“The most important thing that parents can teach their children is how to get along without them.”
– Frank A. Clark, politician
“… I asked Oscar to come in himself…”
Oscar’s daughter Olive, aged 20, had been doing some self esteem work with me which was initiated by her fear of hospitals. Olive was making excellent progress and was noticing her evolution, but her parents, notably, Oscar, was not convinced. While his spouse, Octavia, seemed satisfied with her daughter’s growth, Oscar kept having reservations and calling several times for updates. After several calls, I asked Oscar to come in himself to discuss his concerns.
It’s not uncommon to have a parent request their child be “fixed” by some professional. Usually, about half the time, it’s the parent who needs the service and less so the child. I suspected this might be the case with Oscar but needed to explore it further with him.
Oscar arrived with Octavia in tow. Oscar was a short, energetic, fast thinking and fast talking Asian man of 45. He worked in the local arts community promoting the many crafts of people, trying to make a living off their creative endeavours. There was a thriving seasonal tourist market and Oscar has been instrumental in helping create it.
“…I asked what was their biggest fear for their daughter.”
Oscar was also obese and seemed to carry his excessive mass all around his shoulders and neck. It seemed to leave him breathless at times and he frequently interrupted his conversations to get a tissue to wipe his brow of perspiration and catch some much needed oxygen.
Octavia, on the other hand, was more laid back. She was the same age and culture but of a more slight build. She tended to observe and let Oscar take the lead in discussions, offering a comment now and then to augment her perspective. She would frequently look over to Oscar to non-verbally endorse, with a ‘I told you so!’ look, some point I was endeavouring to make about Olive.
They were both clearly concerned and devoted parents. They had two younger children and trying to make sure they made no mistakes with their first progeny. After collecting a detailed lists of their, mostly Oscar’s, concerns, I asked what was their biggest fear for their daughter.
“… and told me to mind my own f…ing business.”
“I’m so afraid…she gets so angry, screaming and yelling at me. I’m so afraid she will hurt herself!”
“Would you describe your last event like that Oscar?” I asked.
“It was last night.” he said quickly.
“We were having our supper and talking about the upcoming weekend. I said to Olive that I hoped it wasn’t another bout of partying and drinking with her ‘questionable’ friends. And, she blew her stack! She jumped from the table and told me to mind my own f…ing business. Then, she stormed out of the room.” he said, perplexed by his daughter’s outburst.
“It is my impression that Olive, at twenty years of age, is struggling with gaining independence while living with her parents. I have not seen any signs of self destructive thoughts or behaviour. But, I have heard of her frustrations with what she terms her ‘smothering’ parents.”
“To only support a child, without equal amounts of challenge, is to create an emotionally dependent cripple.”
– King Ayles, writer
(Tarek, here we need an image of an obese Asian man arguing with his 20 year old daughter.)
“…my father and I have no real relationship…”
“She is forever accusing us of meddling into her affairs when we ask her about anything to do with her life…doesn’t she, Octavia?” he said, looking over to her for confirmation.
She confirmed his comment with several nods and added, “That she does and she sure is short-fused, that’s for sure!”
“From the work I have done with your daughter, she presents as a typical young adult struggling to have her own lifestyle while trying to live inside her parent’s lifestyle. It’s tough work for everyone involved.”
“That sounds pretty accurate to me!” Octavia said, speaking first for the first time.
“Oscar…you seem much more upset by all this than Octavia does…why is that?” I asked, wondering about another, perhaps unconscious, agenda.i
Oscar hesitated a second before saying,
“My parents divorced when I was three and I was raised by my Mother, who never remarried. To this day, my father and I have no real relationship…we hardly speak. He takes no interest in me, my life or his grandchildren. He is a failure as a father, period!”
“And, are you afraid of failing as a father too…with Olive?” I asked.
“So, a successful person is anyone who is alive, period!”
“I’m trying so hard to stay close to her, to be there for her…and yet, I know I’m driving her away!” he replied, his eyes filling with tears of frustration.
“Oscar, I can help you with that…staying close to her. But, it will require you to learn and practice three things, consciously.”
“That’s why I’m here, Ken. Tell me what they are and how I can be a better Dad!” he said enthusiastically.
I started off with,
“The first thing is about nature and how it operates. Human’s are hard wired for survival, it is their biological imperative to perpetuate their species. So, a successful person is anyone who is alive, period!”
“You mean survival is success for humans…in a biological sense, Ken?”
“…your parents were the perfect parents for you to survive…”
‘Exactly. So every person who is alive has had the perfect parents for them to survive. That means you are the perfect parent for your children (since they are alive and well) and your parents were the perfect parents for you to survive.”
“Knowing my father, that’s a crazy thought for me, Ken.” he said sarcastically.
“It’s even more profound, Oscar. If you haven’t reached that level of awareness, you will spend a lot of time distracted by this gap from other important things in your life.”
“You mean I’m kind of wasting time in my life by being pissed off at my father?” he said, already knowing the answer and mad at himself for missing the obvious.
“What do you think, Oscar?”
“Yes, damn it…yes!” he said, thoughtfully.
“… it’s because my father ignored me most of my life that I’m alive today?”
“The second thing is, in the natural world in which we all live, love is not just support but equal amounts of support and challenge, to ensure the survival of the child into its future.”
“Are you saying natural love, or maybe real love, is half pleasure and half pain…and that it’s because my father ignored me most of my life that I’m alive today? That’s kind of far fetched, isn’t it?” he said, his skepticism rising in his voice.
“I can show you how you can prove it to yourself…would that interest you, Oscar?”
He sat back in his chair deep in thought. Then, he stared over at Octavia for a few seconds before saying,
“You’re saying I had the ‘perfect’ father for me because I’m alive and well today. And, your saying you can prove it to me…right so far?” he said, challenging me with raised eyebrows.
“Yep! Sure can!” I said with an annoying self confidence to my own voice.
“The only thing worth striving to rise to in life is your level of appreciation for it.”
– King Ayles, writer
“Kids never have their parents’ values.”
Then, in a very serious tone he said,
“If I did that, then I might change my view of him…I don’t know if I’d want that, Ken?”
“For sure, it would come with new responsibilities. But, it might also help you parent Olive in a more effective way.” I suggested, appealing to one of his higher values.
“You said there were three things, what’s the third thing?” he asked clearly wanting to move forward in some way.
‘The third thing is about personal values. Parents often measure their parental effectiveness by whether their kids have their values. Yet, that can’t happen! Kids never have their parents’ values.”
“Why is that, Ken?”
“Because each person builds their values based on their unique life experiences. A person may have a form of some value of their parents but it will still be a unique form. No two people have the same values.”
“…a bunch of rich boys chasing a black piece of hard rubber…”
“So, now I’m learning that Olive will never have my values. Why is that so important for me to know?”
“Because it will motivate you to learn to respect her values, even if you don’t like them. Just like you did with Octavia in your time with her.” I said, smiling at them both.
Octavia jumped in at this point getting at what I was suggesting,
“Oscar, I will never like NHL hockey…a bunch of rich boys chasing a black piece of hard rubber…give me a break!”
Then she added,
“And, you still won’t go curling with me on Saturdays, right?”
Oscar smiled at her while saying,
“Yeah, curling…wimps sliding rocks around the ice while trying not to fall on their butts! I think this might make some sense…?”
“…I’m wondering if he is just trying to make a connection…”
This was their breakthrough. From there we moved on to help Oscar resolve his distorted perception of his own father. As he completed this his perspective, and his attitude, toward his daughter also evolved. He was able to display respect for her values and even view his own father in a new light.
One day, as if demonstrating his evolution, he commented to me,
“You know Ken, I never noticed before but my father never misses an opportunity to wave to me when we drive by each other. I used to think he was giving me the finger to spite me but now I’m wondering if he is just trying to make a connection…he is just a lonely old man who maybe appreciates his family more now than before!”
“Might be worth checking out, Oscar, eh?” I replied.
“Yeah! Maybe so.” he said with an air of interest.
“I believe that one defines oneself by reinvention. To not be like your parents. To not be like your friends. To be yourself. To cut yourself out of stone.” – Henry Rollins, musician
Until Next time…
Now you know, since you’re alive and doing OK, you had the perfect parents to help you learn what you needed for your survival. Their love for you was half support and half challenge to optimize your learning, in keeping with nature’s laws of evolution. If you carry any painful memories, go back to them and find out what you learned at the same moments which you used ever since to assist you in your life. Then you appreciation for your parents, and yourself, will grow.
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