Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Boundaries : Know when to say 'No'

A boundary is an edge, the limit,
beyond which no more.
Boundaries are defined by 'No'.
And ‘No’ is not open to negotiation!
Boundaries are defined by action 
not by words.

(For more on boundaries, check out the following which will help you "find your n-u-t-s")

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Family of Two (by Lucas Dell)

One young man’s very insightful view of a fairly modern phenomenon – a family of two comprising mother and son

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Confessions of a Putative Child Abuser

My confessions as a putative child abuser can be found at this link.

On the Nature of Abuse

Some thoughts on the nature of abuse (and particularly child abuse) can be found at this link.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Navigating the Sea of Separation

I feel like I am on a sailing ship, let’s call it Endurance. The figure head is an energetic, long-haired beauty, looking remarkably like my ex. I am navigating the sea of Separation. Today has been an awful day at sea. As the wind wails and whines in the rigging, I listen for a quiet, internal voice to explain to me the wonder in the world.

The weather outside reflects my inner state. I am fulminating – or is that female-hating. I cannot comprehend how one person who claimed to love another can go on to do everything in her power to demonstrate behavior that she would only reserve for one who had truly wronged her.

Together, she and I created the greatest gift that nature can allow two people to create – a human being, flesh and feeling, mind and behavior, spirit and soul. Our child, our son.

Her revisionist history now writes me as her rapist rather her lover. With the wrong now written, she wreaks a revengeful rage, as if I am one who threatens life rather than the one with whom she created a life. The creator/destroyer in one person is a profound mystery; I struggle to fathom the depth of this conundrum at times.

I muster all the masculinity I can to rise above this feminine rage. Woman, like Mother Nature, can do awesome things. However, Nature’s rage, only hinted at by a wind-whipped ocean, a Himalayan storm, a spewing volcano, is distinct from that of woman. Nature’s rage lacks intention. Woman’s rage is full of intention.

However, I wonder if this woman truly grasps her own intentions. She later excuses her behaviours as due to her being beside herself with rage. The behavior is aptly named out-rageous. I am truly perplexed when a woman tells me later, ‘I had no idea how you were feeling. I cannot imagine how you must have felt at the time.’

I seek to find my place within the fabric of that which makes up our extraordinarily complexity. I am here to exorcise the fear of the feminine that exists in me – not to exorcise that from the woman that makes her woman. I am like a witch-hunter in Salem who belatedly realizes that the devil is not in others outside and around me, it is in me.

A woman’s role in creation is awesome. As a man, I have contributed so little to the act of creation, a nano-tadpole, and that is completely absorbed by her enormous egg. I can only sit at the birth like a voyeur, never capable of coming even close to experiencing the feminine power of extracting the ecstatic expectorant of an excited man, and creating, developing, bearing, suckling life.

It is my unenviable task to accept that the will of the feminine will dominate in my young son’s life. My sole power is to sit, to reflect, to be grounded, to maintain my contact with the earth. I reach down to touch the feminine earth with my fingers like the Buddha acknowledging the witnessing of the Mother Earth as he dismisses the final challenge of Mara and his temptations.

She who bears me can be forgiven for her indifference to the touch of my fingers. Just as I am forgiven for the fact that I touch her tenderly with my fingertips while my ass cheeks are spread wide as I sit cross-legged upon her.

Barely surprising that she bites me when the man in me gets a little cocky. If I get above myself, think of myself as on top of her, thinking of the mighty power I wield, she can (and does) bite me, on the ass, hard.

My role is to be grateful, to see that the mother of my son accepted me, allowed me to enter her, me as opposed to another. Of course, it could be that it was another. It is possible that I am a cuckold. Man can never truly know his children. Mother Nature’s delightful irony is that man must feel his connection with his child, he can never know it physically like the mother does.

The new challenge for me is that she is with another, and therefore, my son has a new man in his life. I hope that her new lover will grow through his love of the child of another man, to embrace the idea of the gift of having a child of his own, with her or with another. My gift to both my son and her new lover is to have contributed to the growth of each as a man.

I seek calm knowing my son will return to me. As the child innately suckles at the mother’s breast, so eventually the child will seek the father for a broader understanding of the complexities and paradoxes of the world. One of those paradoxes is that woman whose very core essence is about care, can be such a master of hurting behavior.

Perhaps it is easier for the man to accept this from the position of observer. The woman can claim to have been beside herself when acting, but must accept that even if she splintered in some schizophrenic fashion, it was she who did the doing.

He, while outside of her, must remain beside her – she was beside herself, and he must find the courage to be there too: to support her, to support his offspring by her, and to support the offspring of other women – including the women themselves.

I honour myself for the role I play, for having, with a mere spit, given life. Through that union, I now see the unity in all things. She gifted me with an opportunity to see my own connection with all other life – my son, my ex, my ex’s new lover and all those others, men and women, that I do not know but with whom I know I am connected.

And the wind continues to wail and whine in the rigging.

(© Stephen Holden 2006 - published Summer 2006 in Mentor, Newsletter for the Men's Health & Wellbeing Association, QLD)

Monday, November 28, 2005

Archeological Kids

I was floating around at home after the departure of my son – as deserted Dads do. The lonely life of an part-time, childless father.

I was digging around in his box of toys. Not sure why, just for something to do I guess. My mind began to wander, as it is wont to do. I saw the brightly coloured array of toys, the inevitable palette of colours that assailed my visual cortex.

I began to dig into the toys, perhaps thinking that I could find a better system for organizing everything that was there. From the top came the toys that he had played with today. Little vehicles that are worked by pushing a lever, and a fire fighting figure emerges from under the roof, points his hose, and says, ‘I’ll put out the fire,’ before disappearing inside. Meanwhile, the wheels roll forward, the truck charges on fearlessly to face the putative fire.

My mind is given to wander and I think of the endless supply of batteries that I need to keep all this stuff together. Enough heavy metals to poison a large pond – or a small child. It is disturbing, but I’m unsure how to deal with it – and I sweep off this layer without too many other thoughts.

Beneath, I find some older toys, out of favour mostly. Some are broken a bit, but nothing that a little bit of lick, spit, glue and tape could not fix up. But I wonder ‘what’s the point’ given that he has moved on. I’m reminded of one toy that he loved, a really cheap plastic car transporter that did not last more than five minutes after he got it. The trailer became separated from the prime mover – and it was only with careful repairs using a pin that I was able to reassemble the whole. My boy is a very gentle boy, and so, when the truck broke again – somewhere else if I recall correctly – I simply buried it so that it wouldn’t be found.

Beyond this layer, I find older toys, toys reflecting a childhood. I shake the rattle, and I watch the balls in this rattle fall down through sieves of various sizes that allow some balls through, but not others. I wondered whether my son ever noticed this. I’m not sure that I did before. The intricacy of these designs in something as ‘simple’ as a rattle. I wonder how many other toys have such elegant little design elements that are barely ever noticed.

Moving to the lower levels, I find the smaller pieces, the pieces broken from the toys above, or cast into the box in the hope that they might later be matched to the toy from which they broke, and perhaps might be used to repair the toy. Vain thoughts probably. I feel like at this level, I am fossicking through toy detritus, the remnants of an earlier era. An era when my son was a baby, so small that I could virtually hold him in my hand. I turn over these relics, thinking of the DNA of my son deposited thereon, mostly in the form of spittle combined with porridge, mushed peas, dried milk.

I realize that this box of toys is like an archeological dig. The various strata offering various insights into the past, the past of my son, his various preferences, his trail of destruction, the toys that he detested or perhaps wore out or more simply outgrew. I look back at his toys, sorting through. My eyes are old like any dusty archeologist perhaps, but there’s a spark there when I see something that I recognize, something that reminds me of the little man that carries my own spark forward in him, that is after all, a chip off the old block.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Wait for the Green Tram

Zachary was so excited, he was nearly beside himself with excitement. This was to be his big day out in Melbourne. He had graciously accepted my offer to go and catch a tram – nay, he had grabbed the opportunity with alacrity. And off we went, he and I, hand in hand, to await the arrival of a tram down at the stop.

This was to be Zac’s day, this was entirely about Zac’s pleasure. I was just delighted to be able to entertain him so easily – a couple of dollars to buy tram tickets, no destination, and voila, some simple entertainment for Zac for a couple of hours.

We were a fair way out of town, a quietish part of the track, but trams could be expected to come along about once every 15 minutes or so. As we stood waiting beside the road, Zachary was tense with excitement. His eyes surveyed the ‘train tracks’ awaiting impatiently the arrival of the tram.

He began to speak to me in partial sentences. ‘Going on green tram? Go on green tram?’ He was making it clear to me that he was excited about this possibility of travelling on a tram.

A tram lumbers into view away down the street – and I ask Zac what it is. ‘Is it a tram?’ Yes, most definitely it is a tram. As it gets closer to us, we are both awaiting its arrival with anticipation. Unfortunately it is a grey tram, but as it rumbles to a stop in the middle of the road, I automatically grab Zac and we walk onto the tram.

We check for traffic which has of course stopped, but the practice is good for him, and we walk out to the tram and climb aboard. The doors gently hiss to a close. As the tram begins to move off and I walk him toward the ticket machine, Zac begins to gently remonstrate. He bellows ‘Want green tram’.

“Zac, sure, it’s a grey tram, but hey, what’s the difference from inside.”

Through tears, sniffles and blubbers “Want green tram.”

Endeavouring to envelope him in my arms, I try to placate him, “We’ll find a green tram, we’ll take this one for a little bit and change to a green tram.”

“Want green tram. Waaaaaahhh.” A long continuous moaning wail ensues.

Everyone looks at me and the child who is wriggling so violently that he is likely to slip out of my arms any second, and in falling to the floor, add physical abuse to my list of child-related felonies.

Zac has declared what he wants quite clearly. Everyone from the driver through to the deaf old bugger at the far end of the tram understands exactly what he wants. The combined public sentiment aboard this tram at this moment is “What are you, some kind of moron – or worse, an asshole?”

As the tram trundles along the track toward the next stop – never did two tram stops seem so far apart – I reflect on the lessons of this little episode.

Zac had made it clear from the outset that he wanted a green tram. So the teacher and learner inside my head have the following discussion:

“Why did you board a grey one? Did you miss the fact that from the moment that you had suggested trams to Zac to the moment you boarded the tram, Zac had been excitedly talking about a green tram?”
Defensively, I argued “We might have had to wait a long time until the next tram came along. And who knows when a green tram might come along?”

“Uh-huh. So, who was the intended beneficiary of this whole excursion?”


“Right, and so you put him on a tram even though it was not the one he wanted because of the potential wait. Did Zac say he could not, would not wait?”

“No, I guess I assumed that waiting would be onerous on him. That after the grey tram had passed, he would regret his decision and wish that he’d taken the green tram.”

“Right, but you didn’t test this out, you didn’t let him discover the consequences of his decisions, you simply decided to implement a decision based on an untested assumption.”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“And what else was there that led you to take the tram. There’s always multiple reasons for why we behave in certain ways.”

“Well, I guess it was kinda conditioning. Even though this entire trip was for his benefit, all sorts of conditioning popped into place with the arrival of the tram. If there’s a tram shown up, and we’re waiting at a tram stop, then I guess we should board the tram – isn’t that why we’re there?”

“Right, and perhaps some social desirability. I might look like an idiot standing at a tram stop, tram rolls up, and I don’t board, and as it rolls away, I will look up along the trams to see if one green in hue is on its way. Yeah, and people will bother themselves to remark on what an idiot I am, right.”

“Yeah, I guess there was that. Being in a city, waiting for transport, feeling rushed and conditioned to board public transport given that I’m waiting for it – even though I am not waiting for public transport, I was really waiting for a green tram to give my son a fun experience.”

“Good, and anything else that we learned?”

“Hmm. I guess I’m intrigued that expectations play such an enormous role in our lives. My son, at 2 & ½, is hung up about clambering aboard a green, not grey, not red, not purple, not blue, but a green tram.

“In addition, I learnt that what I said to him about us not being able to see the colour from the outside is not really relevant. That is, my argument wasn’t relevant to Zachary. It didn’t matter that the colour could not be seen from the inside, it could be seen as he boarded, and I made him board a tram of a less than ideally coloured tram. I guess in terms of his desires, he doesn’t have to be reasonable – any more than I am reasonable in my desires. For instance, I want others to treat me with respect, but that’s just the colour on the outside. How they treat me should remain irrelevant, those are their decisions to make, and I would be foolish to be so influenced by those things. But foolish or not, I am influenced by them."

“Excellent, and anything else that we have learned, how about the value of biding your time?”

“Yeah, I think I see that one. I tried to offer the argument to Zac that if he could just be calm for a couple of hundred metres, we could get off the tram and go back to waiting for a green tram as we should have been doing in the first place. He was clearly not placated by that.”

“Right, but what did we learn from this, how does this apply to us?”

“Well, I guess that when I reject people saying to me ‘Give it time, time heals all, it will all turn out,’ I need to remember this experience here. Sometimes those removed from the very personal, very human situation in which I am immersed can be offering useful insights even though I dismiss them.”

The next stop arrived, we descended and awaited a green tram. One arrived within minutes. We ascended, Zac was delighted, and so we continued for a few, happy hours getting on and off trams. He became so engaged in the whole process that the the need for the tram to be green became irrelevant. Now it became important that he be allowed to clamber on and off by himself – even if it meant that others might be delayed a second or two. Same lessons, different context.

© Stephen Holden 2006