your growth may have been stunted in utero if your mother suffered from an illness or malnutrition. Your genes may be subject to some type of abnormality if your fathers sperm was affected by chemicals. Inversely, you may have benefitted from healthy parents who gave your growing body the best chance in life.
If you go to your parents, their parents too had the primary biological influence in their lives, and so it goes, back through the generations. Your olive skin might be a gene from Mediterranean blood, passed down from many generations ago. Your crystal blue eyes could be a throwback from some Nordic gene inherited from your grandparents grandparents.
Whilst we often think about the biological traits inherited from generations past, do we ever give thought to the spiritual traits inherited from generations past? I’ve mentioned in past posts of my Christian faith. I know that my faith is the product of the prayers of generations past, proclaiming the love and faithfulness of God on offspring they will never meet. These faithful voices of yore, proclaiming love and life through the generations.
We know that a parents (and grandparents) influence does not simply stop once a baby is conceived. Family influences have a HUGE impact on the direction a child goes in life. Anyone who’s been married will attest to the influences their spouses’ family has had on their spouse in relation to money, careers, life perspective, faith, parenting, sex – actually, almost anything!
Here’s where the concepts of an ‘upside down’ family tree and a generational family culture meet the real world. Here’s where they meet your world.
You can’t control or change what came before you. You can’t change your genes, not one iota. You can’t change your grandads violent alcoholism, your mothers cold personality, your fathers austere upbringing or your grandmothers faith. You can’t simply put roundup on the weeds in your family tree. You can however be thankful for the good, understand the bad and seek to learn from their mistakes of the past.
A tree needs ongoing nourishment to survive, just like a person. One of the best ways to nourish a child is in a family environment. A place where not only mum and dad, but grandmothers, grandfathers, uncles, aunts and cousins share their love, their knowledge, their experience and their wisdom. A place where the generations feed off each other.
Now you might say ‘but you don’t know my family – that would NEVER work!’. You know what? It might not have worked in the past, but guess what – you have the opportunity to make it work for your children.
Here’s the challenge for you, especially if you are yet to have children. What are you doing now to make sure the tree you will eventually support will have the best shot in life? What decisions are you making now to develop healthy habits – with money, physical health, spiritual development and relationally – that will positively impact on your future generations.
What will the root you spawn say about you? Will they say that your root was unhealthy? A drunk? Unwise with money or angry? Will they say that your root was healthy? That you paved the way for a healthy tree? That you faithfully sewed nutrition and life into the generations to come?
You may have gotten to a point in your life where biologically or relationally, you’ve messed it up for your children, or even your grandchildren. Maybe you were an angry father, or a distant mother. Maybe you worked too much or were financially irresponsible and have no inheritance (in any sense of the word) to pass onto your children. It’s not too late to start trying to develop a generational culture. Of trying to break those bad habits of the past. Those generational curses. Those harsh words, those seeds of unhappiness. It’s time to start developing a positive generational family culture. It will need to start with you, and it will need to start now.
Don’t be the root that stunts the growth of your family tree. Take ownership of your family tree. Start nourishing it with love, faithfulness and kindness. Believe it or not, it’s your responsibility. There’s plenty out there that will seek to grind your family tree down to a stump.
The collective chirp of a multitude of birds. The distant sound of a motorboat punting through the oyster leases. A far-away roar of jets cruising from the air-force base.
They say things change, just to stay the same. Nearly thirty years ago, my grandparents bought a holiday house ‘somewhere’ north of Newcastle. They bought a quaint, two-bedroom weatherboard shack, overlooking the bush, with a secluded bay at the bottom of the garden. Those ‘in the know’ will have very vivid and happy memories of what I’m talking about.
‘The Shack’ as it was once affectionately called contains many mamories from my childhood, and perhaps one of the last ‘physical’ locations in which I spent time with my dad. As you can imagine, this is a very, very special place for me.
I have both photographs, recollections and a pocketful of legends of adventures (and mis-adventures!) of my dad being here. Needless to say, fishing ‘off the jetty’ remains one of the most prominent and happy memories.
Through most of my adult like, I’ve longed to bring my own family back to ‘The Shack’. I’ve longed to spend the days looking for crabs, licking ice-cream, splashing in the water and of course, fishing.
I expect any psychologists out there could label this behaviour – I guess I just wanted to recapture some memories from many years ago.
Over the last thirty years, this place has changed to stay the same. The two bedroom shack has grown to encompass a larger family. The place has had improvements – touch ups here and there, all little changes, all to keep the place the same.
In a similar way, I guess, I’ve changed to stay the same. To come back here now is a considerable drive – over 700 kms, which is no easy feat with two children (and a wife!). It’s been a change of holiday destination for me – all to have the same holiday that I had all those years ago.
This week, I’ve been blessed to finally bring my family back to ‘The Shack’.
In retrospect, I’ve focused too much on what this beautiful place ment to me in my past – childhood holidays with my amazing brothers and wonderful cousins. Days spent in the sun, on the beach, crabbing, fishing, digging sandcastles with our special uncle. Nights filled with wishing we had a TV, playing UNO and colouring in competitions. Perhaps, for a while, I focused on a memory that was unchanged, despite my changing.
You see, I’ve had to change, to stay the same. I’ve had to escape the mindset of childhood reminiscence, to a mindset of creating new memories.
This week, I’ve been blessed to have a dream come true.
I’ve taken my children fishing ‘off the jetty’! I’ve gone from being a passive recipient of memories to an active creator of them. I could of spent the week thinking about what was, and forgotten to admire the simplistic beauty in front of me – my wife, my children and these serene surrounds I find myself in. Yes, I’ve re-lived some beautiful, happy memories. I’ve shared stories from yore with my family, but more importantly, I’ve started a new chapter in this book we call life.
I received an email from my grandparents, just prior to posting this. They relayed to me the unexpected joy that ‘The Shack’ has brought not only to them, but to three generations after them!
The story changes, as it stays the same. Chapters are written in different styles, but the themes remain the same. It’s beautiful to flip through the earlier chapters and share past joys and it’s amazing to see how the story continues to be written, the themes of family, love and fishing ‘off the jetty’ remain the same!
Many people ask me how to respond to sorrow and grief. Why? Who knows. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been quite honest and upfront about my own journey. Perhaps people think I’ve got something to say. What ever it is, I’m constantly honoured when people ask me my advice.
As I’ve talked about in earlier posts, I’m naturally a terrible introvert. I’m most comfortable living in my own world of uncommon sense, enjoying a tidal wave of thoughts every second, lapping up the totality of humanity and enjoying my small contribution to those around me. For me, the question ‘what are you thinking’ can be an incredibly difficult question to ask! I often have to get over the thoughts of ‘these are my thoughts, not your thoughts! You can’t think my thoughts, they are mine, get your own thoughts to think about!’. Then I realise they (usually my wife!) just want to know what I’m thinking, because, well that’s what gals like to do. They arn’t wanting to steal my thoughts (which are my thoughts to think), they just want to know.Odd creatures.
Not too long ago, I talked about the serendipity of silence, in relation to being quiet within yourself. Friendship can be much the same way, as can responding to grief.
There is an art to being with someone. To being able to be there – just being – physically, emotionally or mentally. To communicate an essay of emotion without even mentioning a syllable. I actually think guys can be better then girls at this. Why? Who knows. I think guys just get that sometimes, you’ll talk when you’re ready, and only when the required pre-conditions are met for communication.
Sometimes you can say it all, without saying a word. The sum of shared experiences that bind a pair of people can sometimes mean so much more then, well, words.
For me, I quite enjoy listening to others. I love the concept of someones story. I love hearing the triumph of the human spirit over adversity. I love a good laugh.
Sometimes, the best way to journey (not help, journey) with someone through grief is just by being there. There’s probably nothing you can say that will take the pain away. You can’t apologise for someones loss. You probably can’t fathom what they are feeling. What you can do is be there.
It’s often through silence that you get the best conversations. The biggest insights. The most powerful breakthroughs. Some things you cant rush with words. The crassness of communication turns a journey of grief into a destination that needs to be ‘talked through’.
I think one of the greatest respects you can pay a friend is the respect of silence. Of understanding that you both don’t have to talk. The respect of being. Some might consider this an incredibly shallow friendship – however, I think contrary to this. It certainly does not replace the pillars of friendship that include intimacy, openness and a shared history. What the respect of silence says to your companion is that silence isn’t a gap between you. It’s not a void that needs to be filled with words. It’s actually an invisible bond between you.
I observed two old friends at a funeral recently. Usually very chatty, no words were minced or wasted between the pair during the season of mourning. I watched as they stood together, strolled together through the green expanse of the cemetery and enjoyed the closeness of a silent bond together. Neither had to say a word to each other – each knew silence was all they needed to convey their deepest sympathies to each other.
It’s the totality of your walk together. The sum of your shared experiences. It’s a respect, often hard earned through lifes hard knocks.
So next time you are at a loss to support someone, especially someone in grief, support them with silence. Support them with an acknowledgement of being. That they don’t need to say or justify anything they are thinking or feeling. That you love, respect and want to support them just the way they are.
Silence. It brings with it more heartfelt communication then the most beautifully constructed sentence that you can ever construct.
Image lifted from https://www.flickr.com/photos/faris-khalifeh/2068051840/?rb=1
That’s right. Hurt your kids feelings.
Tell them that they probably won’t get the music award. Tell them they probably won’t take out the reading award. Chances are they won’t make state in the team. The dux? Forget about it.
There seems to be a push to stop hurting kids feelings. Not having winners or losers in sports. Not having school dux. Not having exceptional achievement awards. These days, every kid seems to win a prize.
I’ve won two sports awards in my 32 years on God’s green earth. That was in 1988. I got two third places in the running and marathon.I got third because there was only two other boys in my age group racing. I’ve still got the ribbons. It was at that point, in kindergarten, that I realised, I sucked at sport.
Anyone who’s lived in the real world realises that life has winners, life has losers, life has those that give it their best shot and grab every opportunity and others who squander whatever they have.
What’s better? Is it better to gloss over universal truths of winning or losing, or is it better to instill in our children positive self-esteem, an attitude of ‘giving it a go’, of fostering their talents, gifts and a willingness to tackle their weaknesses?
We seem hellbent on not offending people these days. The term ‘keep it politically correct’ comes to mind. What would you rather? A child (who eventually turns into an adult) who’s never been taught to nurture their talents and confront their weaknesses, or a child who relishes in new opportunities, who knows how to play fair, who gives it their best shot and who can win and lose like a champion?
So go on. Hurt your kids feelings. Not everyone can be first, but everyone can try their hardest. Not everyone will win, but everyone can be a team player. Find your children’s talents. Nurture them. Encourage them to appreciate differences in others. It’s not going to diminish your children’s effort and talent – it will teach them how to shine!
There’s no end of parenting advice and parenting theories out there. Many have their merits, their quirks, their cons.
Let’s not beat around the bush. If you’re a deliberate parent, you’re probably going to take the role more seriously and your kids are probably going to turn out better. Pretty much most parenting theories, when applied properly, will have some sort of positive impact. Engaged parents usually produce engaged, healthy kids.
Pretty much every parenting theory I’ve seen follows the same formula.
Vidins is here to decode the formula for you.
1/ Every parenting theory will criticize your parents.
They’ll use sympathetic lines like ‘your parents probably did the best they could, BUT’, or ‘you probably think that because you turned out all right, your parents ways were probably right too’. They’ll probably also bring up something gendered like dad spanked us and mum scolded us.
Don’t fall for the tricks!
These parenting theories do this to lure you into a false sense of security and try to make you pity your parents. Here’s the rub. You’re a parent and you want the best for your kids, right? Well your parents wanted the best for you, too. Are you saying that their method of parenting wasn’t good enough, or hip enough for you? Fo’ shame! Your parents loved you! It would be dishonouring to them not to emulate their parenting style!
Don’t believe the latest thing. Believe the genuine thing.
2/ Discipline Shmicipline.
Without a doubt, most ‘modern’ parenting theories will talk about discipline. They’ll probably talk about setting boundaries, naughty corners, time-outs and reinforcing good behaviour. All good things, by the way. All good if you have good children.
But you don’t have good children.
You have naughty children.
Very naughty children.
Tantrum in the shopping centre children.
Rice-bubbles all over the floor children.
You’re at your wits end. That’s why you’re watching a parenting DVD or reading a parenting book.
Most days you can’t decide if you want to put your kids up for adoption or drown them in the river.
Time outs? Give me a break! More like ‘time out to recharge the batteries to give mum more hell’.
Parents, it does not matter what the theories say, it’s ok to take to your kids backsides with a wooden spoon. Daily, if need be.
Your kids will learn. Oh yes, they will learn.
3/ Bring the Bible into it.
Now I can’t say for sure with the Muslims, or the Hindus or Buddhists, or even Sikhs, but I know for sure that a stack of Christian parenting theories will bring something of the Bible into the fold. The Bible is used to explain how you should talk to your kids, set boundaries, discipline, ethics, morality, faith (obviously).
Now, don’t take this the wrong way, but when it came to Jesus, God had it pretty easy in the parenting department, apart from the whole dying on the cross thing. Jesus, fully man yet fully God never sinned, never threw a tantrum (except for that time in the Temple with the tables), never said ‘NO!’. When he got lost, he didn’t run away to do something naughty – he just hung out at the Temple. You can’t tell me that that’s parenting a strong-willed child.
There’s a stack of excellent life advice in the Bible – not just for parenting, but pretty much every area of your life. Just be wary when select half verses are used to spiritualise an aspect of parenting.
4/ You’ll damage your children if you don’t use this theory
Inevitably, the parenting theorist will criticize all the other parenting theories out there. They will be to prescriptive, to disciplinarian, to libertarian, to permissive, not loving enough, not disciplining enough blah blah blah.
You know who parenting theories damage the most? Parents! Lofty ideals, impossibly high standards, impractical ideas and experts with picture perfect kids do damage to parents!
So what’s the modern parent to do? Stop reading parenting books or watching parenting DVD’s? Of course not! You could read through a whole parenting book and get one bit of gold that helps you on your parenting journey.
You have to find what works well for you and your family.
So my advice? Well for $25.99 plus postage and handling, I can send you my exclusive parenting DVD with the latest theory on parenting and childhood development, backed up by scientific research and endorsed by a real church minister!
I’ve just bought a house and will be moving next week. It’s a very exciting time for me and my family! We’ve told our extended family and shared some photos on Facebook. We’ve had a look through home decorating magazines and catalogues for ideas to personalise our home and garden. We are very, very excited!
One of the most amazing things about life is sharing it with those you love. Your family. Your friends.
You would probably have people in your life that you miss – children that have moved away, parents that have passed on, friends you’ve lost along the way.
What I’ve been thinking about is who misses you?
Could it be a new girl or boyfriend, anxiously waiting your call or message in the evening, missing you even though you’ve just seen each other during the day?
Could it be the child who’s run away, and has a parent searching, missing, wishing they’d come home?
Could it be the old friend, wishing he’d never said those words, just missing his old mate.
Who’s missing you?
Who’s waiting by their letter box, waiting for a letter from you?
Is there someone who still checks their phone, hoping for a text from you?
Is there an old mate of yours out there, just wanting to have a beer with you one more time?
I bet there are people out there that miss you. They don’t need to know all the intimacies of your life, they just want to be part of it.
I’m going to challenge you. Send that text. Pick up the phone. Write (and send) that letter. Go out for that drink. Because you know what’s worse than being missed? It’s not being missed.