Friday, 30 November 2012

No feeling...when parents are bad for their children

Toxic parenting
Being born on the wrong side of the tracks can happen for many reasons. Where you’re born is not the problem but who you’re born to can turn out to be the poisoned chalice that you’re forced to drink from.

Parents who neglect their offspring reap a bitter harvest. If it takes a whole village/town to educate a child then.... it only takes one abused and neglected child to bring down a nation.  

To be deprived of love as a child is akin to the strangulation of aspiration and ambition. A child is robbed when its parents are warring or emotionally defunct. The child becomes withdrawn and angry and becomes a moving target for the sexual predator.

If they don’t fall prey to this kind of victimhood, they may either become drug or alcohol dependent and end up on the streets . Parents don’t seem to want to take the responsibility when it gets tough and the teenage years (and beyond) are no picnic.

Parents don't want to admit to their flaws and take responsibility for their own characters – their failings and lack of attention can lead their children to a dead end in life – and who do they blame? Everyone but themselves and, of course, their children.

Talk therapy
It’s not easy to see your children displaying the very qualities that got you into trouble for as a youngster….the belligerence and resentment of authority. When we’ve not worked on our own irksome traits then we are less compassionate with our offspring. 

When your children go bad, make sure you square up and take a long hard look at yourself. When your children make mistakes and reach out to you, make sure you are ready and waiting to welcome them back into the fold.

Parents with enlarged egos will balk at this idea…surely children learn a good lesson when they’re put out in the cold and allowed to fend for themselves? They certainly do but the damage that they encounter during that time can take a lifetime to undo.

In 1996, Tanya Kach was an innocent and naieve 14 year old.  An only child, her parents were neglectful. When their marriage broke down they weren't equipped to deal with their emotions or hers.

Children get easily dragged down into a whirlpool of negativity but it is up to the adults to be supportive. Always tell the truth to your child, no matter how hard that may be. A child sees only the truth, no matter what lies you try to cover it up with. It’s a mistake to expect them to take sides so don’t…..this only shows your weakness in seeking approval.
Be vigilant and don’t become a victim or let your child be one.

Tanya Kach was so messed up emotionally that she came to the attention of a 35 year old security guard at her school. Thomas Hose was a lascivious lothario who  abused his position of trust and started to proposition the youngster. Enjoying the attention she found him an easy confidant and  protector. Hose played along, manipulating and molesting the starry-eyed teen.

Such was his control and influence over her that he persuaded her to run away to his safe house. This was  a small room at the top of the house that he shared with his teenage son and elderly parents.  Feeling worthless and with neither of her parents to turn to since, they had divorced and were in the throes of new relationships, Tanya saw this as a way out.

Sadly it was not. She was to be imprisoned for ten years and  only allowed out for quick trips to the shops on rare occasions. Thomas Hose demeaned her in every possible way – emotionally and sexually – until she was so broken that he made her believe that her parents would never have her back. He reminded her often that she had no where to go and he was her only saviour.

For all those long years, Tanya Kach, was an official missing person, her picture was displayed on milk cartons,  even though she wasn’t far from her former neighbourhood. She endured abuse and discomfort and was trained like an animal to perform tricks that her “master” taught her. Thomas Hose was a sick individual in every sense of that word.

At the age of 24, after ten years in captivity, on a brief outing to the shops, she found the courage to let a shopkeeper know her plight. Following that the police were called and Hose duly arrested.

Do you think a happy reunion with her parents awaited Tanya? Initially yes, there was a sense of relief but after that the bitterness set in. Her father couldn’t understand why she hadn’t tried to escape and felt that she had chosen this victimhood. Her father’s new wife gave her the cold shoulder and and made her feel like a drama queen. Her mother and stepfather were no better and rejected her. Nevertheless, she remained with her father and endured a difficult time whilst assisting the authorities  to bring Thomas Hose to justice.

In short, Tanya’s parents failed her in every possible way. They are exceptionally mean spirited and, even after Tanya received counselling and got into  a supportive relationship, her parents were unhappy. This is familial dysfunction at its worst and is destructive and damaging to all. We can only wonder at the quality of  parenting that Tanya’s parents received!

Tanya is a success today through her own efforts. If the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, this apple has cut all her ties with her parental branches…and who can blame her? Should she forgive her parents? In this case it would be pointless. These parents would never understand as it their abiding belief is that they haven’t done anything wrong. They are self-righteous in their anger towards their daughter and I say let them wallow in it.

There are many parents, like Tanya’s. They just don’t seem to apply constructive care to their children in their formative years.  The teenage years are critical and, as a parent of teens myself, I know the challenges all too well. Yes, they’re defiant, rude, lazy and negligent but a parent should never fight back with the same weapons.  Yes they take everything for granted and expect a lot more than they give.

Parenting is precious
During the most trying times, remember how precious they are and were when they were first placed into your arms. Cherish them but use tough love measures too. I can’t tell you what they are as each teen is unique and what applies to one will not apply to another.  

Do not put partners/friends/work/church/hobbies above them and include them in these aspects of your life. If they want to be alone, let them be.

Talk to them about your life journey;  your failures and successes during your teens.  Be gentle, honest, fair and respectful – those are the parenting rules I try to live up to (and often fall short of).  Ask for forgiveness for yourself, not during times of conflict, but in the calm after the storm. Explain to your children that you weren’t given a parenting manual. Adults make mistakes….lots of them….and correcting them is alot harder.

Nurture self-esteem even if you feel your own was destroyed by your care givers. Talk positively and let your children see a joyous spirit. Keep the atmosphere healthy with times for laughter and times for silence(esp. when times are hard). Provide opportunities for spiritual growth and switch off technology -  theirs and yours. 

Help but never hinder
Don’t let your teen girls look for an escape route in the form of a man who promises them the moon (and stars) when all he can offer is a cheap and quick route to a hell (from which they may never return).  Don’t let your teen boys take the rock n’ roll path of drugs and alcohol.

If Tanya had received more unconditional love, she’d never have ended up in such a situation. Tanya is right to have distanced herself from her parents. You can’t teach your parents about unconditional love and they’re not her responsibility.

This is a cautionary tale for adult children who may feel guilty about not contacting their neglectful parents…don’t…you won’t get any thanks for it….where’s there’s no sense, there’s no feeling.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

The perfection of imperfection

As a person who’s undergone many life challenges and approaching my half century,  I feel I have the necessary experience to put forward my perspective on the perfectly imperfect life.

My life has been far from perfect but, in my youth, I sought to right the wrongs that I saw all around me.  I was both naieve and ambitious but highly motivated about the kind of life I wanted. Since I was largely influenced by my peers, books I’d read and TV shows I thought that life had had to have a happy ending.....all the best stories do, don’t they?

I wanted a nice home with a white picket fence and roses around the door. I mentally decorated each and every room. I wanted a beautiful garden and a sun room for lazy Sunday morning reading. More than anything, I wanted a wonderful man to love me and a sprinkling of adorable children. I believed that my heart and intentions were pure so I could attract like to like?

Wrong. That was the start of the dismantling of my dream. I got the home but it took a ton of money to get it into a decent state. Once it was, it took a ton of effort (mostly mine) to maintain it. The man I loved I found didn’t love me as much...simply because we both had different ideas about what love was. When we had children they were all perfect but the world labelled one of them as learning disabled. It certainly was an uphill struggle to maintain this state of perfection!

One day I decided to stop believing that life could be perfect. In fact, I let the facade crumble so that I could expose the bitter truth about perfection. I took off the rose coloured spectacles and took a close hard look at what I had created.
Perfect or not?

Not many people are like me. They’d rather live the lie and I understand that, I did too for many years....the lie of perfection. The goal of perfection is wanting a neat and tidy package. Sadly, it doesn’t exist but it doesn't prevent anyone from wanting to reach for it.

Take the case of a mother who gave birth to a child that was later diagnosed as autistic. She found raising him difficult due to his unpredictable condition. She wanted a child who would grow up “normally”, go to university, get a job, get married and produce some grandchildren.

As she had decided that her son would do none of these things and  was placing a great strain on her marriage which led to an eating disorder, she decided to give him up, at the age of seven, and place him in a home. I sympathise with her moral dilemma and perhaps this child should not be in the care of a person who is bereft of unconditional love. He is considered imperfect, by her standards, which many would judge as poor. Nevertheless she has a right to them.

Then take the case of Anthony Robles, a 24 year old mixed race American , born to a 16 year old white mother and an African father whom he has never known. The other fact about Anthony, that he doesn’t care for the world to take notice of (though it does) is that he was born with one leg. He was bullied through some of his school life but his mother was not over-protective as she believed it was important for him to take some knocks. And taking some knocks and giving them back is what he’s done. 

Through sheer determination and the toughest physical training he became the 2010-11 NCAA individual wrestling champion competing against able-bodied opponents. He refuses to wear a prosthetic limb ( he has no stump to attach it to) and  refuses to be labelled as “disabled”.  

Do you think his mother believed that her son could not grow up “normally”? No, she’s a fighter, and she never gave up on him and his success today is hers too. On TV recently she said,”it’s very humbling to be Anthony’s mother.”I believe her. I have a perfectly imperfect son too and he’s my pride and joy as are my other “normal children”. If I had to choose between a marriage or a child – there’s no contest. Every marriage is not made in heaven but a child, undoubtedly, is.

Heroism is part of divine perfection and it can be found on this imperfect earth. I have chosen to see it and, even in moments of weakness, I know it lives in me and I just have to find a little courage to bring it forth. I know that there's perfection in every imperfection.

I have no regrets about my perfect/imperfect life that doesn’t fit into any mould. I’m kinder and more compassionate with myself and others.  I don’t have to wish for the perfect life because I believe I have achieved it (though no one else will believe me!)


Monday, 12 November 2012

Girl in a moneyless world

A life without money would be unthinkable for me and most people. A world without money seems like a far fetched utopia and reading a book about someone who has given up the green stuff is seriously destabilising my financial defences. 

Mark Boyle is a man of vision and, in his book, “The Moneyless Manifesto”, he suggests that anyone in any society could live without it. 

His ideas are based around unconditional giving and receiving which includes the creation of a gift economy. This means that we simply do things for love and Mark Boyle has created his own web based not for profit community known as :

I am a member of this community and feel greatly encouraged regarding the strength of human kindness that exists within our internet interactions. I believe in doing random kindnesses and perfoming little acts of charity as that reinforces my place in the circle of life. I live therefore I share –  my time, my resources, my heart – living is giving.

Affluence as much as poverty has its downside. In every corner of the world there’s more wealth than ever before but its often in the wrong hands. 
Mark Boyle suggests that if we remove money then we’ll have more energy and time for personal fulfilment. He bases these theories on his own experience of living frugally and without money since 2009. I applaud him for his courage and his example has a lot to teach us. It also takes much courage to live in a capitalist society and do daily battle with its demons whilst maintaining positivity and charity. However, I can’t support the fact that you could live entirely within a gift economy.

Humans are unpredictable creatures. Some of us have a penchant for most inhuman behaviours. Who’s to say that we could give without the thought of getting and, even worse, asking for something that interfered with someone else’s personal freedom? 
Consider that I need the grass on my lawn mown...... in the Freeconomy culture, this service would be provided by another freeconomist. If that person entered my garden and saw that mine was larger, with an array of beautiful flowers and trees and a summer house, how would he/she feel? Good spirited or envious?

Moneyless woman
A moneyless world is the garden of Eden that we all wish to return to. Our hearts yearn for love, joy, and peace to prevail. But…there’s a serpent in our moneyless kingdom and he’ll not be easily vanquished. Hate as much as love exists in the hearts of men….it cannot be denied and it cannot be cured with a moneyless fix. Civilisation is progress and anything progressive is a double edged sword. Progress is a matter of perspective but the birth of innovative ideas is the mark of it.

Ideas are a statement of freedom but we need to apply responsibility to ensure that we are materially and spiritually enhanced by them. I wouldn’t want to return to the time of my grandparents when women were considered the weaker sex, had no financial independence or universal suffrage. There are countries where the struggle for human rights marches on and I would suggest that Mr Boyle spends some time in these inhospitable places where food and housing is shared (through no choice) and where emotional and physical abuses are rife.

Money alone is not the instigator of social tensions or the root of evil. Money is not dirty but greed in the hearts of men is. Despots and tyrants, found in our homes as much as high office, are the cause of unequal and unethical distribution. Removing money alone will not change negative behaviours. People will usually find another outlet for conflict. Remember Lucifer was an angel, just like the others, until he lusted after God's power.

Juggling money
 Shakespeare wrote his greatest works based on the destructive and sublime facets of human nature. And he charged even the poorest citizens to stand and watch. But he didn’t do it for the money; he did it for the expression of his soul. When people get something for free they rarely value it and that’s the truth!

Mr Boyle is a single man who can wander this earth and sample it’s many delights. I wonder if he’d wander so much if he had the responsibilities of wife and children? I can appreciate freeconomy as long as my life is about me. Hitching yourself to another freeconomist would be a likely course of action but that would limit human relations and reduce diversity.

I participated in a pseudo- freeconomy style living with a former partner. I gave much of my time, talents and trust to making our own unique utopia (and with children to boot) but it floundered after I found that my partner enjoyed being “the taker”.

Trust and dependency, Mr Boyle claims, are not signs of weakness but can be seen in a positive light. Either Mr Boyle has never been at the mercy of anyone or he has limited life experience. Perhaps Mr Boyle has not lived with adult children who don’t want to make their mark on society and fly the nest. Or he has not encountered laziness or sloth.

I agree that trust is valuable but it requires incisive intellect to know when it is dangerous to be too trusting. I don’t know many people you can trust and the list includes parents, teachers, employers, politicians.

What we require in relationships is not the removal of money but clear agreements and solid boundaries, not created by money, but out of respect. We need to be clear about our inner motivations and convey them effectively. Social capital is useful when  parties are like-minded. If we remove money then we'll need to remove government, border control. public examinations, sports tournaments etc.(and I'm not saying that a reduction of some of these might be helpful).

Gandhi -an experiment with truth
Mr Boyle cites Gandhi as his inspiration. Well, he’s mine too. I love his pacifism, vegetarianism and non-violent stance but his life was  short. Mr Gandhi may have chosen to be moneyless but it’s unlikely he would have expected society to replicate his example. Gandhi's life was an experiment and he'd be the first to admit that he endured many failures. Moneylessness is a personal choice and perhaps Mr Boyle can adopt this state and be cushioned by those friends around him who are holding onto theirs.

There’s no need for a moneyless world as there are a great many  people doing wonderful things in a moneyed world. Charities who rely on donations know what money can do to transform lives and rejuvenate flagging spirits. We can strive for unconditionality in our giving and receiving with money present in our society, for then it becomes heart felt and meaningful. Think of the profound message contained in the parable about the widow’s mite.  

The mite, like the dollar, pound and yen has a role in our human journey. Mr Boyle provides the male perspective and the male of the species has created the defunct economic model we live by. 

If women ruled Wall Street and the banking system, things might have turned out a little different. We don't need less money, we need less ego! If you become a slave to money (and it's easy to do) then that's your look-out. If we are beings of free will then we must choose wisely.

Technology has created divisions within human relations but can we truly stop it? Certainly we can filter it and reduce it’s impact on us as individuals. I don’t feel I need to convince anyone that looking at an  illumninating sunset is more beautiful than YouTube! Technology has been eroding the human experience ever since washing machines came into our homes but who’d be without one?

Money is tricky
Self reliance and self-made money leads to the greatest fulfilment. But the freedom and opportunity that money brings also requires responsibility and intelligence. Ask Bill Gates if he’s unhappier since he made a fortune using his unique talents? I don’t think you’ll find him griping about flying in a private jet or buying out Tiffany’s but he’s no spendthrift or braggart. He’s an upright world citizen who wants to do the right thing by eradiacating disease and ignorance.

My purpose is not to attack Mr Boyle and his philosophy, believe it or not, I’m an admirer of his values. I’d love to envision a moneyless society but the challenges that money brings enables the flexing of our spiritual muscles. I know many a financially challenged person who has come through stronger and wiser. Money is a blessing and a curse but it only has the power you give it.

I value freedom, self-expression and independence above all else but  adding money into the mix helps me to help others, particularly my sisterhood, achieve the same. I'm neither rich or poor and that's a happy medium for me.


Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The Main Man.....Obviously Better At Managing America

The end of a nail-biting campaign has meant victory for the main man at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue - President Barack Obama. He has secured another term and snatched the prize right out of the hands of his political opponent - Mitt Romney.

I'm not an American citizen but  a keen observer of political developments across the pond ever since the present incumbent was elected four years ago. Obama is a realist, he knows that to get the US and world economy back into shape it'll take tough measures. He's trying to roll out the most radical health reforms that the US has ever seen and he's facing opposition even within his own camp.

Americans don't like change but they must. The old systems have to be re-worked. Corporate greed is the monster that must be destroyed. Obama brought in the winds of change and gave the people a candidate they could believe in. Why? What makes him special?

Barack Obama's entry into the world was no fairy tale. He was raised by a strong woman - a single parent with two failed marriages. He knew struggle and hardship. He knew disadvantage and the feeling of being the odd one out. He had a funny name and a funny colour - mixed race, bi-racial, black and white. He had intelligence and he put it to good use.

Barack Obama is a powerful orator and he's right when he says that politics is more than a contest between two egos. He has restored integrity and humility to the highest office. His victory is a triumph of the human spirit. He's not in office to score points but to make America stronger and he's succeeding.

Family guy
History will look upon him as one of the greats. I feel honoured to have lived in this time to witness his presidency. He has made politics relevant for young people and he's extraordinarily ordinary. You wouldn't feel intimidated in his presence. He's the People's President and the main man!