It was during my first audition with an honored Hollywood voice coach that the question was posed to me — the question which forms part of the backdrop for this website.
In fact the Maestro was not taking any more students. He was 86 years old and had survived numerous health challenges. He had no compunctions about turning students away. Trained as a young man at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Milan, Italy, and after opening to excellent reviews in New York City, he had decided to teach rather than perform. He earned his reputation as the “Hollywood Starmaker”, perhaps a label since applied to others, as this was a long time ago.
I was permitted an audition thanks to the fortuitous referral of an existing student. As the vocal testing proceeded, the Maestro also chatted with me. He wanted only serious students, not the type expecting to become billable superstars in two weeks. (No kidding, he’d seen and rejected quite a few of those). In Milano, they studied hard for ten full years before being allowed to take the stage. A first fiasco is never the recommended way to launch a career. To perform well requires an underpinning of confidence.
At the Maestro’s behest, I explained about my business pursuits, personal interests, goals, etc. There was nothing detailed about my childhood. Near the conclusion of the session, however, this very wise man lowered his head a bit, looked straight into my eyes and asked: “You had a mother at home growing up, didn’t you?” Well, yes, I had. And he said, “I can tell”. And he shook his head. Because Hollywood is full of aspiring and even successful people who never had the luxury he discerned from my past. Wealth measured nothing to what he felt carried more weight with a child than the security and attention of a mother at home. He said he recognized an unmistakable core of confidence evident in those raised in traditional homes.
A mother at home. What does that mean, what does that require, and what does that accomplish?
First, to have a mother at home means there must be another means of support. That means there must be, ideally, a father, husband, provider. Oh, now we’re going back to tradition. If the father makes it possible for the mother to devote herself entirely to her household and family, that means the children never have to wonder if there’s anyone home to take care of their bruises, answer their questions, help with school work, feed, clothe and otherwise see to their comforts and security. No latchkey syndrome. She is the anchor to their development, if she does her job well. If she does her job exceedingly well, she imparts wisdom, good character lessons and the kind of self-discipline needed for success in life and work later. And her hard work allows the father-husband-provider to focus on his own responsibilities which are huge, because everything rests on his shoulders, and the children can see that, or should. Assuming the father is also doing his job, not just in his career but in the home, we have a secure model for children to develop in.
We’ll have more about that in later blogs.
Is there anything wrong with the traditional picture?
In principle, nothing is wrong with that picture. In practice, because people are imperfect, the model does not often or always work as it should.
So does kicking the model aside solve the problem?
In the end, if the model is broken, everyone suffers, but perhaps the children suffer the most, because going forward into life they have no memory of a working model to replicate.
To live well, like performing, requires an underpinning of confidence. This is what husband-fathers-providers do, or should, or must. To diminish those roles is like building a house on sand, sure to fall in the storms, because houses divided against themselves cannot stand.
More on this later, too.
Copyright 2017 Nancy Diraison/Diraison Publishing. All Rights Reserved.
Some of our recent product posts bear the mottos, “America, take your children back” and “America, take your families back”. While the intent is clear to some, it provokes questions from others.
Just “what” do we take our children “back” from?
The short answer is to take our children and families back to a time when home and family were positive, nurturing atmospheres. Take them back from the realm of negative influences by offering better. Nothing has ever been perfect. People never are. But for those who traversed enough decades to know what has been lost — what millions have never experienced — the perspective warrants some dialogue.
I roll back to a time in my early childhood. Family time at my maternal grandmother’s was some of the most memorable in the collective lives of that part of my extended family — grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins gathered often at grandma’s kitchen for a generous meal. The food was great but the laughter was greater. With a couple of natural comedians in the group, we were always assured of side-splitting outbreaks of laughter. Memories were built. On a smaller scale, the same thing happened at home daily, even without the comedians. We ate together. Most of the time.
It was fun.
It was supposed to be just another one of those great get-togethers. But something new was there. My grandmother, in the intervening week, had obtained her first television set. It was just a black and white screen, and the device sat on a wheeled cart in the adjacent sitting room for her pleasure. BUT. She had already become hooked on some stupid soap opera, and it was “time” for the day’s episode.
Grandma opened the door connecting the large kitchen to the sitting room, wheeled the cart around so the screen faced the kitchen, and informed everyone there must be silence for the next 30 minutes. Silence for the next 30 minutes.
Faces fell. Anguished looks exchanged between kids. No one was sure how serious this was. The sounds of forks and glasses clinking without the veil of talk and laughter was uncomfortable.
But it was serious. Not just because every meal now began, on most occasions, with 30 minutes of silence instead of the profoundly bonding discussion and laughter, but because it killed the tone for the rest of the occasion.
Over time this pattern was repeated in nearly all households, to various extremes. Eventually it got worse. Where there used to be one television in a home, there came to be more in other rooms, so teens, in particular, never came out. Later video games killed eye contact between parents and kids, everyone had different schedules, if any schedule at all, and taking meals together became a thing of the past. Whatever happened to reading books to children at bedtime, or the countless other uses of the waking hours between sleep, school, work, and errands?
Take the nightmare of earbuds which plagues us in all venues. Parents trying to quip a remark or joke to kids in the car are met with stony silence. In an emergency even a warning is lost. Music no longer brings people together, it separates them.
Meanwhile. Mental health issues have escalated. That is heavily documented and there are so many studies on the subject they stumble over each other. The more hours spent on media outlets the less contact there is between family members. The most crucial losses are those between parents and children. The opportunity to pass on values, traditions, history, to keep the doors open for communication in times of crisis — all those go by the wayside. The tech-oriented schools just made things worse. And “phones” were the coup-de-grace. Parents no longer raise their children, they respond to whatever else is raising them in their place.
Everything separates us, even to the individual screens in front of airline passengers. Fly overseas on a nine-hour flight, or longer, and there is no conversation. We were not better off when they introduced just one screen with one “chosen” movie. At least we had one common movie to talk about, if we watched it at all. We were better off when there were no films being shown; we found other things to do, and so did our kids. Often we read, or colored together. Or talked.
We have lost our connections. We’ve replaced the ones that matter with things that don’t. We’ve given up our children and the only way to take them and our families back is one hour at a time, one decision at a time, and start making a difference. Now. Today.
Copyright 2018 Nancy Diraison/Diraison Publishing. All Rights Reserved.
It happens to everyone, young and old, poor and prosperous… Troubled times show no partiality. Losses, griefs, illness, sometimes with no clear reason at all, we can find ourselves “in the pits”. Is it depression? Maybe, maybe not. The word is overused these days. We can be sad without being clinically depressed. Grief happens; and there are ways to process. Most troubles are temporary, if we can just hang on long enough.
Hope. It’s all about hope, and about avoiding the crutches that destroy our ability to develop it.
Nightmarish wars and disasters have always plagued humanity. There is no diminishing the horrific times millions have managed to survive. However, there is perspective to be gained from considering them. Things are bad, but they could surely be worse, right? If we talk to others about their troubles, sometimes ours seem lessened.
Still, when it’s dark, it’s dark.
Hopelessness makes us want any kind of crutch, anything to make ourselves feel better. Many of the ones available are not healthy. Temporary “highs”, even social ones, render the void even more void. Escape mechanisms abound, substance abuse and technology perhaps topping them as ways to numb the mind and waste time instead of solving problems.
Darkness is a time to analyze deeply. Perhaps those things or people in our lives that have kept our “lights” on are not what we need for long-term happiness. As long as we draw breath our journey is not over. There are new bends in the road, futures we do not discern, people waiting for us who will miss us if we don’t show up.
For those with faith in God there are other dimensions to consider but that doesn’t mean the same difficulties don’t arise to torment.
Especially as we approach holidays, suicide rates go up exponentially. It seems the more some things glitter, the more darkness swallows those whose lives are in despair. It reminds me of Christmas tree ornaments. So beautifully shiny and sparkly on the outside… yet if you step on one… there’s nothing inside. Good for nothing. Sometimes we feel like that. Do not believe the lies your mind may tell you.
There are ways to cope, and there is hope to be practiced, even if we never perfectly master it. Every wave is different, but as we gain experience in passing through past troubles, we gain confidence to crest the new challenges.
First rule is: DON’T GIVE UP!
I came to view this as darkness and light, and a revelation about both, when going through one of the toughest times in my life. I was losing all I’d materially worked for, through no fault of mine, but through the default and attacks of others. That made it worse, because there was not much for me to analyze about my own mistakes.
A unique part of my situation at the time was residing at the modest Rocky Mountain ranch I’d purchased to get away from urban problems. I was losing that, too, by the way.
Broad wooded valleys separated me from the Continental Divide. I enjoyed watching the sun set over the distant 14,000 foot peaks from a favorite rocky vantage point.
With my standard glass of wine in hand, I was seated on a rock thinking, pondering my losses and lack of plans, defeated at everything I’d tried. Friends had left me, too, once they realized my fortune was not coming. Not friends. Not really. Real friends stay through the hard times.
When my darkness came it came thick and deep. I had no idea what I was going to do next. Not a clue. Not a dime, business lost and no job offers. This wasn’t my first dark tunnel and I had survived others of different kinds, so I knew it would literally “get darkest before the dawn”. That platitude, however, means absolutely nothing to someone in the throes of troubles.
That evening I watched the day draw to a close. I was able to see the forests, the thin thread of river streaming through the valley before me, and the mountains themselves lit up in bright sunlight, varying shades of grey given all the last winter’s snows had melted. As the crow flies I was gazing probably 30 miles westward, unobstructed.
As the sun sank lower in the sky, the shadows lengthened in the valleys, deepening the darkness over the forests. The mountains slowly blended into the twilight, and I soon had to strain to see anything at all. There was no moon and it was going to be a very dark night indeed, and a bit of a walk back to my house.
Now it was all variable shades of black. Black upon black.
Until the first star showed up.
And I pondered.
How far is that star? Light years. How many? I had no idea. How far was I seeing the darker it got? Farther and farther, as more stars sprinkled into view.
Darkness is mandatory in order to gain long-range vision. Every observatory knows that.
I was seeing much farther in the dark than I had been able to see with the sun in full force, and a different kind of light went on in my mind. Later I would hear it said that “suffering triggers the learning center of the brain”, to which I fully concur.
We want to turn off darkness and suffering. We want to run away from it, bury it, anything but learn from it. There appears to be nothing we can do about it, constructively. But it will come again, so is there also opportunity in the event? Apparently so.
Our darkest circumstances provide a singular opportunity to search for a different kind of light source, something beyond our previous range of sight and experience. Some, perhaps many, manage to find it. If we don’t progress we’ll go through this again.
When all is bright and lit around us, we search no farther; we are complacent. The opportunity, the drive, the need to reach beyond our norm does not propel us to do anything extraordinary. In the daylight we limit ourselves. In the dark, unless we want to stay there, we wake up. In fact, wemust wake up.
Steps to consider:
1. Step outside our comfort zone. Make ourselves do it. Talk to new people.
2. Reach out for help. It’s always available. One step leads to another. Keep reaching.
3. Exercise! It’s an automatic “reset” for depression, and something we CAN control! Vigorous exercise suppresses stress hormones, making us better able to cope.
4. Be outside, if at all possible, and search for beautiful spaces in nature. They remind us of what’s important, and what is not. Sunlight boosts our immune system as well as our mood. Keep up with daily tasks; just do it.
5. Sleep. Then repeat steps 1-5. Nutritional changes may also help a lot. Too lengthy to detail here.
6. Pray. I would put that first but not all do that. If inclined to seek God, do it now, read the Bible. Many of the greatest spiritual leaders went through terrible times and expressed their feelings openly in the Psalms. They hurt, they were betrayed, often they did not know why they went through so much pain. Those remind us we are not alone, and going through terrible times does not mean we are worthless or cannot find reprieve. When it’s time. Believe. “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you…” (Matthew 7:7). If we are living outside God’s will for us, if we need to change so He can lift us up, that will be revealed, if sincerely sought.
7. NEVER GIVE UP.
Do not take yourself out of your future. Every person is a tributary to a stream, a river that is constantly flowing. You do not know which one you are on or who or what you may connect with downstream.
The stars in the night sky are a reminder that we are all near-sighted. Look beyond the lights around you and those that have gone out. Never mind the crushed tree ornament. It was nothing to begin with. The lights have not disappeared, it’s just time to look for some farther out.
All Photos Dreamstime Stock Photos.
Copyright 2018 Nancy Diraison/Diraison Publishing. All Rights Reserved.
As individuals we too often underestimate the power of our influence. We wait for someone else to take the lead, to solve a problem, to make the sacrifice.
Yes, we are all short on time. Our priorities determine how we use our twenty-four hours.
Meanwhile bad things happen. As an example in recent years, public schools have derailed into programs and indoctrinations we revile to have our children exposed to. And the curriculum is no longer preparing children for life. Where are the parents to object? To redirect? To fight for changes?
If we wait for those who have nothing else to do, who are less busy than us, they may not be the most qualified to represent others. And they may never do it either.
I learned a lesson in college that stayed with me through life, about how to become the ONE who makes a difference, even if it’s a small one.
I tended to be busy, serve in many venues, worked almost full-time and pretty much had a full plate. I never fit in with cliques and didn’t socialize much. I also thought I was an introvert. Really I wasn’t; I just didn’t have the courage to meet new people.
It was said in a forum that as human beings we tend to be egocentric. We are at the middle of a set of concentric circles. The first circle out from our pinpoint location might be our family, the second one a few friends we feel comfortable with, the third those people we interact with at work, in classes, going through the cafeteria line. There may or may not be much invested in those contacts.
The circles expand and very quickly include people we don’t know at all.
Most people stay in their inner circle or two. They never reach beyond.
I felt a desire to reach as many circles as possible, but couldn’t make the transition. Going to the dining hall presented an opportunity three times a day, and I decided to grow past my limits starting with that location. My interest in people fed the ambition.
I decided the best way to “grow” my reach was to do it the tough way. Find someone I didn’t know at all who might be sitting alone and introduce myself. What’s the worst that could happen? A rebuttal? Shrug. I wouldn’t take it personally. If they didn’t look friendly that would not deter me. I might make their day better. Either way I would learn something.
In fact my breakthrough came when I finally realized that if I waited until I felt like doing it, I was never going to do it! So I resolved — I had to do it before I “felt” like it.
Feelings should never get in the way of doing the right thing. That was the key. It’s the key to many things in life.
So it is with proactive involvement in many things, whether it’s the school board, showing up at a Town Hall meeting for the first time and overcoming the fear of commenting or asking a question. What’s the worse that can happen? Probably nothing serious. No one is going to lose sleep over our small mistakes. On the other hand, doing nothing can contribute to disasters.
Point number one was not waiting until I felt like it. Point number two, which is harder for some than for others, is don’t wait for someone else to join you. Be prepared to do it alone. If you’re waiting for a group to form before taking the first step, you never will. The group may form later, after you have initiated.
These days many parents are expressing consternation and outrage about sex education agendas being presented in schools without their consent. That is serious. There is no “undo”, no unviewing what children are shown, no way to restore an innocence we wanted them to retain for later years. Parental rights are disregarded, snubbed and even mocked. And it’s always too late for the children.
While households with two working parents face more scheduling challenges than others, someone has to take the step, make the decision, to be the ONE to lead the way. If more join together at the outset, that is even better, but someone has to start the process. Perhaps appoint one person to inform the others, then all show up in force when the impact matters most.
Never underestimate. All it takes is one blade of grass coming through a slab of cement or that seemingly solid wall for erosion to begin.
Fracture the impossible. It’s the power of ONE.
All Photos Dreamstime stock photos.
Copyright 2019 Nancy Diraison/DiraisonPublishing. All Rights reserved.
No one questions the four seasons in nature. Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. They make sense. If winter came right after spring there would be no harvests. If we skipped any season agriculture would not have its seasons of rest as well as rebirth and growth. Things happen in order for a reason, to have a good outcome.
No one expects the butterfly to fly before it has processed through the normal stages of metamorphosis. The helpless caterpillar becomes the cocoon which must become the chrysalis and develop precisely according to its set time. If it is set free too soon it dies and there is no butterfly. When all is ready, the butterfly can fly. Not sooner.
It’s all about preparation.
No species on earth requires as much preparation as a human being. The child is not a “small adult”. It is a desperately needy, helpless little person who requires years of love, nurturing and training to be ready to assume adult responsibilities.
One of the most astute parenting concepts is the “Four Seasons of Parenting”. It is simple. Altering the order is catastrophic for the children as their most important timely needs are not met. Each stage is a unique “window of opportunity” that cannot be recovered or shuffled into new orders.
Charted, it simply looks like this:
Season Age of Child Parent Role Parenting Goal
Service Birth to age 2 Servant Secure Child
Leadership 3-13 Authority Self-governing child
Mentoring 13-18 or 21 Mentor, coach Emancipated child
Friendship Emancipation Friend, counsel Good friend to child
Would anyone question that from birth to age 2 the child is helpless and in total need of being provided everything? This is when the child’s parents are truly servants to his or her needs — all needs. The benefit of having mother and father in traditional parenting is that Mom can only do her job if she’s not also functioning as a provider. If she is provider, she is absent, much or most of the time. There are only twenty-four hours in a day, and no one can be two places at once. An infant’s needs are constant. And a mother needs rest.
Can the infant’s needs be delegated? Some, yes, but not all. There is more at work with the child than just the physical basics. There are profound emotional issues at work.
We get a clue from tests performed on newborns and premies, relative to the olfactory recognition of each one’s true parents. An infant placed where it’s head is surrounded by nursing pads from several women, only one of which is its biological mother’s, will automatically turn it’s face towards the scent it has known from it’s mother’s womb. It seeks out its natural mother. The child is not fooled by alternative caretakers. Something goes missing. Essential security, bonding, and feeling loved. And the damage begins.
But there is more.
Due to an accident, one of my children was born extremely prematurely. The child was initially in NICU and receiving oxygen support. His primary nurse was especially astute and caring, thankful he was doing so well. After watching his monitors over several weeks, she noted that when either I or the child’s father held him, he required less oxygen. He consistently required less oxygen, as recorded by the monitors. It was a response to lessened stress.
Love and security are among the first needs of the child. The father makes it possible for the mother to be present with the child as much as possible, which is vital, but the bonding is just as important for the father.
Mom and dad, take note. You are needed. No one can take your place. I ask, of course, from the heart, WHY would you want someone to? That child is your flesh and blood, desperate for your touch, your love and your presence. At that stage, there is no substitute possible.
Moving to ages 3-13, it’s time to establish leadership. The child will challenge. It’s no longer time to “baby” the child. He or she can begin to learn the small details of life. Self-feeding, getting dressed, speech and obedience are tantamount. They can learn early why the “rule of law” is necessary for peace and cooperation. Discipline must be loving but firm. The walls don’t budge, but make sure you have the right walls!
Children can begin learning about responsibility through small tasks. This builds their self-confidence. This is also the time to learn rules are necessary and to respect those who make them. Further through these years the children may contribute suggestions. This develops critical thinking, reasoning from cause to effect, something they will need to guide their lives. It’s about that all-important word, “Why?” This makes rules their friends and not the enemies to fight. Some children test the borders harder than others; parents need to know their jobs, know their child, and hold the line. The right kind of discipline is now the tool to increase the child’s sense of security. They are on the road to self-governance only if it is first modeled to them.
This is also NOT yet the time to “mentor” and not the time to “friend” the child. Primary goals now have a deadline — to instill as much self-governance into the child BEFORE the perfect storm of adolescence strikes, as it inevitably comes next, when the reins of control should begin to pass from parent to child.
This important Stage Two teaching phase is where things go awry for many, if the traditional family structure if broken.
The toddler is not the butterfly. He/she is not ready to “fly”. After generations of sequentially broken homes, we now have 43% of children born out of wedlock. Many have no recollection of what a traditional home felt like. They cannot convey what they themselves have never experienced. The constancy of care changed everything. Secondary providers cannot substitute. Instead of Stage Two being built on Stage One, the cocoon is ruptured, conflicting influences converge, parental authority, instead of being established, erodes. In an effort to compete with the limited time frames available, parents often try to be their children’s friends and peers. They want the child’s approval instead of teaching them what is approved! It’s a recipe for disaster as they reach Stage Three.
The whitewater stage.
Inevitably puberty hits. Now the child will not listen any more, or not well. The parent needs to change his/her role… not undermining the past but drawing back enough to let the child learn to exercise what he/she has hopefully been properly taught. All the walls will seem to come down as hormones and the challenging pressures of the teen years pummel the young person.
If principles are not already in place on how to handle life, how not to fall apart at every problem that comes up, etc., the young person will likely turn to wrong solutions. If parents have acted as their friends, then guess what, FRIENDS now become their greatest influencers because they don’t know the difference! Opportunity lost! Parents have failed to establish themselves as the pillars in their child’s fragile house, and as the storms of temptation hit, the weak foundation crumbles.
I was loaned some excellent books on dealing with teenagers when mine entered that season of life. The author recalled the day when all of a sudden “eye contact was lost”. What changed, changed quickly. A sketch in the book showed a canoe moving down a stream, representing moderate movement up until age 13. At 13 the water picks up speed, cresting like Stage 5 rapids at ages 16-17. That was followed by a gradual slowing until age 18 but there was no still water until age 20. I lived through that with mine. I thought we’d never get through it.
If you haven’t done things right in Stages One and Two, to the best of your ability, do not expect great results with Stage Three, and Stage Four may be ruined as well. There are exceptions, and if we have one, we should be thankful!
An analogy I formulated from the first pioneer telephone systems helped me understand my teens’ passage through Stage Three. Initially operators had to physically unplug and replug lines on a switchboard to connect callers to each other.
The teen years are a time when, whatever has gone on before in a young person’s life, even with good teaching prevailing, all the lines come out! It’s massive confusion! No wonder they lose eye contact and enter a strange new zone. One author compared it to the first Russian satellite Sputnik going behind the dark side of the moon. All contact is lost until… at some point… it reappears, hopefully intact. But there’s nothing but suspense in between.
In truth, once unplugged a young person has no idea where to replug the cables and has to figure out on their own how to do it. They will naturally want to improvise their own way of doing things, challenge their previous learning, and hopefully forge a new memory based on past learning experiences. Some they may do wrong and have to correct. The more interference they get, the longer the process takes! It is not entirely “hands off” for the parents, but a “stand back”, advise, and interfere only when necessary. If you pray, never will you do so more fervently.
The time for teaching — the 3-13 age time frame — is past. This is the time for Mentoring, from 13-18 or 21. For children to properly emancipate they have to create their own foundation, hopefully recreating the good things modeled to them in the past. If they lacked security or teaching, they will turn to outside sources or escapes. They will not turn to you if you have not established trust previously. Sadly, turning to drugs or alcohol during these critical years aborts the development of coping skills. If plugs go back into the wrong places as a result, you have a person who will likely never mature. Time is up.
If the seasons of service, leadership and mentoring have been followed in sequence, soon the child is ready for full emancipation. The parent continues as a trusted counselor. Things begin to make sense.
What we don’t want is a child coming through the first three stages not knowing right from wrong, not being prepared for the independent responsibilities of life, and/or blaming the parents for having failed at the various stages. If the parents have done well, THEN it is time for friendship to blossom.
There are no shortcuts to STAGE FOUR. Emancipation. Well done, mom and dad.
Copyright 2018 Nancy Diraison/Diraison Publishing. All Rights Reserved.