“Parents are the ultimate role models for children. Every word, movement and action has an effect. No other person or outside force has a greater influence on a child than the parent.” – Bob Keeshan, entertainer
“I never saw myself as successful.”
Todd was a man’s man. He took pride in being strong and tough. He studied the martial arts and loved to hunt…anything! He had all the boy toys including the SkiDo, the SeaDo and the gas guzzling suv. He usually appeared with his baseball hat on backwards and his ‘shades’ covering his eyes, regardless of the weather. He took pride in looking ‘cool.’
But, Todd had a soft side as well which appeared the moment any of his three daughters, or his wife, Sandy, were present. Then he became solicitous, accommodating…almost gushy in his devotion to them. He was a conscientious father and spouse going out of his way to provide for, and protect, his family.
Todd had a good job as a trouble shooter mechanic for a large heavy equipment company. He could repair just about anything that moved on a construction site. Todd told me, when he called, there was something on his mind which had been bothering him for some time, and he wanted some help.
After I met him and listened to him describe his family, his work and his life, the contrasts, noted above, were everywhere.
When I asked him what had been bothering him which had generated his call, he replied,
“My buddy, Randy and I were having a beer a while back, and remarking how one of our football heroes was having a successful year, despite his injury. Then, Randy looks directly at me, and says out of the blue, ‘You have your success too, eh?’”
“Ken, I was dumbfounded by his statement…I’ve never seen myself as successful. I know I have a great family, a good job and, even good health as well…but I have never seen myself as successful…in fact I really see myself as the opposite…as a failure!”
“A slavish bondage to parents cramps every faculty of the mind.” – Mary Shelley, author
“I just know…there is something wrong with that!”
“Where is your biggest failure, Todd?” I asked.
“I guess my biggest failure is my mother…I have never been able to get along with her…and I’m almost 40 years of age! I just know…there is something wrong with that!” he said, his face dropping suddenly like a stage curtain.
“Tell me about your current relationship with your mother, Todd.”
“Ken, I’m my mother’s oldest child, and from her first marriage. She divorced my Dad then remarried, and I have three sisters, actually step sisters…but we’re very close. My mother is always coddling them and giving me the gears. She treats them like children, and they’re in their twenties and early thirties…they’re adults…but she is always making excuses for them, when they screw up. Meanwhile, she never acknowledges anything I accomplish. And, she is forever expecting me to help them with money or support…when I think they are just being irresponsible.” he said exasperation rising and colouring his voice.
“Todd, give me an example of what you’re talking about.”
“If you want to understand your parents more, get them to talk about their own childhood; and if you listen with compassion, you will learn where their fears and rigid patterns come from. Those people who ‘did all that stuff to you’ were just as frightened and scared as you are.” – Louise L. Hay, author
“I want her to appreciate how hard I work at my life…and she never does…”
“There are lots of them, Ken. For example, last winter, Amanda, my middle sister, lost her third job in two years because she was repeatedly late for work. She had several warnings but is more interested in partying than being employed. My mother calls me and tells me I should loan her rent money.” he said frustration and anger erupting.
“How did you respond, Todd?”
“I said no way! And my mother berates me for 10 minutes about how selfish I am. I have three children to raise…I’m not wasting my money on someone who refuses to grow up and act responsible. There are numerous other examples I could tell you about. But that’s a typical one. The only difference is which sister and which immature or irresponsible situation they have got themselves into this time.” he said, his face contorted with anger and hurt.
“Todd, you are really frustrated by your relationship with your mother…but I notice you have still maintained it. This suggests it must have a payoff or benefit to you in your value system. Could that be true…and if so, what benefits do you receive from this relationship with your mother?”
“Ken, I often wonder why I don’t just ignore her ….but, it’s like I want her to appreciate how hard I work at my life…and she never does…she must think it’s easy for me…and it isn’t!”
“There are a couple of ideas you might find useful. First, you, me and everyone else are, unconsciously and consciously, motivated to survive. Second, if your relationship to your mother was jeopardizing your survival, you would have ended it. This indicates it is serving you in some important way at an unconscious level. Do you want to know, at a conscious level, how it does that, Todd?”
“Yes, Ken, I would because then I could stop beating myself up for listening to her when she rants at me about my sisters.” he replied quickly.
“Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” – Anne Frank, writer
“…he had not been noticing the equal benefits to it.”
“OK, then tell me the four behaviours your mother displays which upset you the fastest. And then, I want the four behaviours she displays which you actually like. Then, I‘m going to help you uncover what is going on in this relationship, so you can be more OK with it.” I said.
So, we began an accelerated, focused learning journey to help Todd uncover the true relationship he had with his mother. While he was very aware of the costs of this relationship, he had not been noticing the equal benefits to it. When we were done this analysis from his past interactions with his mother, he was teary eyed with insight and appreciation for her and how she has been mothering him. Near the end of our discussion, I asked him to summarize the most important benefits he receives from his relationship with his mother. He replied this way.
“Ken, from my analysis, the top three which really stick out are as follows. Firstly, I realize now she views me as the responsible and reliable one which is why she expects me to help my sisters. I guess she doesn’t tell me because she probably think I already know it. Secondly, constantly being challenged to put my own partner and kids before others, even family, reminds me to honour my own values and to take care of them first…so my mother actually keeps me an attentive husband and father. And that is huge for me!”
“The most important thing that parents can teach their children is how to get along without them.” – Frank A. Clark, politician
“…she is mothering you perfectly for you to be…”
“And the third benefit…?” I asked.
“Ken, thirdly, knowing the first two reminds me I’m doing OK in life and so it really raises my self-esteem and self confidence…which has often been a challenge for me at times in the past.”
“So, Todd can you see the success you have achieved in your relationship with your mother…it was there all along, but now, you are conscious of it…you might say she is mothering you perfectly for you to be who you are today; doing what you do today and having what you have today!”
“Ken, I couldn’t agree more, and thank you!”
“Each parent help us be, who we need to be!” – King Ayles, author
Until Next time…
So, since you are alive and well…a successful person in many ways, you now have an opportunity to appreciate each of your parents (or their surrogates) in how each one enabled you to be who you are today, doing what you do today, and having what you have today. So, if you are alive, you are a successful person, and your parenting was perfect for you, to get to be here, now, at this moment in time.
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Namaste, (I salute the grandly organized design of the universe, manifested in you!)