Hotter Than Fish Grease! (Reaction, or Response?)

Dear Readers:

Below is the response (or reaction) from one of our readers to last week’s posting of “No Longer a Child: Booting Daddy To the End of the Line.”

For those unfamiliar with the southern saying, “hotter than fish grease” it can loosely translate as an individual being extremely angry. 

There may be times where, even when you are the object of another’s person anger, you can benefit from the message they are bringing you.  You can choose to respond to their points rather than internalizing their reaction and making it yours.

 If you do the latter, you deny yourself the process of reflection before sharing the response with the external world.  This may result in the message being unclear.  Emotions aside, the writer of this correspondence has raised issues of substance and that are worthy of consideration.

Dr. Kane

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Dear Visible Man,

I am not one to criticize the feelings of another, but since you put yourself out there, I feel the need to speak up for the parents you trampled on when you gave your “clinical insight” regarding the daughter who DID DISRESPECT her father when she chose to “boot him to the end of the line.”

In fact, after all he had done for her, providing guidance and direction in her life, her choosing to contact her girlfriends first was more of “a slap in the face.”  This is the problem with young people today.  A parent sacrifices all and what does he or she get in return? Booted to the end of the line!  Kicked to the curb!  For what?  Her girlfriends?!

These girlfriends are only going to do so much for her.  They only have a “snippet” of information, whereas the involved parent was there from birth to adulthood.  As a parent, I was there to wipe my daughter’s behind when needed.  I was there to wipe the tears when she had a bad day or relationship breakup.

I agree with the father.  The daughter intentionally disrespected him.  She was wrong for not informing him first, especially since he remains actively involved in her life.

You should be ashamed of yourself.  Since you put it out there, I am going to put it out there.

You, being an African-American parent, should know about the struggles of our children as they attempt to navigate a world that is hostile to them.  Your writings indicate that you don’t.  You may want to question as to whether your comments are dividing families and creating tension among parents and siblings.

I am unclear as to what this “larger group” nonsense is that you are always writing about.  What does the larger group have to do with me as an individual, as a parent supporting my daughter?

I do know that I don’t like the use of all these clinical references.  It seems that you have spent too much time reading those books and not living a “real life.”

If there is anyone that needs to be lying down on a couch and having his head examined….it should be you!

Hotter Than Fish Grease, Seattle, WA

P.S. Bet you won’t print this!

Dear Madam,

It is clear that I have several choices here.  In my younger and more radical days, I would probably say a few choice words that I couldn’t print.  Today, being older, wiser and grayer, I choose to do something different.  My choices are simple:

  • Hit the delete button
  • React to the challenge
  • Respond by sharing & educating.

What shall it be?  Hmm…Let’s go with sharing & educating.

In response to the issues/ concerns being addressed:

  • From the information being presented, there is no evidence that the daughter intentionally sought to disrespect her father. Did the father feel disrespected? Yes! Is he entitled to his feelings? Yes!  Is this about being who is right and who is wrong?

Answer: It depends on the observer.  My hope is that the father will have the willingness to look at the situation from another viewpoint.  In doing so, his feelings may change.

 

My goal is that he develops a sense of understanding regarding his daughter’s choice to reach out to her friends for emotional support.  He can still maintain an active role in her life without the expectation that she will come to him to either inform him of every occurrence in her life or seek to resolve problems that she is now equipped to respond to.

Regarding the concept of “parental sacrifice” and what that parent “gets in return”, my views professionally and personally are the following:

  • Those who make the decision to become parents are blessed to have children in our lives.
  • Children DO NOT ask to be born. They come into this world out of circumstance or as a result of the choices and decisions that are made by others.
  • Children DO NOT owe parents anything. There is no debt or obligation placed upon a child for being born.
  • Parenting is a responsibility and NOT an obligation. It is something that one does out of love, commitment and the desire to parent.

Differentiating between the limits of friendship and the parental relationship:

  • To clarify, the relationships between the daughter and the young women are not fleeting. Their quickness to respond and depth of concern are clear indications that these relationships have strong foundations and are deeply rooted.

 

  • In reviewing the clearly identified relationship, it is my intent to point out that the friendships work in support of and not in competition with the parental relationship.

Regardless of race, ethnicity, or culture, many parents may be over their heads as they themselves struggle to adjust in a fast moving, technologically focused world.  In doing so, the parent may be working with a skill or knowledge base that is not quite equipped for teaching problem solving skills for this modern age. These friendships can make up for what parents may lack in the guidance they provide to their children.

Regarding the “larger group”–from a clinical viewpoint, the “larger group” consists of the integration and dependency of three sub units working in collaboration.  These three sub units are society (at larger), community (church, school, and other defined institutions) and family (loosely defined).

The most important piece, which impacts the sub units separately and as a whole, is the individual member, who in some way or function belongs to each one of the sub units as well as the larger group.

The strength of the larger group is the interworking among the three sub units.  The weakness of the larger group is its dependency upon the individual to survive.  The group does not teach the individual to strive or thrive.  Its hold on the individual is one of existence or survival (of the group).

The focus of the larger group is “the destination” i.e. middle class standing, buying a new car, promotion at work.

However, for the parent, adult, adolescent or child to be successful, seeking self-discovery and empowerment when responding to obstacles and challenges are essential for development and growth.

Concluding Remarks

Madam,

I think that like most of us, you are living in fear.

You are correct.  Our children are struggling to navigate a world that may be hostile to them.  If we were to be honest with ourselves we would be willing to admit that as parents, many of us (regardless of race) are struggling with helping our children thrive.

In moving forward it was my intent to provide for the father (and you) an alternative way in perceiving the actions taken by his daughter.

We, as parents, must want to consider the following as our children attain adulthood:

  • Transforming from the role of parent to that of Dad & Mom.
  • Changing our status to advocates, seeking balance and providing consultation when requested.
  • Empower ourselves to let go, move forth and grasp the full meaning of our lives.

Yesterday is GONE

Today is FADING

Tomorrow is NOT PROMISED

LIVE IN THIS MOMENT

THE VISIBLE MAN

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No Longer a Child: Booting Daddy To The End Of the Line

Dear Readers,

Parents often chide their children about moving into “the real world.”  The real question is, however: when does parenting end?  Do parents want their children to be completely independent or only when that independence fits the need of the parent?  Are parents sending confusing and contradicting messages to their children who have now become young adults?

Below is such a story…….

Dear Visible Man,

I am writing to express my dismay and frustration regarding an incident with my daughter. It’s really making me question the meaning I have in her life now that she is an adult.

Recently, in the course of her work, a mentally unstable client threatened my daughter.  The organization she works for handled the situation appropriately, following their protocol as well as notifying law enforcement.  Although she was  shaken by the incident, she wasn’t otherwise harmed.

My frustration is around who she chose to call first regarding the incident.  Apparently, the first people she notified were her girlfriends, who helped her through the situation over the phone and came to the scene to lend emotional support.

I, her FATHER, was not informed of the incident until arriving home late that evening.   Needless to say, I went ballistic!  I feel it is clearly unfair and disrespectful that I am the last one to find out about the incident.  It is unfair because she could have been injured or killed, and I would have been the last one to know.

It is disrespectful because as her father, I feel I deserved more consideration than what I was given.  But, at the same time, I am conflicted.  I am glad she has the support of her friends.  They are a diverse group of fine young African-American, Caucasian and Hispanic women who were there for each other and for my daughter during many good and bad times, the last being when my spouse passed away several years ago.

My daughter, when we talked about this, said that she didn’t call me first because “she didn’t want to worry me.”  I understand that.  However, I feel that it is precisely my responsibility as a father to worry about her.  Plus, I feel that perhaps she may feel that because I’m getting older, that I am less able to step in and protect her.

I am proud of my daughter.  I admire her independence.  I have raised her to be her own and never, ever depend on a man.  I just never thought she would apply those teachings to me.

Eating My Words, Seattle, WA

Dear Father,

Whoa!  Let’s back this train up.  It seems like you’re jumping to a lot of conclusions regarding your daughter’s actions and behaviors.

Have the willingness to STOP the racing thoughts and feelings.  To do this, walk through these steps:

  • Respite (time out)
  • Reactions (own them)
  • Reflections (process feelings & thoughts)
  • Response (sharing externally)
  • Reevaluation (review, reconsider, reframe)
  1. Now that we have done that, let us first be thankful for the fact that her organization followed the correct protocol and that law enforcement responded swiftly. Second, recognize that the two of you are blessed that she was not physically injured and will recover emotionally from this incident.

Take the time to be grateful for the way your daughter handled herself in this difficult and stressful situation.  It is obvious from her actions, she responded in a manner that was cool, calm and collected.

Furthermore, as you step to the side (respite), assess your initial concern (reaction), process through what happened (reflect), choose your words (response) and review (reevaluation), doing that may help you understand that she actually followed the teaching and directions you provided her, WHICH ACTUALLY “kept her safe.”

It’s clear and understandable that your feelings were hurt by your daughter’s choice to reach out to her friends for help instead of contacting you first.  However, to call it disrespect is to leap to a conclusion that has no foundation.

Within the “larger group” (society, community and family), it is essential that we acknowledge that females are socialized differently.  Generally speaking, where males compete, hide their feelings and strive to work individually as well as independently, females are socialized to share (even when competing), express their feelings and work collaboratively (even when working independently).

Ask yourself the following questions:

If the same situation had occurred to you, how would you have handled the emotional distress?

  • Would you have sought out your male friends for consolation?
  • Would your male friends have immediately left their jobs and come to your assistance?
  • Would your male friends be in constant contact with you and other males, maintaining a vigil as you work towards recovering from the incident?

If the answers to these questions are yes, then you are as fortunate as your daughter to be blessed with a gathering of individuals that express love and concern for you.  If the answer is no, then rather than being critical, there is a lesson that we as men can learn from modeling the behaviors and actions as shown by your daughter’s friends.

Often, positive actions can come from negative situations.  In this case, you as a father may have learned the following:

  • Your daughter’s actions in a stressful situation shows that she has held to what you have taught her.
  • As she has learned from you the value of independence, she has also learned the value of partnership in reaching out to others when she identifies the need for assistance.
  • When you pass away and go to join your beloved spouse, you will know that your daughter has a gathering of friends who love her to assist her in times of distress.

Now, could your daughter have handled the situation differently? Let’s see:

  • Did your daughter err in waiting an extended period of time to inform you of the situation that had occurred?

Answer: It depends on your objective. If you want your daughter to continue working towards independence and utilizing her problem solving skills, then she is correct in the timing of informing you of the incident. However if you wish to maintain her dependency on you, her insecurity about her ability to care for herself, and her doubts about her own decision-making skills, then she did truly err in this situation.

  • Was your daughter wrong to protect you from your own feelings (“I did not want to worry you.”)?

Answer: Again, it depends.  If she believes that you are incapable of handling, responding or trusting how she dealt with the situation then it may be correct to protect you (and her) from worrying about stressful or difficult situations.

However, if she believes that you are capable of being a good listener, considering this to be“her experience” and responding appropriately, then it is feasible that she may have been wrong to protect you from your feelings.

If this is the relationship you want to have with your daughter, then:

1) Empower yourself to be available to her for consultation, advice or just to be an open ear– not for problem solving, just blowing off steam.

2) Encourage her independence, then have belief, faith and trust that she will, when the timing is right (for her and not you), come to you to seek advice or simply provide information.

3) Relax. Allow yourself to simply be “Daddy.”  Your parenting days of supervision, direction and management are over.  A new sunrise for you (and your daughter) in an adult to adult relationship has begun!

Concluding Remarks

From one father to another, we must not want to have it both ways.  We must not usher our children to independence and then criticize them when they don’t “do what we want them to do.”   To do this is to provide conflicting and contradicting messages, and it only serves to weaken the positive messages, hard work and solid foundation that you have assisted in empowering your daughter to create.

In closing I shall leave you with two observations, one that builds on the other:  The first one was provided by Maria Velasquez, my peer :

“When a child is learning how to walk, it is hard for the parent to watch her/him struggle, because as parents, we want to help them and make it easier on them.  The child knows that the parent is willing to carry them, but they can be and are quite insistent on learning to walk for themselves.”

In the second scenario, imagine your daughter’s wedding day.  Your role is one of escort and walking your daughter down the “aisle of matrimony.”  As you are walking those many steps, consider the ideas, feelings flowing through your mind and body, be reflective of her infancy, childhood and adolescence.

Reflect on the many times she may have come to you to be held as you listened and solved her problems.  Now as you step to the altar, your daughter steps next to her betrothed, and away from you.

You in turn, step off to the side.  Your work as a parent is done.  You are now simply “daddy’.  A new era in her life is now beginning.

Now hold that thought!  In the situation you are currently writing about, instead of walking your daughter down the “aisle of matrimony,” let’s call this “the walk of life” in which she is transitioning from adolescent to early adulthood.

Now that your daughter is showing the ability to successfully address life issues, you must want to “step off to the side.” Your work as a parent is done.  You are now simply “daddy’.  A new era in her life is now beginning.

Daddy, your work here is done.  You were the first man in her life and will always be the first man in life.  Nothing can or will have change that. Go find your life that allows and empowers you to simply be you.  Be at peace.

The Visible Man

Another Consequence of Racial Hatred: Will We Ever Learn to ….”Just Get Along?”

My Dear Readers,

Earlier this month, a man was severely beaten by three other men in a racially motivated event in Detroit, Michigan.  This sad and regrettable incident reflects yet another setback in racial understanding in America—the chronic inability of some Americans to look beyond the color of another’s skin, reacting emotionally with hate and resulting in the emotional suffering and despair of others.

This incident is reminiscent of an event in Jasper, TX (1998) when three white men,  two of which were known to be white supremacists, murdered James Byrd Jr., an African-American man, by dragging Mr. Byrd behind a pickup truck for three miles on an asphalt road, resulting in Mr. Byrd’s decapitation and severing of other limbs.

In this situation, a similarly innocent man is targeted and physically beaten to a state that required him to be placed into a medically induced coma simply because of his race.

But—there is one major difference. In this incident, the victim of racial hatred was Caucasian, whereas his assailants were African-Americans.  The story is as follows:

Steven Utash accidentally struck 10-year-old David Harris with his pickup truck when the child who had stepped off the curb in his path.  Utash, who is 54 years old, immediately stopped and got out of the pickup to check on the condition of the child when he was attacked by four males aged 30, 24, 19, and 17. He was eventually rescued by Deborah Harris, an African-American woman, who also responded to the accident.

While David Harris was treated for leg and other injuries and released from the hospital, Mr. Utash suffered head injuries so severe from that attack he had to be placed in a medically induced coma in order to save his life.

Witnesses say that over 100 onlookers watched over 12 people assault Mr. Utash before Hughes intervened, but currently, four of the assailants are being held without bond, with the fifth, a juvenile, being held on a $400,000 bond.

What happened here?  It was an emotional reaction.

  •  An emotional reaction that resulted in severe physical harm to an innocent man who did nothing more than respond appropriately given that a child had been injured in auto-pedestrian accident.
  • An emotional reaction that leaves a family in shock, maintaining a vigil and praying for the recovery of their loved one.

All of the men charged with the beating bear their share of responsibility, but let’s focus on the juvenile and the impact on his life and family.  The district attorney prosecuting the case, in describing the participation of the juvenile, stated the following:

“What actually occurred was the savage beating of an innocent man.  By his own admission, he was one of the first to throw punches.”

The child’s parents have declined to speak to reporters.  It is possible that they too are devastated by the events and reeling as they prepare to respond to the impact on their family and the legal consequences of his behavior.

As impacted as they may be, this is the time that the adolescent needs the support of his parents.  In responding to the fact that he chose to participate in this terrible act, the parents may want to model the following actions:

  • Advocacy-Stand as a parental advocate for their son
  • Balance– work together as mother and father observing and balancing their internalized feelings during this difficult time
  • Consultation-Be available for consultation as their son wrestles through choices and decisions that will impact his life

It is widely known that within the legal system in the United States, officials understand that there may be mitigating circumstances to be considered such as age, emotional maturity and development stages of the adolescent.  Despite this understanding, it is the expectation that parents, not lawyers, have the duty to groom their child into a caring member of society.

In essence, this is what Mr. Utash was doing when he stopped to provide assistance. As parents, adults and significant individuals in the lives of our young people, we can and should not only mentor them, but also model appropriate behavior for them.

The following model, “Four Stages of the Journey of Self Discovery (Adolescence) R.A.C.E” is one that may be utilized to assist our young people in understanding the realities and ramifications for one’s behavior & actions.

The stages include the following:

  • Responsibility-One accepts the burden of well being within society
  • Accountability-The individual, and no one else, is answerable for their actions.
  • Consequences– For every action, there is a reaction. Reactions are not punishments, but are responses to actions and behaviors taken (or not).
  • Empowerment-Comes from within the psychological self. The individual is the “captain of one’s ship” as well as the “master of one’s destiny.” It is up to the individual to set their own direction as well as achieve the intended goals and objectives.

Concluding Remarks

It would be insane to place logic into what resulted in a heinous crime and senseless act.  However, unless we as a society learn something from this unfortunate incident, such occurrences will continue to repeat itself in similar communities such as Jasper, TX and Detroit, MI.

Albert Einstein has often been quoted regarding for defining the term “insanity.”  He states, insanity is “the result of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

In essence, we must question and constantly evaluate our own actions and whether they match up with how we, as a multi-racial society, expect to interact with each other.

So, what is it going to take for all of us to….Just Get Along?

Perhaps rather than being “insanity” as the answer of the reasoning behind repeating the same behavior, may be there is another reason:   FEAR.  Fear is a normal human emotion.  We must want to accept it along with the other emotions that are within the makeup of the entity of humanity.

However, it is up to all of us as individuals or as members of the larger group (society, community and family) to decide whether we will continue to “live in fear” of each other or have the willingness to “live with fear” and in doing so have the willingness to openly communicate across the table of human interaction the differences which not only separates us and also works at keeping us apart.

We will either learn to work together or work apart.

“To err is human” is a common expression yet we should not believe there is always room for error. In some cases there is no room for error. None.”

Ten Flashes of Light for the Journey of Life

 

Until the next crossroads…..The journey continues….

No Sacrifice Too Great For The Princess….

Dear Readers,

  1. Those of us from earlier generations have learned this concept well. So, it’s not surprising that we respond in disbelief when we feel that our children do not appreciate the things we do for them and the lives they are blessed to live. As we seek to empower our children as they take their places in this world, we too must assume the responsibility of modeling self-care in a fast moving, ever-changing world.

 

Dear Visible Man,

I am frustrated and in disbelief at the behavior of my teenage daughter.

I am a black female single parent who is well educated and employed as a teacher in the one of the local school districts in Washington State’s Puget Sound region.

We reside in a modest middle class single-family residence. Although I am struggling to provide for my family, it was important to me that my daughter attend a private school.

I drive her back and forth to her school activities during the week, and on the weekends, I host sleepovers for her and her friends, take the shopping at the malls and give her spending money for other activities.  And, I provide the coverage for her cell phone plan as well as other items she may want.

So, what does she do in return?  Nothing.  She refuses to do household tasks, keep her room clean or look after her younger sister so I can run a few short errands.

Although I am frustrated, I am determined to help her become a strong, independent African-American woman. My mother was a good role model for me.  I want to do the same for my daughter, but I’m afraid that she’s spoiled. Have I created a monster?

Seeking Answers, Seattle WA

Dear Seeking,

Have you created a monster? Let’s take a look.

It sounds like your daughter has a wonderful life.  The problem I see here is that the foundation for that life has been built on your blood, sweat and tears.  Consider the following realities:

  • Your daughter is clueless and unprepared for the world that as an adult she is about to enter.
  • Your daughter has been shielded and pampered, causing her to achieve only the minimum that is expected of her.
  • You have assumed the responsibility for her failures and successes at the expense of your own life. (After all, your mother did the same for you, right?)

Welcome to the grand illusion of parenting.   It is not unusual for parents, regardless of ethnicity, race or culture, to fall into the following traps:

  • The desire to provide opportunities for your child that you didn’t have when you were a child.
  • The desire to have your child advance further than you have in your life.
  • The determination to endure any and all sacrifices to obtain that advancement, regardless of the financial or emotional costs to yourself.

All of the above are noble concepts. However,  as your children move into pre adolescence, adolescence, and early adulthood, remember that:

  • Your child is a member of two environments: within the home and outside of the home. Consequently, she is not only being influenced by the parents at home, but they are also impacted by peers and communities outside of the home.
  • Your child is reacting and responding to internal conflicts, demands & stimuli as she seeks to find herself and her status in her family, community and society.
  • Your child is transitioning in a fast moving, technological world. The model that you as a parent may be utilizing (i.e. your parent as a model) may be outdated and therefore useless as you and your child seek to move forward.

The major focus lies not only on parental expectations, but also on assisting your daughter as she moves towards young adulthood.  Helping her to resolve internal conflicts, demands and fears associated with emerging into the society as a young adult will prepare her to handle situations as they occur.

A model that may be of assistance to you is “The ABC’s of Parenting From Adolescence to Adulthood.”  Briefly, the components of the model include the following:

  • Advocacy- the parent “transforms” to become a “parental advocate.” The focus is on providing encouragement and a supportive foundation for the adolescent’s movement into adulthood.
  • Balance- the parent “accepts” the role of an “observer.” Here the parent comes to terms his/her own stress and anxiety.   The parent struggles with balancing and observing the adolescent as he/she works through the internal conflicts of making mistakes and wrestling with choices and decisions.
  • Consultation-the parent transitions to the role of a consultant, instead of the leader. The parent shows the willingness to provide consultation upon request, and in doing so, the value is reinforced when information is requested from and not demanded by the parent.

Closing Remarks

There is an internalized benefit in the use of the ABC model.  It allows the  “all giving & all sacrificing” parent an opportunity to focus on self-care.  I would recommend that such individuals take a moment for reflection.

In doing so, with the understanding that you love and are committed to your daughter, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What about me?
  • What do I want for my life?
  • Where or when does my life begin?

As parents, we must want to acknowledge that our lives do not stand still while we wait for our children to leave home.  With the economic difficulties impacting our young adults today, the concept of becoming “empty nesters” is beginning to become a relic of the past.

As we seek to empower our children, we must be willing to model the behavior and in doing so, seek to live the fullness of our own lives. The error made by this parent may be that she is focused on changing the way the adolescent is behaving, instead of focusing on change and transformation within her psychological self.

“Change is the law of life.  And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.’

John F. Kennedy

The Visible Man