Becoming a Grandmother: Attachment Revisited

IMG_1525Becoming a grandmother for the first time has been the most wonderful life cycle rite of passage. It marks so many transitions – offspring to parent, siblings to aunts and uncles, parents to grandparents and if they are still alive, grandparents to great grandparents.

Speaking as a new grandmother, I have enjoyed being able to love without the day-to-day responsibility. What is most wonderful about this is it’s easier to avoid that terrible muddling of love and control. I am defining love as the ability to accept one another as valid beings. This includes parenting decisions made by your offspring that you might not like, or agree with. Unfortunately, what is often misread as love is  compliance to the will of another, this is actually control. Someone oppressing their own beliefs or actions to get approval,confusingly defined as love. In the extreme this becomes emotionally abusive.

We all muddle love and control at times, it’s when it becomes the dominant pattern that it becomes problematic.

Just to clarify, I’m not saying the wish to impose our will on another is wrong – we all do this all the time. It’s when it’s mislabelled as an act of love that it becomes troublesome.

And then there's knitting a very grandmotherly thing to do!
And then there’s knitting a very grandmotherly thing to do!

Often in my work I hear that a grandparent has been able to provide a loving relationship with a grandchild that they could never have provided for their own biological children. The removal of day-to-day responsibility, and being no longer dominated by the anxiety and fear of, am I doing the right thing, enables a connection that is often not possible when everyday worries are present.

I feel immensely sorry for the increasing number of grandparents who end up full time carers of their grandchildren – both miss an important developmental opportunity.

Through my grandmother eyes the attachment process has become a clear, and in essence, simple process. To scale it down to the barest bones: a baby makes a demand and an adult responds with kindness. Preferably the same group of adults and ideally a mother. This is true of all mammals – we are no exception. If this process is, mainly, repetitive and predictable a loving, oxytocin producing, relationship is developed enabling age appropriate neural development. Relational trust, in and between, both the significant adults and baby develops. Just the simple act of playing a game on a mobile phone whilst feeding, if this is what mostly happens, can interfere with this process – hence training the baby in relational disconnection.

And then there's cooking with Grandma
And then there’s cooking with Grandma

Attachment is a relational process. The adults wait for the demand from the baby, when young via crying, and then it’s the adults job to work out what action to take in response to this cry. Adults deciding when a baby should be fed so waking it to meet the needs of the adult, is interfering with the attachment process. Of course, I hope it goes without saying, that I’m talking about healthy infants, and what is commonly practised. We all have our days when we may need to interrupt this attachment process and impose on the baby.

Over time the baby gains trust that the adults in his or her world will respond to their needs appropriately, simultaneously the adults also gain trust and confidence in their relationship with their child. This will, when the time comes, help a parent so ‘no’ with confidence. Not fearing that the loving relationship with their child will be jeopardised – in fact being able to hold the what is reasonable line is an act of love and a significant aspect of attachment. I believe it also helps parents stay emotionally present with their child, often a hard call I know, especially when they are inconsolable for whatever reason. Confidence in our attachment also helps soothe the distress in the adults – especially is something goes wrong and the distress of the infant is not able to be soothed.

What I haven’t looked at in this blog but will next month is the impact of cultural beliefs and political policy on our new mums and the attachment process. These external factors play a significant, often not helpful, role.

Welcome 2016!!

The ending of a year and the beginning of another, regardless of how it’s acknowledged; is an opportunity to reflect, honour, grieve and hope. For many of us with relative affluence (emotional as well as financial) it’s a time to ‘play’. Assuming there aren’t too many mind altering substances involved, play enables expansion of self – literally. Neuroscientific research has taught us that play stimulates neurological flexibility and growth – or neuroplasticity.

A chance to play
A chance to play

What do you feel about the year that has just passed: grief, relief, gratitude, or all of these and more – bundled into a muddled mix of emotions? Is there optimism for the year ahead and pledges to reform bad habits?

This merging of acknowledging the past and moving onto something new makes New Year’s Eve a significant rite of passage. No wonder people reacted to the prospect of firework cancellations because of bush fire risk in Australia and terrorism in other parts of the world. Most countries want to participate in some way or other, even Asian countries who still have their New Year to come.  New Year’s Eve has become a significant universal belonging ritual.

It seems most people like fireworks!
It seems most people like fireworks!

It’s hard work to deny your self participation in a significant rite of passage ritual. Not to say everyone has to party in the new-year, so to speak. But even a quiet toast – not necessarily with alcohol – a cup of tea, or a glass of water can suffice.  It’s the act that’s important, along with a little verbal acknowledgement even if it’s to your self. For example: “Hooray 2015has finally finished, it was such a shit of a year, here’s hoping 2016 is better!”

This, by the way, was not my experience of 2015. I had a great year: and overseas trip, the birth of my first grandchild, the completion of my much laboured book – to be launched Feb 2016, and the move of one of my offspring to a very desirable seaside location. So for me the end of 2015 brought with it some sadness as well as an opportunity to honour and give thanks for the shape my life has taken. Then there’s the hope that it will continue, with a slight moderation of pace – this being my new-year’s resolution.

Nothing like a day at the beach
Nothing like a day at the beach

I’ve unsuccessfully made this new-year’s resolution before. So the challenge is how to make it work in 2016. Those of you who have family therapy training will know that wishing the absence of something doesn’t work as well as the introduction of something. So for me introducing a slower pace means discipline and the use of that wonderful little word ‘no’.

As I write this I’m trying to think how I can put in place some new stablising rituals that will create space and slow things down so that I have some pottering time. Whether that be pottering around in the garden, the kitchen, with my grand-daughter, or enjoying the beach.

I know from experience that the best way to achieve this, tragically, is to allocate fixed time for these things that needs to become or less sacred. The risk with this is rigidity and irritability, the plus is there is more likelihood of it happening.

And don't forget time for rest
And don’t forget time for rest

I’ll keep you posted!

Disappointments – are we losing the ability to cope with them

This month’s blog is a bit of a follow on from my November blog which was about the struggle for significance. As I think about this more, I believe this links with something that affects us all – diminishing skills in soothing our disappointments. I’m interested in how this connects with the ever increasing personal fear – even though statistically it seems we’re safer than ever (in Oz that is). I believe that the increase in fear hooks us up to looking for external ‘expert’ information. This information often undermines our intuitive sense of what feels right and, unfortunately most of us will follow the ‘expert’ rather that our own sense of what’s right.

Nothing like a cup of tea to soothe disappointment
Nothing like a cup of tea to soothe disappointment

Disappointment is generally fed by a sense of powerlessness – whether it’s as trivial as not getting through on the green light when driving, or something going wrong in a major life threatening way, the emotional process is, to some degree the same – we’re unable to influence events to suit us. If, when this happens we are unable to comfort ourselves – we’re in trouble.  We can develop the belief that we’re not competent to navigate life’s disappointments, which could slide to we’re not capable of managing life at all.

It feels like every family that comes in for family therapy is dealing with this dilemma in some form or other. It’s not uncommon for parents to instantly try to fix the unhappiness of their children. No thinking, just jumping to offer solutions. An example could be a primary school child who came home from school distressed. The child had just discovered that in 2016 he/she was not going to be in a class with any of his/her friends. This child has had a difficult time through the 2015 school year which is why the family sought help. During the session the parents talked about how angry they are with the school.  When they complained the principal said that he thought it would be better for their child. The parents were distressed that they were unable to fix their child’s disappointment. This was what they focused on, not what the principal had said.

Playing leggo for children is a great way to introduce creative play as a form of self comforting
Playing leggo for children is a great way to introduce creative play as a form of self comforting

The principal believed their child’s bad year had something to do with the peer group dynamic; so he and the class room teacher decided separating him/her might help. Also the teacher allocated to their child for 2016 was an outstanding teacher who the principal thought would bring out the best in their child. A lot of thought had gone into this decision by the school. When I asked the parents if they agreed: they thought they probably did.

Captured in this story is a core problem. Parents feel under pressure to keep their children happy – but by doing this, what is in their best interests maybe overlooked.

If parents can’t cope with the disappointments of their children, how are children going to learn that they can survive things not going to plan. The more I think about this, the more I think this is becoming a critical parenting issue.

patting the dog - a great source of comfort when disappointed about something
patting the dog – a great source of comfort when disappointed about something

In a country like Australia most trivial disappointments can be ‘fixed’. For example: if a child makes a mistake choosing something to eat, rather than letting them sit with the disappointment of their choice, and for peace, it’s easy to let them choose something else and just bare the cost. This same process could be around anything; a game they want to play – but then don’t, a toy they want – but then don’t. Whatever it is, if they develop a belief that it’s someone elses job to manage their disappointment tantrum, then their resilience is being eroded. Now of coure we all do this at times, especially when peace is a priority, but if it’s the most common response, that’s when it becomes problematic. Our sense of resilience is built on our history of successful problem solving.

This is generally not such a great problem when children are small it’s when they hit their teenage years that it can develop a worrying direction – when you have a 15-year-old who is either angry,depressed or anxious. To see these young people end up with a psychiatric diagnosis and sometimes medicated makes me distressed. When working with these young people what I discover is a lack of confidence to either voice or enact a solution for what is causing their angst.  They are not confident in their ability to soothe and regulate themselves, generally because they’ve had no practise at it. This, I believe is the key, the ability to self comfort through personal rituals – regular self directed actions that feed a sense of wellbeing – is the antidote to disappointments and living with relative ease with the fragility of certainty.

Just enjoying something beautiful can restore our confidence after a disappointment
Just enjoying something beautiful can restore our confidence after a disappointment

The Struggle for Significance

The struggle for significance has been something I’ve been thinking about this month. If feeling good about ourselves is ‘other’ dependent – we’re in trouble. Handing over the evaluation of our self worth to others leaves us powerless and vulnerable.

Despite the significance or this site it is still totally dependent on the goodwill of its visitors
Despite the significance or this site, it is totally dependent on the goodwill of its visitors

I think there might be a trick at play, sold by the marketing machine, that the key to great self-esteem is via the number of ‘friends or likes’ on social media. Actually the opposite is true, in order to develop and maintain a solid sense of who we are requires an ability to focus on, and listen to, our internal yearnings. This clarifies what we want to take into our relationships – this is what feeds our wellbeing.

The impact of social media on families is impossible to ignore, especially when there is an adolescent in the house. More and more it feels like social media is the medium through which self worth is gauged.

How many friends or contacts, and then the time needed to attend to all these ‘relationships’ becomes the measure of significance. Somewhere in our journey to guarantee high self-esteem in our offspring, we have lost our way.

This of course, is not a new dilemma – most parents have always wanted their children to feel confident in the world. What’s new, I think, is the very low threshold for insignificance.

It looks insignificant but can cause havoc in the vegie patch
It looks insignificant but can cause havoc in the vegie patch
A very ordinary rock and yet it support lichen, and provides protection for any number of insignificant creatures
A very ordinary rock and yet it support lichen, and provides protection for any number of insignificant creatures

It would seem we are raising a generation who have very low thresholds for not getting their own way. The results are  over entitled youths who expect to have power without responsibility. Whislt obviously there are plenty of exceptions it seems to be enough of a phenomenon to be of concern.

When the drive for significance is fed by denied powerlessness it can become dangerous, it can lead to over entitled aggressive teenagers, and for that matter, adults. Their low, reactive thresholds ignite when their insignificance and powerlessness are exposed – so they flash into irrational power asserting anger.

I’m often having conversations, usually with parents, about the importance of their children experiencing times of being insignificant. Learning that you can survive being unimportant and powerless is an essential developmental milestone.  For most people this feels counter intuitive, and yet I believe it is part of the antidote to the high levels of anxiety and depression our youth are experiencing. Knowing you can survive insignificance and feel okay feeds our sense of resilience. It also increases our ability to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of when to fight for something, and when to let something go.

Experiencing times of being centre stage and significant, as well as times of being back stage and relatively insignificant, is a balancing act that we all seem to struggle with. Knowing that you can survive both is what builds self- competence and confidence.

An insignifcant sunset and yet it enhances wellbeing
An insignifcant sunset and yet it enhances wellbeing

Cultural Change – Abbott out, Turnbull in!

Tilly for P M  Election promise - oxytocin for everyone
Tilly for P M
Election promise – oxytocin for everyone

Is it my imagination or are we experiencing a cultural shift in Australia? Even though Malcolm Turnbull has only been Prime Minister for a few weeks it feels like something has shifted in the country’s emotional reactions. The mean spiritness I wrote about in an earlier blog seems to have loosened its hold.

Family Therapy theory helps us understand change – whether it be with an individual, family, workplace or culture. This blog, through utilising some aspects of Family Therapy theory, will be a bit of a refresher for past students, and an introduction for newcomers to a complex destructive dynamic that in its extreme affects our mental health.

Our emotions underpin how we contruct our view of the world, so for change to occur we need a shift in our fundamental emotions.  In Australia, I think we’ve been witnessing this at a cultural level. So far we see a PM who can co-operate and listen and has respect for difference whilst still holding his own view.  Murray Bowen’s theory of differentiation helps explain what we are witnessing. I think we are seeing a man who is more solid in his sense of self. He doesn’t feel under threat if people don’t agree with him.  So far Turnbull, it would seem, is able to regulate (more or less) his own emotional state. There is no evidence of the ‘run away’ phenomenon that Tony Abbott regularly demonstrated.

Watching Abbott, on the other hand, always felt like he was just holding himself under control – in fact he often didn’t. The ‘Captains Picks’ are lovely examples of an inability to hold others in mind. ‘Captains Pricks’ would have more accurately captured the rage and fear embedded in these Abbott style leadership decisions. Basically it’s, “F..k the lot of you!” This aspect of the message was always ‘innocently’ denied and is what makes this way of interacting so dangerous.

Abbott provides a wonderful example of Gregory Bateson’s double bind theory.  At one level he feigns co-operation with the new government whilst simultaneously undermining it. He actually believes he’s being helpful and honest – his underlying rage is denied. As listeners we just end up confused – even the interviewers, so far, seem unable to comment on the confusions between content and tone, and then all the twists and turns within the actual message. It’s a great example of ‘double binding’ leaving the person on the receiving end immobilised. Now he’s ex prime minister, we can have a bit of fun with it, but when he was in power the result was a frightened and divided population.

The most frustrating aspect of Abbott’s way of managing his rage, fear and need for power is the denial, and then the denial is denied.  He actually really doesn’t know it’s there.  It is an ‘honest’ emotional blindness. This explains how he can be genuinely surprised when he does something inappropriate and despite thinking he has changed he actually hasn’t.

Now that we are almost free of him it’s great to have a bit of a play with the sort of parenting team Abbott and Hockey made. Back to Murray Bowen who many years ago observed a parental dynamic in families in which there was serious mental illness.  This theory has become unpopular because of the implicit blame of the parents; who of course, usually have their own problematic histories. But nonetheless for those of us who work with families of the seriously mentally ill it still often rings true.

Sticking to a simplification of the theory, what Abbott and Hockey demonstrated was a team emotionally underpinned by denied rage and fear – everyone else could see it – but they were literally blind to it. Abbott could be seen as the emotionally intense mother who tried to convince Australians he was a loving, trust worthy leader and was Hockey the disconnected, but committed father, driven by the same denied emotions. The result – a country feeling fragmented and hopless.

An incredibly frustrating dynamic to work with in families, and interesting to see that in a political form, how a change in the leadership to someone who has the ability to emotionally regulate themselves – does make a difference.

 

 

It’s Spring!

Daffodils, the symbol of spring
Daffodils, the symbol of spring

It’s blog day, the first weekend of the month and it’s spring. Even though it still feels like winter, there is comfort in seeing the daffodils bloom and the trees full of blossoms.

Trusting spring will occur, announced by plants doing the ‘right’ thing – is an emotionally stabilising phenomenon.

Following on from last months blog I’m still playing with ideas around trust. I’m thinking about trust as another oxytocin production indicator. How trust is assessed, if you like, is by our ability to be absolutely in the moment, not jumping ahead or sliding into the past. Appreciation of beauty in the moment, is one way of doing this. In effect when we do this, we are trusting ourselves to feel the warmth of love – this feeds our soul and potienally provides one of those moments of exhilaration that defines a spiritual encounter.

These moments are often found whilst we are participating in our personal rituals, or self-soothing practises, as David Schnarch would say.

When I think about this I start to ponder how completely interwoven trust and love are. Fear, I believe, is the destroyer of love and trust. As we become more fearful we seem to have a strange disconnect happening.

This is a work in progress, but somehow, despite fear putting doubt over our every day safety we seem to be able to trust strangers. Is this new or is it just a sort of rebranding?

Back to technology and it’s impact.

It feels weird that we can be so fearful that we can’t let our kids walk to school (they might get kidnapped/raped/bullied) or venture outside to enjoy a moment in the sun (might get skin cancer) and yet we can put our credit card details into the computer and send them off to who knows where; trusting that all will be well. Surprisingly, in the main it is. I find it such a wonder when something I’ve booked on the other side of the earth, works.

The question for me is how come we can trust in a way that is disconnected and yet struggle to trust our local community.

In the past, I had hypothesised that with the absence of formalised religion we lost the mechanism that regulated our ’emotional stabilising rituals’. Religion enhanced trust with the belief that ‘ god loves you and will take care of you’. Hence the resultant battles for who has the ‘right god’.

Now I’m wondering if in essence nothing has changed, we have just moved from the rituals of traditional religion to the rituals of the Internet – our new religion – whether it’s the great advisor Google, gaming or social media.  The Internet is the ‘new god’ and many of our rituals are now built around it. So in a sense we have a continuous, not as I previously thought, discontinuous process.

If this rings true for people we could define our addiction to technology as just a new religious practise. No wonder we’re all hooked. I would love your comments.

A moment of worship

 P.S. I was interested to note when I was doing a spelling and grammar check for this piece ‘word’ wanted all the internet related terms in capitals but didn’t worry about god!

Still Dreaming of Europe

 

The stunning Plitvice National Park Croatia
The stunning Plitvice National Park Croatia

I’ve been back three weeks now and the question from my last blog, how did we become so mean spirited? Is still with me.

The first news bulletin I saw on my return was about silencing the medical teams in refugee camps. So I hadn’t been blinded by holiday haze. Something awful is going on here.

Mix these wonderings with what seemed like a plague of clients dealing with variations of teenage angst, computer addiction, school-refusing and/or self-harming.  All the parents of these adolescents were feeling frightened and out of their depth.

There’s nothing new about parental anxiety as our precious babies transition to adults via the emotional vehicle we call adolescence. But the level of fear is out of step with the statistics, apparently, in Australia, we are living in the safest times ever.

What’s going on?

I’m going to propose a hypothesis that this phenomenon is built on an erosion of cultural trust. Firstly, let’s look at the influence of the media as primary conveyers of fear, which in turn undermines the ability to trust. Did both the Packer and Murdoch families ‘have fear and don’t trust anyone’ embedded as core family values?  If so, is the Packer/ Murdoch media content just a forum for exporting their core family values? Secondly, lets look at our political leaders who relentlessly use fear, promoting an absence of trust to win the vote of the day. These two important influences on our culture are marketing fear and paranoia.

Rovinj, Croatia

Not that long ago they really had something to fear.
Not that long ago they really had something to fear.

How does this flow onto families and everyday life?

If my hypothesis is correct, what’s the solution?

I’m coming to believe we have reached, hopefully, the extreme end of this distortion in raising our young. We are being indoctrinated in fear, where in the main, daily fears are trivial. When there is actually nothing to fear, but nonetheless you feel fearful, you can’t leave in peace and trust.  This I believe is undermining the resilience and self-esteem of our youth. The culture of fear means they do not get enough experience in overcoming adversity and so are not developing survival struggle skills.

Most adolescents don’t even have to grapple with simple things like: how to stay dry on a wet day, or how to cook a meal from scratch, or how to comfort themselves if they’ve had a bad day. These are trivial examples, a more serious situation for our culture could be bullying.  Many of the conversations are around bullying are about permanent harm, not as potential resouce and resilience building opportunities.

Getting what we want all the time and having problems solved for us does not feed our sense of resilience and self-esteem.  I’m not talking about ignoring things, I’m talking about conveying belief in our youth; they do often have the resources to manage many adverse situations. But parental/cultural fear often stops this important developmental experience in growing trust in self , because our fear makes us intervene too quickly rather than ask, “What would you like me to do?”

Trust in own abilities and realistic understanding of limitations gives us courage – this is the antidote to fear.  We can only gain this through building a history of overcoming struggle.  In order to do this we need to have confidence in our ability to comfort ourselves – it’s like having an insurance policy – just in case things don’t go as well as we would like.

Beauty whether human made or natural is a key
Beauty whether human made or natural, is a key

More and more I think the place to start is very small.  It’s about how to feed the soul and the spirit of our children.  I’m not talking about religion here, although sometimes, that is one way. I’m talking about teaching our children about the practice of personal rituals for the soul and the observation of beauty for the spirit.

When a parent if fearful and has lost trust in the world it’s very hard to be in the moment and let children explore, struggle and achieve without interference.

It’s in relationships of trust that we can let our children play or help them identify something of beauty.  This could be as simple as noticing a flower or a cloud formation, just taking time to share the wonder of it.  These examples are, of course, for smaller children, but for the teenager think about a holiday or outing that takes them out of their comfort zone and brings them intouch with beauty – this could be music, or food – it doesn’t have to be visual. The aim is for them to experience something that stirs wonder, which inturn feeds a sense of comfort and trust. This is the antidote to fear.  It will give them courage to face some of life’s struggles.

Unfortunately as parents we need to lead by example if we don’t have a sense that we can survive adversity, especially something that might endanger our most precious relationships,  how are our children going to learn.  Not that we wouldn’t be devasted if something happened to them, and guitly plus if in someway we had contributed to them getting hurt. Nonetheless we need to trust in our ability to survive.  Because to function in life and take advantage of the opportunities that come our way, we have trust our ability to navigate living, okay enough.  How else will our adolescents develop a belief that it’s safe to progress onto adulthood?

In the presence of fear and an absence of trust, do they – albeit covertly – think why bother? In that light it seems logical to retire to their bedrooms and play computer games, or go on a drug binge, or carve themselves up because if one is fearful and distrusting of life, it’s hard to get a realistic view on a future.

A day at the beach can fill our souls and spirits and teach an adolescent about self neglect if they decide to omit the use of sunscreen.
A day at the beach can fill our souls and spirits and teach an adolescent about self neglect if they decide to omit the use of sunscreen, adquate food or water.

Greetings From Europe – Growth Versus Maintenance

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As I get older I have an increasing yearning for Europe.  This, no doubt, was planted within me by my Maltese parents. Nonetheless, once here I am eternally grateful that they had the courage to immigrate to Australia.  And yet…….

As a tourist it’s possible to skim the surface and just enjoy all the beauty: the buildings, the music, the natural scenery, the food, the art galleries and museums. But after a time my curious observer eye turns to watching the quality of relationships and everyday life.

Malta seems to have lost its slap dash approach to life.  There is a desperateness for sales that I can’t remember being there before, and then joy when a purchase if made.  Paris, of course,  is still beautiful but everyone seems a little shabbier than I expected. And a not uncommon sight was families making their home under a shop awning.  Salzburg has a tent city outside the police station full of refugees.  In all these countries (I haven’t got to Italy yet) the impact of both refugees and the global economic downturn has had a huge impact.

In comparison our economic and refugee problems are trivial.  I feel deeply ashamed of our solutions to these problems, and more shamed by the questions posed by Europeans as they try to understand our harsh stand. Many to whom I have spoken have been to Australia and our sink or swim policies – literally in the case of  refugees – don’t resonate with an Australia they remember.

How did we become so mean spirited?

Whether we’re dealing with mothers, refugees, education, health or welfare it feels like we have variations of the same solution – give nobody nothing!

Whilst lying in the sun I’ve been pondering this and Humberto Maturana’s ideas about cultural change have been floating in and out. Especially his statement – that for cultural change to occur you need a change in emotioning.

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Is our new age religion of economic rationalism responsible for this mean spirited emotioning shift? The belief that more for less, under the guise of growth, is the answer of all of life’s problems.  The belief that we can consume our way to heaven, is very seductive.

On the plane on the way over I started reading Don Watson’s ‘The Bush’ which I bought as a gift for my sister.  As I read I became fascinated with what I think is going to be his central philosophy. I’m only a quarter of the way through, but I think he might be hypothesizing that we haven’t had an emotioning shift at all.  That harsh heartlessness is the core of who Australians are.  Consequently economic rationalism is a perfect cultural emotioning match. Grab what you can regardless of the destruction and heartache caused along the way.

This ripples across all aspects of our lives and would certainly explain the distress of those of us employed in health and welfare. No wonder pleading for resources for the troubled falls on deaf ears.

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With this in mind maybe Gough Whitlam was the anomaly. He tried to change the cultural emotioning of Australia and failed.  Those of us who are more matristically orientated grieve for those humane times. Everything he had put into place has gradually been eroded away.

I’ll just stick with refugee management as a symbol of cultural emotioning. Despite Europe’s problems in many areas, from my limited research, an Australian style solution would not be popular.

In Europe The Madonna is ever present – a tribute to love and the value of mothering or nurturing. Maybe they understand the potential impact of gains made at the expense of another in a way Australians, with our geographical isolation, don’t.

The matristic emotioning of gratefulness for what the world gives seems to sit more easily in Europe than the patriarchal pride of getting what you can preferably for nothing that underpins the Australian psyche.   And yet… I love our quality of life.  A double bind, I think!

Note - no fences
Note – no fences

 

 

Back to Technology

Who cares cares about technology?
Who cares cares about technology?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the last month, along with help from your comments and what is buzzing around in my own head. This is a work in progress, but I’ve started to believe that our conversations around the impact of technology on our lives is around the wrong way. I’m thinking this because the focus of these conversations tends to be on the technology and the newest whatever; not on the quality of relationships.

So, I think the challenge for us all is to become much more mindful about the place we want technology to have in our lives.  Rather than worry about whom is doing what, thinking more about the quality of interactions with our various devices. Does this relationship with – facebook for example – enhance or detract from my quality of life.  This is a question that could become an everyday event.  Each member of the family could ask both themselves and each other. A bit like asking “what’s for dinner”.

Surprisingly, I find adolescents remarkably honest when asked do they feel better or worse when they are in relationship with their favourite app? Their response is often a variation of I enjoy it in the beginning, but then I can’t turn it off and so I become obessed and anxious for fear I’ll miss out on something.  There it is again, good old fashioned fear controlling us again. Even on our own in the safety of our bedrooms.

Back to core values. What are the family values and beliefs around external input. This could be friends (real ones), T.V., extended family or any other phenomenon that comes into everyday family life.  What ever a family believes is right for them becomes the guide as to how to deliver technology management strategies.  If this is hard to work out, ask the kids, they can usually clearly articulate the core values of their parents.  Once these are clear, they define the parameters on how, and where, to set the boundary around usage.

Don’t forget we all have our bad days when we’ll succumb to the never ending whinging.  I believe it’s the setting of the boundary that’s important – the kids need to know where it is – even though it might be a bit rubbery.

Because technology is continually changing the adults will always be running behind the kids.  There’s nothing new in this, I remember my parents horror when I bought my first pair of jeans. So, rather than focusing on what the latest thing is and trying to control it, I think it would be helpful if we save our energy for setting that boundary. Helpful questions for doing this might be, is this particular program/game or whatever …. providing an experience that feels okay or not? Is it consistent with our family values?  The core values are the guide as to when to intervene whether, for ourselves or our loved ones.

Just a little aside I’ve overlooked and will talk about in the future, this all works very well when the parents agree, and the core values around input from the external world are shared. But if the parents don’t agree…… that’s for another time.

Naughty New Mothers Stealing From the State…the 2015 Budget

Double Dipping
Double Dipping

More guilt for mums…What were Abbott and Hockey thinking using comments like double dipping and rorting the system?

It all felt very shifty. How shifty time will tell, but for now here’s my hypothesis.  I’m assuming they were attempting to cover a mistake made in the original policy. It either wasn’t clearly written, or there was an oversight. Rather than own their mistake, they shifted the blame to greedy, double dipping mothers.  What about their partners who are also beneficiaries, how come they aren’t labeled as greedy too? I would like to think most fathers to be would have, at some point, had a discussion about their financial situation and how they plan to financially navigate having a child.  No mention, that I heard, of fathers as accessaries to the crime.

But what worried me the most most was the shifting of blame from the confusion or oversight in their paid maternity leave policy, to the vulnerable pregnant woman.

This blaming of woman for the mistakes of men goes back a very long way. Whether it’s Adam blaming Eve for tempting him to eat an apple, or comments like a woman shouldn’t be out on her own, as if  by being out alone, even is she is going to work at 5am, she is in someway inviting sexual assault.  I believe this turning the focus on what the woman is doing is underpinned by the belief that men are helpless victims of women’s behaviour. This is embedded in every religion and gets more extreme the more fundamentalist someone becomes.

Rather than just apologise to families for the mistake or misunderstanding in the application of the policy, Abbott and Costello (oh no wrong man he was the one that said something like come on girls have one for the nation). 

I mean, of course, Abbott and Hockey – rather than an apology for jeopardising the family budget because of poor delivery of policy –  mothers get an emotional stoning.  You double dipping, rorting women. Whislt this is definintely an improvement on being stoned with real stones the action is driven from the same underlying premise.  It’s always the woman’s fault.

I feel incredibly disappointed that not one interviewer that I heard made this point. I sincerely hope they did and I just missed it.  Instead they all focused on the superficial use of language not the beliefs behind it.

It would be wonderful to see some of the fathers of these babies come forward with protests, protecting the integrity of their partners,  reminding politicians  that in the main, having a baby is a decision made by and funded by a couple.