Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

Breakthrough In Family

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

December 13, 2019

This essay, Breakthrough In Family, is the eleventh in an undectet of Breakthroughs: It is also the fifth in a quintology on Children: It is also the sequel to the trilogy written in Portland Oregon, December 2019:
  1. You Will Never Have To Be That Way Again
  2. On Being With The Automaticity
  3. On Reaching The End
in that order.

I am indebted to my son Christian Laurence Platt who inspired this conversation.

Raising children calls for certain provisions - "calls for" that is, if you're going to take on doing it responsibly and well (and if you're not, then look: it's better that you don't do it at all). You have to protect, you have to provide, you have to set aside your own time and interests in favor of your children's interests - at least you have to make your children's interests your own. That's some of what it takes. That's some of what's required if you're going to do it responsibly and well. That's some of what's required if your aspirations for parenthood go beyond mere biology. It's one thing to produce children. It's another order of things to parent, and to do it well.

You have to be there with them through the totally dependent infant years. You have to be there with them afterwards with advice, with compassion, with coaching, with carefully directed nudgings and suggestions. Even if you make a decision for them, it's prudent to make it in such a way that they can own having discovered it for themselves. It behooves no one, neither them nor you, for you to make up their minds for them. And there has to be discipline. There has to be guidance. Also in a word, there has to be consequence. The world doesn't operate with rules that have no consequence. It's incumbent on good parenting to have clear consequence be a factor in raising children. Sometimes it's tough watching them learn consequence the hard way. But the last thing you want to do is shield them from consequence.

I coached my children to learn to study independently. That was around the time they started middle school - or perhaps it began even before then. The thing about coaching children to learn to study, is not to continue doing it once they get it - unless they explicitly request you do. The idea is to walk away from it once they learn to do it for themselves - kind of like letting go of the back of the bike they're sitting on, once they've gotten the idea of pedaling and balancing down cold.

And then, suddenly they're grown. And they're off to college. They don't even live in the same town as you anymore. They're living their own lives without you. Ah, the proverbial bittersweetness  of the empty nest! You blinked ... and eighteen years (or so) of meticulously provided family life all under the same roof, just blew by. And now they're independent and free of you. And what worked once in a parental role, now not only no longer works: even with the best intentions, it now only gets in the way. The hands-off approach replaces the hand-on approach. The recognition of the independence of their lives, replaces their total dependency on yours. And as for advice, suggestions, and coaching? They're all a big no-no now except  when they're explicitly requested from you - which will happen less and less and less.

Now you've got only one job left, and it's arguably the only job of the parents of adult children that you'll retain, that's really worth something. Indeed, all the other earlier jobs of being a parent now pale into insignificance (and, if you're smart, disuse) and are replaced by only this one: listening. The job of a parent of adult children, is to listen them. That's it. That's all. No suggesting (unless explicitly requested), no advising (unless explicitly requested). Just listening. That's what it takes. And that's all it takes. Any other left-over incomplete parenting (in a word, any other left-over parents' "stuff") will only get in their way.

But it's no longer about you. The king of the castle's tenure's ended, and you're in between jobs. When it all ends (and it's natural that it ends - if you like, it's written  that it all ends ie when it all ends naturally), what's left is authentic listening. That's the breakthrough in family. They'll figure it all out for themselves (they'll have  to: they have their own lives now). And you get to listen. Just listen. That's the space in which they'll figure it all out, the space which is the greatest gift you'll ever give.

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