Guest Blogger 2007: Claudia Snowden
Guest Blogger 2007: Alexandra Grabbe

Guest Blogger 2007: Mick Brady

[EDITORIAL NOTE: While I am away, several excellent elderbloggers agreed to fill in for me as guest bloggers.

Mick Brady, who blogs at Dancing in Tongues and The Blog Brothers, is here today with a story titled How to Make a Perfect Human Being. Please make him welcome with lots of comments and visit his blogs too.]


Fools rush in where wise men never go.
But wise men never fall in love,
So how are they to know?

- Mercer & Bloom
We are the descendants of hundreds of thousands of bad attitudes.
- Mick Brady

(Note: I post this with great trepidation and in the deepest humility; far, far from perfection.)

Mother_child_hands Naturally, the making of any human being begins with the parents. They are the ones who will either create an environment where love and nurturing occurs consistently over an entire lifetime or, as in most cases, becomes lost in the tangled, confused, inadequate, battered and ego-driven personalities of the parents.

The decisive factor in all this, of course, is whether the parents, as individuals, have done the difficult work of becoming themselves before they even marry, let alone have children.

To become themselves, fully themselves, they must first be open to learning the truth about themselves - the root causes of their fears, their rages, their blind spots and inadequacies, their cravings and obsessions, their lack of trust.

This can be very hard on the ego and only the brave and humble will voluntarily undergo it. There is a price to be paid for freedom and it appears to be much too expensive for most people. But for those who succeed, they soon learn what a bargain it is.

This work can be done through intensive therapy, sincere and honest religious practice, by facing life's painful lessons directly and openly with loved ones, but above all, a willingness to face and admit the truth at all times: if you lie, confess it; if you cheat, correct it; if you crave anything, including love, get to the bottom of it and eradicate it.

Unless you are the rare individual who has already been raised perfectly, there is no other way and if you don't do it before entering marriage, everything within you will soon become visible to your partner anyway, and it will explode in your face.

If two people who have already done this work then meet and fall in love, they begin the second process, learning to become a complete couple. All of the painful lessons learned in becoming a complete individual will have provided them with the tools they'll need to do this successfully: transparency, self-love, self-sacrifice, trust, and the ability to love and be loved.

Ideally, there should be a period of several years to accomplish this before having children. Remember, we're talking perfection here, and no one is perfect. These are no more than goals, approximations, ideals.

In its simplest terms, then, each parent should first come to know and love themselves; then they will be ready to begin the work (and joy) of learning to know and love one another. Once a certain level of stability and trust is achieved, they will then be able to provide the love and nurturing which will enable the child to grow into a complete and happy individual. Hey, that's not expecting too much, is it?

Mother_baby_52

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Lest anyone think that I am setting the bar too high, keep in mind that this is written with a full understanding of the fact that perfection, in any sense of the word, is not achievable in this world.

I intentionally chose that word to express the limits of what is possible: to raise children who are intelligent, confident, ethical, healthy, open, loving and free - children who grow up to become well-grounded human beings capable of creative and critical thinking, who are unafraid of new ideas or change, who enjoy life and contribute to the lives of others.

This essay comes from the heart of a father, and now grandfather, looking back over the many mistakes and painful lessons experienced in his own lifetime, offered in the hope that it might spare some of those who follow the necessity of repeating those mistakes.

What is being discussed here is a limited and admittedly idealistic, human form of perfection that anyone can achieve if they desire to do the work. It is not easy. But if you want to play Chopin, you must practice, practice, practice. Otherwise, just go out and buy the CD.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place, Sharon Lippincott tells how young man she knew in high school taught her a life lesson she still puts to use today in a story titled, Profile of Courage.]

Comments

Yep. But as for sparing others with this heads up look at how to do it . . .I don't think so. If that were possible then we (people) would be a lot further along than we are in taking care of each other. The lessons seem to be learned from almost square one with each person. There is that know-it-all factor in youth that serves a purpose but also gets in the way too.

I agree, Mick! I can look back and see the mistakes I made as a parent and realize that I am the product of my parents' mistakes as well as my own so I second-guessed myself a lot in rearing my kids. I look at my children and, on the whole, I'm both happy and stunned that the people I raised are successful, happy and independent. I know a lot of people who can't say that so I was a better mother than I thought. Yay!

Self awareness was not in vogue when I married fifty nine years ago. We muddled through as best we could and used the example of how our parents raised us in rearing our children. By the time I got therapy my children were grown and it was too late to undo the many mistakes I made. Nonetheless, my children turned out okay; honest, hard working and loyal. Like Kay, I must have done something right

Heh. As I told my husband when we contemplated having kids, "If you wait until you're ready, you'll never do it."

Wonderful post. If I only knew then what I know now, I'd be ahead of the game. I will copy it and show it to my son. I did some things right...but some things I would re-do if given a chance.
Thanks

Thank you for introducing this fascinating topic.
As we all know, hindsight is 20/20, so I often find myself thinking "Oh if only I'd known then what I know now I could have been so much better a parent".
But what I have found is that sharing those thoughts and feelings with my daughter, as she develops her own style and philosophy of parenting, has been a deeply rewarding process for us both. It is like science, in a way, where each generation builds on the discoveries of the one before.
We not only talk about these things a lot,analysing the long-term effects of my mothering (and her father's fathering) on her, but we also read various parenting books and discuss them.
She has boys, so there are yet more issues to explore. I had no experience of parenting boys. Her husband was one of five boys so he weighs in with useful ideas in this regard.
As I look at my grandchildren and observe how they are unfolding, and as I watch my daughter and her partner striving to be the very best parents they can be, I feel awed and proud to be part of such a fascinating and important 'work in progress.'

Would that we had completed the introspection into ourselves, on our own and/or with therapeutic help, before choosing a partner.

Would that we could all have worked out the wrinkles in our relationships with our parents before we undertook becoming parents ourselves.

As you say, however, most of us seem to struggle along in our imperfect way. Often we improve on our parents' mistakes. Hopefully, our children will improve upon the new mistakes we may well make with them, despite our best efforts to make none.

I'm not really sure just how close we can come to that desired perfection, even with extensive insight, and professional intervention. There may just be too many variables in each human psyche, in the dynamics between people, the unpredictable or uncontrollable life events around us, intervening in our drive toward any perfection goal. Life is that we keep striving.

Having raised four children and done the best job I could in the circumstances, I would like to comment that not every personal failure of one's children is due to bad parenting. Peer pressure has a great deal to answer for. The culture in which one's children are raised has more influence in the long term than parental input. The family income, which can plummet overnight, determines where and how we live and even the best partners sometimes die and leave one to cope alone. There are so many variables which cannot be predicted. By the time our kids get to fifteen or so they think we are boring old farts who have never lived. We were the same. Remember the rebellious sixties?

I raised my four children by doing the exact OPPOSITE of what my parents did in raising me. My Mother thought that by praising one child to the other three ,it would make us like him or her more. Not so. We started to really dislike each other. Even when we became adults, if I told my Mother that my boy got a B+ on a test, she would instantly say,"Oh,your brother's boy got an A."
She honestly thought that would bring us together and,funnily enough it did, but not the way she thought it would.
We ( my sibs and I) began comparing notes and found that she was doing that to all of us. If one of my brother's called and said his daughter got a medal in ice skating, he would immediately be told," Oh,your sister's girl got 2 medals ". We didn't know this was happening until we all gathered at a funeral once and began comparing notes. From that time on we made a joke of it and got along well together.
Now, I have four children and if one calls we talk about him or her and their family. I never mention any brother or sister or their kids until the child who called asks about them and then I never brag about anything they might have done.
All of my children get along and love each other and competition is out, but they are all proud of each other and their nieces and nephews and let them know they are.

Nancy I too did many things opposite of my mother and made some of those decisions as a 7 year old!

I remember thinking as she swatted me about my head that "her actions were really not accomplishing her goal"

When I refused to lay a hand on my kids, she claimed I was NOT disciplining them. Of course I was, just not in HER way.

Now she lives with me and marvels at my kids. She also tells me she loves me, almost every day. As I tell my kids. Growing up I never heard those words from her.

Learning can happen all the way around.

I decided in my early twenties that this business of blaming parents didn't make sense. Instead of worrying about what my parents should have done differently, it made more sense to ask what I would be like if they had done things differently and then make those changes in myself.

When my daughter was born I still had a lot of growing to do, and that was fine. I kept working at it. I did the best I could with her and figured she would have to take some responsibility, too. She's a great adult now, and we (including my husband) are still very close as a family.

Well done, Mick! Honesty, wrapped in love, is necessary for trust to occur. Perhaps the hardest is to be honest about our own shortcomings, with the commitment to practice, practice, practice. As I tell all my music students, practice makes possible, not perfect.

At the extreme end, Brad Blanton in "Radical Honesty" posits that we must reveal ALL our secrets and self to a partner to achieve success. I'm not totally convinced of that, but it could help by providing a good starting point for a relationship.

Parenting must be honest for our children to grow and thrive. There is nothing so heartbreaking as a parent who lies to their child. Everything we do registers with them from day 1. If we can't be true to ourselves, how can we model truth to the kiddos?

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)