Tag 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 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