Category Archives: Family

Mothers and Daughters – Fathers and Sons

This is a post of real anguish – note the typos too – I almost never post about my family but that day I did

Thursday, July 10, 2003

What is it about Mothers and Daughters? Robin’s mother is a much larger and more destructive figure in her life than her breast cancer. Not a day goes by with out some hurtful exchange or some mood, seeping across the property to depress us all. We built a Granny flat for Ann next to her house but the relationhsip is so awful between the two that Ann is having to move out this weekend. Both are miserable. While some distance will be good, only the grave – and I am not even sure of that – will reduce this sense of guilt on Robin’s part that she cannot meet her mother’s needs and her mother’s anger that her needs are not met.

As we have struggled to make this work, I have thought aboiut all my close firends and have come to the conclusion that for the majority, their mothers are either domineering control freaks who treat their middle aged daughter as if she was three or are themselves pathetic 4 year old children who need the constant attention of their daughters. Whatever it is a feel bad situation.

On the surface men and fatrhers often appear to be larger than life and appear to dominate. But this does not last long in many families. The power lines shift especially in middle life. I am finding a “Grendel” like character in many older women. Some powerful set of needs, unfulilled in the active life span, emerge in later life and take over. Many of my women contemporaries show signs of becoming just like their mothers!

It was of course Oscar Wilde who said that “Every woman’s greatest fear is that she will turn out like her mother. It is every woman’s greatest tragedy that she often does.”

It is only fair, if I was writing about Mothers and Daughters, that I should mention Fathers and Sons. There appear to be two areas of angst that I hear about the most.

The “Lost father” and the “I’ll show him father” .

The Lost Father is a set up where the son feels that he never really knew his father. Where he saw his father have fatherly relationships with other young men – especially at work so he is aware that his father has the capacity to be a father but this relationship does not happen between the true son and the true father. The saddest example of this is Col John Boyd (the father of the OODA Lop and Shock and Awe) who was one of the great mentors of the modern era but who ignored his own sons. In the final irony, as he lay dying Boyd called out to his intellectual sons as his natural son sat by his bed in the vain hope that maybe, at the moment of death, his father would acknowledge him. For many of us in this category of sons, I am one, much of our adult life is a quest to find a father substitute. Sometimes these relationships can be nourishing and good – especially in the early years in boyhood or early adulthood. But others, if you keep on seeking into adult life, can be based on trying the same failed tricks to win the attention of the fake father that failed with the real father. If you are lucky, one day you find an older man who tells you that it is time to grow up and look after yourself. Thank you Fraser!

The “I’ll show him father” – good examples are Rupert Murdoch and Ted Turner. Both men had successful fathers whose constant discourse to their sons was that they were no good layabouts. For these men this was the lash of ambition that drives then so hard to “show him” that he was wrong. Like much mania, the it appears that the pinnacle can never be reached and that the need to show him never ends. The sadder side of this set up is the son who believes his father’s sentence of failure and acts this out his entire life.

Are there fathers whose relationships fit their sons needs? I am sure there are – but good stories are never about comfort

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My first post on father’s day – My Dad

Sunday, June 15, 2003

My father has been dead for 22 years now. When he was alive, I thought that I knew him. But as the years roll by, I see that I only knew the part of him that was at home. Maybe this is true for all child parent relationships. We actually only experience a part of our parents.

I picked up a book the other day that talks about my father in a broader way and I thought in tribute to him today I would post some of the more outrageous stories about him Thanks to Wally Stracey his business partner for many years whose memoirs I take these comments from. (The italics in the brackets are my comments)

“Jim Paterson wasn’t simply one man but a number of characters rolled into one…He was strictly a one off and a paradox in so many ways.

One minute he could behave like a rude infuriating snob, elbowing and pushing his way to the front of a queue as though he some kind of divine inherited right to be served first. The next moment, he would put himself out to assist some weary young mother struggling to board a flight and over-burdened with a couple of kids and too much luggage.. There were times that he had an air of such supreme confidence and self-reliance it bordered on the arrogant and yet the reality was that he could not bear to be alone…

He never exercised, he drank and smoked too much, he did not eat properly and he kept irregular hours. When we warned him that the regimen he was following was hardly conducive to good health and a long life, he replied by asking when was the last time we had heard him say that he wanted to make the Guinness Book of Records for longevity! (He died aged 55 – My sister found him sitting up in bed holding a book in one hand and a cigarette in the other)

Despite the fact that his lifestyle was almost guaranteed to do him physical damage, he was a hopeless hypochondriac. Travelling with Jim was like travelling with a mobile chemist’s shop he was so well stocked with an array of pills, antacids, lotions, laxatives, salves and ointments. Always present was at least on bottle of Dr. Collis Brown’s famous morphine-based concoction that had been used around the British empire for more years than any one reading this has been born and then some (I recall one of the testimonials dated from the Crimean War!!!) Once, when visiting Toronto, he inadvertently ran out and went to a chemist and asked for a bottle of the good doctor’s mixture. He was quite taken aback when the horrified pharmacist informed him that it had been on the dangerous drugs list in Canada for at least 75 years!

On another occasion there was rumour that Dr. Collis Browns’ Mixture being taken off the shelves in England (where we lived) or at a minimum that there would be changes to the formula. A distraught Jim hastily dispatched his driver Charlie (Charlie had been a cat burglar who needed to lay low for a few months and had a temporary job with Dad that extended into many years – Charlie helped me carry his coffin into the church for Dad’s funeral- he was an Alfie character – this was in the 1960’s – and no one had a better “brother” than him than I did) around London to buy up all available supplies.

I (Wally) learned early in the game if you were not feeling well to keep quiet lest you be plied with an astounding variety of pills, herbs and medicines all guaranteed to give you instant relief to your discomfort. (Dad always believed that if the dose was one pill that three must surely be better) One could easily  disperse a meeting in London simply by announcing that Jim was arriving with a bottle of Dr CB’s and wanted everyone to take a dose to ward off the latest species of flu or whatever other dreadful malady that was currently making the rounds……

Nobody could say that Jim was not an extremely intelligent man and yet he was capable of doing some of the most incredibly silly things at times. This partly because he was terribly impulsive….There were times when he would be down in spirits, feel very sorry for himself and act like a spoiled and petulant school boy. These occasions were relatively rare and at most times he was whirlwind of activity, a human dynamo who taxed your ability to keep pace with him mentally and physically. An able debater with an excellent command of the English Language, once he had worked up a full head of steam in order to push some new scheme or acquisition, it was next to impossible to withstand the onslaught…He overwhelmed one like a tidal wave and the best tactic that could be employed to divert him from a particular course of action was to suggest some other idea that he would hopefully find more exciting and challenging.

I (Wally) recall some years after his death when Indal (Wally’s company in Canada) was in court fighting a grossly unfair tax assessment. David Culver, (Dad called David hours before his death to apologize for being such a difficult friend – David gave the eulogy at Dad’s memorial service) then President of Alcan, was called to give testimony relative to certain, metal supply contracts that he had negotiated with Jim over the years. David became aware that his testimony seemed to indicate that each time they had met, Jim had gotten the better of the deal and finally said to the Judge in a plaintive tone “Your Ladyship, I realize that it seems that every time that Mr Paterson and I met.. he took me to the cleaners. But your ladyship, I cannot impress on you too strongly what a tenacious individual he was. Once he trapped you in a room, there was no escape: regardless of the hour and totally exhausted one was literally forced to capitulate….”

( Dad had set up a metals trading company called PISS , or Pillar International sales and services to buy metal for the group. They had become Alcan’s largest client. They would have these marathon annual buying meetings in Bermuda with Alcan – part of the strategy was to wear the Alcan team down with no sleep and oceans of drink. He also set up a corporate account with the best “escort service” in London so that visitors would not have to sleep alone. It was called the “Culver Corporation” in honour of David. If you were a member you simply gave the madam a “Culver Corp” card and all the money aspects would be dealt with by Dad’s secretary)

We could not have come from more disparate backgrounds but one of Jim’s endearing traits was the fact that he didn’t pick or judge his friends based on their social backgrounds or by how much money they had in their bank accounts. If Jim liked you, he liked you and was fiercely loyal to you…He was very unselfish when it came to the people working for him. During the wage freeze and high inflation times in England before Mrs Thatcher had taken the country by the throat and shaken it out of lethargy, Jim constantly schemed to find ways to raise salaries of colleagues, some of whom were even having trouble paying their children’s school fees. But I never heard him complain about his own situation that was being squeezed just like everyone elses’s.

(Dad made millions for others but while he lived a very lavish lifestyle which was all funded by the company he never made any money for himself – I think that what he really got off on was seeing ideas become realities – something that I appear to have inherited. Above all he was a teacher – his “boys” ran his firm for more than 15 years after his death)

Nor did Jim ever claim credit for his colleagues achievements. Bu conversely would brag about how well they had done because he was able to share in the pride of their accomplishments. He never had to ride on anyone’s coattails or steal their glory in order to serve an over inflated ego as is often the case with many executives.

I (Wally) have only scratched the surface in my comments about this wonderfully complex man. However one of the most succinct, amusing and best descriptions was contained in a letter that I received from Sir Thomas Hiley in Australia…

As for Jim Paterson someone should write a book about him. Magnificent perception, good but not infallible judgement, a fine personal charm and with it all times “an enfant terrible” If he had grown up with Al Capone, Capone’s mother would have sought police protection for her son. He should have been a German Count levying tribute on the passing Rhine traffic. He enriched my life even at times he raised my eyebrows’

Valete Dad and to you too Wally

12:57:12 PM   comment [// 0]

I woke up this morning to be greeted by my daughter who is home for the summer. I have my card and downstairs I hear the noises and smell the smells of a massive English breakfast being cooked for me. But I feel sad. Where are all the fathers of my  age group? All of them are dead. Not one of my school and univrsity friends has a living father.

So here’s to you Dad. I miss you

Your devoted son

Rob

My First Post on the Science of the Early Years

Monday, May 12, 2003

I spent two days last week with Dr Doug Wilms, one of the top researchers in the world on the topic of child development.

There were many aha’s – here is one of them. Human development is linked to trajectories. When we are 2, small differences in vocabulary, of only 150 words, will drive the type of trajectories that my poor diagram tries to show you. This small difference at 2 spreads out by 15 to a 10 year spread in grade 10. The upper quartiles will have the cognitive ability to work at second year university. The lower quartile will be at the grade 5 level. Those in the middle will be therefore 5-7 years off the extreme at both ends. The same is true say for journeys. If Columbus’s three ships stated off from Spain with a 3 degree difference. One would have landed in Greenland. One in Hispaniola and the other in Argentina. Small differences over time slope out to be large and not fixable.

Some conclusions:

  • In Chaos Theory, we know that “Initial Conditions” are important. This graph shows us why. Only 150 word difference at 2 drives over time a huge differential. The effort to change these trajectories builds on a log scale. We can do a lot with a little when we are very young but by the time we are about 15 we are locked in. Most of the remedial work is done at school where it will have little effect. Especially by grade 4. The optimal time to ensure that your kids will do well is to read a lot to them from 4 MONTHS ONWARDS. You might say that this is ridiculous. A Baby can’t comprehend at 4 months. But they build pattern recognition. Their vocab is built as a direct result of the vocab that you use with them. So read up a level all the time.
  • To read to a 4 month old demands that you hold the baby as well. Touch is the other driver for development. We know that monkeys that are not touched and we know that orphans that are not touched develop very poorly. So reading to babies hits the two big drivers – vocab and touch.
  • The revolution in development will come less from a revolution at school and more from our recognition that the optimal time to learn is before 6!
  • Infants and young children learn only one way – from play based experience – the opposite from how we teach at school.

My First Post on Family and Tribe

Friday, March 28, 2003
I have been working on a research proposal to study the family and had this aha at least an aha for me today. Does the family exist anymore? So here are my musings
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If we really look at the data for North America (WASPS) the family as we think of it is already dead! What I mean by the “family” is a two parent unit with at least one grandparent so that there are three generations involved all providing value to each other as a social unit in a rough world. We think that this is the family and I suspect that we think that we should hold this up as a model. Little knowing of course that for more than 4 million years we raised our children and did our work in a small 30-5 person unit that combined work and society called a tribe. Little knowing that all primates except us still use this arrangement. My aha was maybe that .our search for June Cleaver is getting in the way of the fact that June is dead and was never a good model anyway I wonder if looking for June obscures a possible return to the tribe and the deinstitutionalization at last of our western society?

What are the remnants of June today? What is the reality today? Most WASP families ( Most immigrant families still adhere to the larger extended model – by the way look at how much better their kids are doing at school) have only one parent – female (why are boys in trouble?) Very few have a grandparent in the mix and most grandparents are often not even in the same city. Elderly parents are also increasingly institutionalized.I fear that our society is becoming a society of one who interacts only with institutions and not with real people.

Children our greatest asset have become for most of us a huge economic drain. In their younger years they go to expensive daycare, they demand fashion and toys and have a closer connection to TV than to any other influence. As teens they need even more economic support: on PEI every teen has to have a car. If they go onto university the drain is even greater. Then after a few years on their own they often return home – sometime as single parents – and seek to be looked after all over again!!!! When do our children grow into adults? No wonder our wasp birthrate is below replacement. That itself is a sign of a powerful set of forces.

Tell that I am exaggerating. What do the stats tell us?

So long as we assume that the June Cleaver Family is alive, we think that we can and should go back to it. We feel guilt but we know that we cannot go back.  So long as I feel that I should be somehow living my grandparent’s life, I am stuck. Here is the aspiration aspect – We want to strive for a better social unit. We can see a new model in business – the Wal- Mart response model. Can we see the new family emerging????? It must be but so long as we think that the old family is it, we won’t be able to see the new one.

Be assured that a new unit is emerging and will emerge. If we can describe it, it will become real for many people very quickly – they will aspirationally jump to a model that works. The prize is a big one for us as people, for business and for our nation.

This may then end the idea that we are only a disconnected individual whose only relationships are at work, whose children are in daycare and whose parents are in a home and whose protector is the state. For I sense that it is our growing dependence on institutions that has played a major role in why the 1950’s family has collapsed – it may also be worth studying these trends as well. It is surely important to know why we have come to this.
Putnam blames work and TV. He sees TV as a relationship blocker and as a community influence that drives a world of things over relationships and a world of passivity over exploration. I include for blame our school system where we teach the institutional Cartesian model as the main curriculum and where we deny all that we know about primate learning process. Kids who don’t fit are drugged. (30%?) I blame Daycare where we rely on a few strangers to park our small children at the most important learning period of their lives. Most of all we need to ask ourselves about the pull of the workplace out of the home where work has replaced most other relationships and has broken the bond of parent child and in many cases between spouses. Why have we put away all other relationships for those at work?

I bet that we are going to find that the tribe (a combined social and economic unit) is emerging again. You see this is the idea of Free Agent Nation where up to 50 million North Americans have left the traditional workplace and work for themselves mainly at home and who have set up networks of support for both work and social issues such as their kids and parents. I feel this among many of blogging out there who have built working relationships out of personal relationships. I have been touched at the help that I have received from many of you and I feel good that I can reach out in a way that is not possible in the traditional work place. I sense that blogging will itself create little tribes of co workers who also really care for each other. The more we work at home, the more we interact in a tribal way with our kids. I work with my son – it is my greatest joy. mainly he teaches me.
Daniel Pink I think provides us with a model for finding the new family. Pink himself went around America and discovered this group, saw its common elements and gave it a label. All of us who live like this suddenly understood what we were  doing and how to do this better. We have a model and with a model we have power.

His book is having a profound impact as it enables individuals who thought that they were alone to see that theory make up a pattern. I suspect that the new family is located in this group who have healed the breach between work and life and who aspire to a living and not a paycheck. These people reject all institutions as do most of our kids. I wonder if we looked with fresh eyes that we might see that for many of us  – a new family based on the tribe is emerging and that it is something that if we talk about more, will become more clear and more helpful

My first post about my son James

Thursday, February 13, 2003

My son James has just been nominated for  Juno Award for the album design for Buck 65. he also created the new Album site for Buck 65’s new album Square. This is the Canadian equivalent of a Tony. He left school at 14 unable to knuckle down to traditional school life. Instead he went to art school where for 4 years all he learnt was art. Now at 22 with clients such as Bjork, Mick Jagger, Diesel, Sony, Nike, Burton and Buck 65, he is one of a handful that is creating the new perspective in art.

I find that an interesting aspect of the site that James created was that you can listen to the entire CD. The issue is audience. In the past we had radio to create an audience. But with tight control of radio, there is so little access. So “Buck” has allowed a complete access. The site is also different in that it has no big spin on Buck. It allows you to hear the music. if you like it good. if not….. No spin. The site is designed to fit into the cover design so there is a complete fit.

Now James’ style is not mainstream and maybe is not to your taste but it is not boring. But then I’m his father – what do I know?

Isn’t great to have kids and isn’t a wonder when they move into the territory of magic?