2012 Holidays

Did you give your children too many or too expensive gifts around the holidays. It occurred to me that all we heard during the holiday period was how the stores were doing and how much internet buying there had been this year. While it’s almost certain this post will get me branded as the modern equivalent of Scrooge, I am equally certain our children are being treated to a gift giving frenzy that cannot be doing them any good. Given the state of the economy and the borrowing that many families had to do in support of this tradition, are we not insuring that they, in turn, will continue that tradition. How many of the people reading this post ask their children to earn the money they use to buy other family members gifts. My guess is not many. The cost structure of running a family does not take a holiday. Those costs just keep coming in December same as they do in every other month. Ask yourself this question, am I doing the best thing for my family by sanctioning excesses in holiday spending? Or, is this short term high a prescription for long term pain?


Parental Failure

Last week a family was removed from an Alaska Air flight, a result of their child having a tantrum and refusing to fasten his seat belt. Whether or not one agrees with the action taken by the airline, it should be clear that the parents had not properly prepared the child for air travel. Thus, the blame rests with the parents for this unfortunate incident not the airline and certainly not the child.

Parental failure runs the gamut from not preparing children to eat properly to behavior with more serious consequences such as the incident described above. Parents need to take care in everything they teach their children so as to insure not only that they behave appropriately when they are children but that their actions do not affect them as adults. This can also relate to inaction. Not being there for your kids or failing to teach about important areas of appropriate adult behavior can be equally damaging. The parents in my book, Journey To Comfort, found this out – but much too late.

As a parent, serious consideration needs to be given to what you want your children to be and how you want them to act as both children and adults. Their future behavior is in your hands.


No One Tells You How To Parent

In growing through our teens, as we progress through high school we learn much of what is needed to get through daily life. We have courses in all the basics like Math, English, Social Studies, History and so on. Many schools have courses in Foreign Languages, Civics and other useful topics. A few even teach some basic daily life skills like how to write a check, balance a checkbook, cooking, shop skills and hygiene. And there is now, of course, the review on sex and sexuality.

All that being said, there one course that at least this writer considers the most important subject of all – parenting. The unfortunate part is that very few schools teach it. Along with teaching how to have sex and what that means, isn’t a natural outgrowth of that information on how to parent? What does it mean to become a parent? What are your responsibilities as a parent? How are you supposed to react when you are the proud parent of a newborn who has no one else to turn to for all its basic needs? You are it – the baby has nowhere else to go. Are you able to provide food, clothing, lodging, healthcare, security and the absolute most important thing of all – LOVE? As a country, we are woefully inadequate in teaching the most challenging and important skill of all – insuring the next generation is ready for the world.

Are you thinking of becoming a parent someday? Do you know what that means? Are you already a parent and, if so, were you prepared for the responsibility? Do you know of anyone that has so mismanaged the task that their children suffered as a result?


Brothers – How do you love your sister?

When considering sibling love, we usually don’t think of it in the same way as we use that word in other contexts. A brother may love his sister or he may dislike her and everything in between. If he loves her, it is usually something akin to Platonic. He likes to tease her. They have the same familial background. He may kid her about things that annoy her and vice versa. If he kisses her, it will be on the forehead or cheek – never the lips. And this would happen usually only after they are well matured.

All of this describes the so called normal sibling relationship. What then is an abnormal brother/sister relationship. A brother may dislike his sister, but rarely does he hate her. Hate between siblings can then be considered abnormal. On the other side of it, brothers cannot love their sisters in the way we usually use the word in other contexts. Or can they? Check out my book on this link and find out. Journey To Comfort.

Are you a man with a sister. Do you love her? Have you ever questioned how you love her?


Parents are in Charge. Or are they?

As families have changed over the last hundred years or so, the discipline of parenting has Familychanged right along with it. In the beginning of the last century, families were quite different than they are today. The changes have been nothing less than monumental. A hundred years ago women could not vote. Unless the husband had passed away at an early age, he was the only breadwinner. In that role of sole income earner, he bore both the benefits and the negatives. If he was successful, his family was well taken care of and he enjoyed the reputation accompanying that aura. If he was not successful, his family may still have loved him, but outsiders thought poorly of him. In either case he was unquestionably the head of the family. He was clearly in charge!

Two world wars and a depression gave the economy its ups and downs. This combined with women’s rights movements in both early and mid-century along with radically changing education possibilities started to change the equation. So, by the 60’s the concentration of power, if you will, in the family was changing. It became shared between the husband and wife. Adults were still in charge though.

Today women not only have the vote, they can make or break a candidate if enough of them don’t like his or her viewpoint on various issues. Opportunities for children’s education are vast and the current view is that kids should pursue as many extracurricular opportunities as they can fit in. They are given choices that kids of yesteryear had not enough foundation to find even in their dreams. Given all these choices, parents spend a lot of time trying to figure out what exactly it is their kids want to do and then arranging for them to have that available. The wise parent does not let this become a situation where the child’s wants are all of a sudden guiding the family. It is a tough line to walk, but the parents are the only ones with enough experience to give the family structure and provide the rules, which every family must have to survive. Therefore they must have the strength to remain in charge!

Are you a parent? Are you in charge?


Brotherly Love

Other than the nickname for Philadelphia, what does the term ”brotherly love” connote? This question is framed in the context of a brother and sister, not two brothers. Sisters can have many different feelings regarding their brothers. The emotions run the gamut from what is normally thought of as brotherly love to out and out hatred. They may do things together, e.g., shopping, hiking, dining and the like. Or, they may do nothing together. And certainly there are all the different levels of involvement in between. Clearly this depends on many things. Are they close in age or far apart? Do they share the same friends or run in entirely different circles? Do they have the same likes and dislikes? Is one more adventurous, while the other is content to stay in a routine? Is one closer to the father, while the other is closer to the mother? Do their parents treat them the same or does one believe the other is favored?

Obviously the relationship between a brother and sister is totally dependent on the two people involved. Unlike the notation above, “normally thought of as brotherly love,” there may, in fact, not be such a concept. We are dealing with people here and an infinite number of variables, thus producing an infinite number of sibling relationship possibilities. In posing these questions, we have not addressed what people might consider an obvious abnormal brother sister relationship. By anyone’s standards the brother and sister in my book, Journey to Comfort, have a relationship that the vast majority of people would consider abnormal.

Are you a brother with a sister or vice versa? What are your feelings toward your sibling? What do you consider a normal relationship between brother and sister? Is that what you have?


Family Moves and The Impact on Children

Family moves can happen for a number of reasons. The impact on children can vary depending on several factors. These factors can be things like the distance to be moved, the age of the children involved, the basic reason for the move, e.g., business related, changing economic fortunes – positive or negative, divorce, and so on. For example, the impact on children will be almost negligible if the parents are together, their economic position doesn’t change and the move allows the children to attend the same school. However, this type of move is not generally what occurs. Family moves usually happen as a result of a more important reason, such as those described above, and thus have greater potential to be traumatic, life-changing events especially to the children of the household.

How these moves are handled by parents can affect their children in a very substantial way. Parents must use every ounce of their not inconsequential influence with their children. To rely on a much overused theme, the parents must be involved, must be proactive, and probably most important, must be careful listeners to make sure they know exactly how their kids are accepting the news of the move. Only in this way can they be sure of the tack they should take in making sure the kids are on board with the move. One family was very lucky in making the move. The parents let the daughter choose as to when they would move. The choice was whether she wanted to finish junior high (one more year) while the dad commuted every weekend or to move the summer before the eighth grade. To the parents’ surprise, she said, “I’m out of here right now.” Only then did they become aware of what a difficult time she was having in seventh grade. This is an extremely unusual case as most of the time kids don’t want to move. Despite the very unusual response of the kid, it still proves how important parental involvement can be.

Are you a parent who has shepherded a family move? Have you been a good enough listener to know how this is impacting your kids? Have you made a plan to avoid potential, life-changing trauma?


What is a “normal” life?

Closed DoorWith the exception of a few, most people think they have a normal life. The problem is no one ever defines normal. That is precisely the reason everyone thinks they have one. Their only frame of reference is their own life. Americans who are part of a family with a dad, a mom and two children have it the easiest. The reason is that this is the most often cited norm. But due to numerous changes over the last half century new norms are being developed and rapidly at that. We have a substantial and growing group of people who are single and intend to stay that way. There are many married couples who don’t intend to have children. There are gay and lesbian couples. All of these groups consider themselves to be part of a new normal.

So, then the question remains; what is a “normal” life? It seems to this writer that the normal life in 2011 is multifaceted. Another way of saying that is “there is no such thing as a normal life.” This is said in the sense of looking at America as a homogeneous mass of people. The fact is that America is not now, nor has it ever been, a homogeneous group of people. We have always accepted people from every corner of the earth and from every belief system. Normal then can be similar to beauty, in other words, it is in the eye of the beholder. The fact that there are so many more choices today, than there were sixty or seventy years ago, generates this multifaceted approach to the term normal. Thus, our choice as to what we want to be as an adult person defines what we believe to be normal. An abnormal life by anyone’s definition can be viewed by clicking on the link to my book, Journey To Comfort.

What is your definition of normal? Using that as a guide, are you normal?


Illicit Love: Infatuation or Real Love?

Love vs InfatuationProperly stated the question is: If a person knows that the relationship they are in is illegal, does that impact how they value it? Love is generally thought to be a much deeper, more meaningful feeling than infatuation. Using the word infatuation usually implies a shallow, superficial, short-lived feeling. Use of the word love implies durability, commitment, and is most often used in connection with the word forever. So, as willing and consenting participants in an illicit relationship, they know that it can’t or at least shouldn’t endure. Therefore can they really say, even if it’s only to each other that they are in love, or must they call the illicit relationship simply infatuation?

The question can, of course, only be answered by the people involved. But the case can be made that the participants most likely don’t admit to love, even if they feel it. Not to each other, possibly not even to themselves. They may provide shelter for themselves in the myth that if it is only infatuation, it isn’t really illegal. Furthermore, admitting they are in love also implies a need to do something about it, such as move in together or get married. They know for certain this is where the situation would come unraveled. They are unable to commit to the illicit activity even if it’s only in their mind. My characters suffer similar struggles in Journey to Comfort.

Have all your love interests always been legal? If not, did you try to convince yourself it was just infatuation?


Behind Closed Doors

Closed DoorIf one goes behind closed doors, it is usually for the purpose of doing something they want to keep secret. They are talking to someone they don’t want anyone else to know about. They are making love. They are doing something illegal. They are preparing a surprise birthday for someone. They are doing something immoral. The list is endless. The most interesting part, though, is that we all have one or more of these secrets.

In all cases, it must remain secret – maybe for just a limited time, say in the case of the surprise birthday. Or, perhaps, it must remain secret forever. The “forever secrets” are the deepest and most often the darkest. In the case of illegal activity, if the secret is revealed, prison is a possible outcome. However, all forever secrets involve something that would cause emotional harm, certainly to the person(s) involved and more than likely to unknowing friends, relatives and acquaintances, as well. Jack and Jaz Donaldson harbor such a secret in Journey to Comfort.

What are your forever secrets? What have you done behind closed doors?