Some parents seem to think that the question of authority is impossible to solve, seen in the light of already decades of public debate. Personally I don’t think I ever left the position of opposition, to a tradition that felt outdated already in the 1980s, although of course, with your own kids around, you have to think more…
Some are still conservative, especially older people, either in practice, I guess, in their own family, or through what you hear, read, in comments in social media.
Everybody has some kind of mix between freedom and restrictions, in a family, only not in the exact same connections. Cultural specialities, habits.
Also, the effect it gives when you move from one country to another, when you get real riends, maybe even marry into another culture, somehow it has to move you, partly, out of the position you left, you have to make some sort of mix of cultures if you stay in that country or in a relation with someone who used to be foreign to you.
This is for me mostly guesswork, I have not married a foreigner, but spoken to many.
Of course, any couple needs to create a new mix of cultures, all families are different, very different or slightly so, it should be a process which all who are lovers, married, even friends, which is easier, but any relation between people is a mix of cultures, in a sense, when the two involved come from the same town and when they come from different parts of the world.
In some ways the same thing.
Back to parent authority.
In my world, here in Norway, Scandinavia, I guess Europe, USA, other parts of the world, I don’t know, we went through a real debate about authority, both parent authority and political authority, starting probably in the 60s, and since I was born in 1963, and turned myself into an environmental activist during the 70s and 80s, with a lot of opinions about abuse of authority, I used to think we were the aftermath of the aftermath of this development.
Of course, everything takes time.
Some stayed in the old concepts of authority in upbringing.
The first thing that comes to mind when I try to discuss this is that absolute definitions, concepts, ideas – easily make trouble. After years of hard, but actually fun work with your own kids, my kids, ideas, ideals, have changed so they can’t quite be recognised, sometimes they must be more or less disregarded, or maybe some survive.
Simple solutions do perhaps exist, but more often they don’t.
So if childless friends or old people stick to ideas like there must be no compromises, kids today have no discipline, etc, I feel the discussion is sometimes meaningless. To a certain extent they may be right, to a certain extent I may be right.
And of course it is difficult to judge other people’s families from the outside. I also don’t feel this is my job. I say what I think, people who read it must take what they want and disregard what they don’t want. When it comes to politics, family economy etc and general principles, I may have more to say, but everyone is free to create their own life and their own family life, I feel there should be pretty wide possibilities, but also debate, in order to think and discuss and make an impact on each other’s thoughts and lives.
The discussions and relations across cultures I feel always need time, in order to avoid misunderstandings, and in order to step back when one senses that something is going too far into other people’s lives or things happen which are unacceptable for some. We have and had a culture in Norway which also needs to be respected, but everyone does not have to live exactly like “us”, and “we” don’t live exactly alike either, and in general, there has to be time to think and to withdraw from positions when it is necessary. To make space and then see where we are.
In general I feel that the discussion about consequences towards kids is meaningless if you don’t consider what kind of presence the father or the mother normally have, how soft or hard they are, how the kids are normally treated. To what extent there is space left for the children to live, I mean basically mentally.
…I general, I feel there are rules, and there are exceptions to rules, even possibilities to break some sometimes. I even teach my kids this, when I feel it is right, and to ask when and when not – I am not sure it is an easily answerable question.
Lying to the kids is generally something I feel should be avoided. Some say that you should protect your kid against the evil of the world, possibly as long as you can? – and in some ways I may agree, but to what extent? They also need to learn to defend themselves, and to take chances too, even if they may fail.
I also think there is a general rule that if you want to know a person, and get to know someone – to be 100% positive, all the time, doesn’t work. Of course, a friendship has to be based mostly on…friendly feelings, but if you absolutely never say anything negative, never react a little aggressively, never ever gets angry, in the end, I would definitely say you don’t know the person in question, it is not possible to have an overview of what he or she will do or think, which you need a little of, as a friend or if you are in a family.
Some are so polite you don’t actually know how they really feel, at least about certain things.
Politeness is ok, absolutely, to a certain extent, sometimes really important, and with a certain content. It can be a way of showing respect and even friendliness.
But you need to get beyond that to know someone.
And talking about protecting the kids…also from your own problems and shitty sides? Again, how much?
Again, I don’t think I believe too much in…100%-positions. Kids are so close to you anyway, they will sense a lot of things even if you don’t tell them, like we sensed our parents, but didn’t always know what was the problem, for them, in their minds.
Sometimes it is ok to be honest and straightforward, sometimes you will want to wait, I think. To check what is necessary for the kids, what they need to know, is probably a sound thought. But sometimes you can end up having to tell them things even if you wanted to protect yourself.
Not always a way around that.
The English writer Roald Dahl’s story Danny, the champion of the world, is about this kind of problem, adult secrets, in this case illegal pheasant hunting.
The kids don’t know what lying is from the start – in the beginning, there is no acting, at least I am used to this, if not even this is changing because the world is changing… I don’t really believe it is possible, really small kids can’t lie.
There is a lot of brutality right now, it seems, in the world, in our country, too, sudden outbreaks of harsh attitudes, but it is a question how much of it was there already, only very sparsely disguised or hidden, now coming up from our psychological underground. Partly because of freedom, is my very rough guess. I wanted freedom, still do, but we must learn to handle it, and we also have to discuss its limits, in a new context, a new situation.
But I will not tolerate to be taken back to my parents’ or grandparents’ systems of respect. Respect should be given in both directions, from the old to the young and the other way round, and the reasons for the old to say yes or no should be they have more knowledge, of course, when this is an actual fact, and protection.
But freedom, and developing real independence of mind, are always issues.
And the times change…sometimes too slowly, sometimes too fast, so there has to be room for discussions.
There are claims today, in a Norwegian context, that kids demand too much and are given too much space.
This may be right, sometimes, but it takes work and some mistakes to get us out of the opposite problem, too little space for them, too little independence, too little freedom. This was the old world as I conceived it.
I grew up almost without any punishment. There were some incidents, my father gave me a handful on my butt, which he later denied, but my memory is quite clear…I ran up the stairs to the second floor and locked me into the bathroom to escape.
I don’t think it happened many times, and it was probably an issue of conflict between my parents. My mom must have won that argument. (They never fought when we heard or saw it, but had real conflicts which were never settled, leaving the house sometimes in a feeling of…electric tension).
When one parent is much stricter than the other, you create a dynamic, you could say…one part will maybe tend to be more lenient, and the balance would be different with opposite positions, or change from situation to situtioan, maybe.
Some say…especially some family therapists say, that parents should basically agree, it is held as an ideal.
It is to a certain extent true that agreement is ok, I would say as long as they are both reasonable. Conflicts that never end can be trouble, but again, the worst for me, is not acknowledging problems, not talking about them.
Even the colonel side of my personality can maybe be tolerable if it is allowed to say something about it and laugh.
The opposite can be trouble too, too much weakness or apologies.
But if your parents are unreasonable, as a kid you have no escape from a possible dictatorship…and many reactions may be produced out of this. I am divorced myself, now, but we were in agreement in having at least two kids, so they could have the possibility of an alliance against us when necessary… Said with a grin, as is pretty common in many situations in Norway, but in my mind at least, at the same time it was meant in earnest.
Also, to know who your parents are, for real, has real value, as opposed to seriously wondering about too much of their personality because your mother, father, is either very unsure of herself, himself, or perhaps not being honest towards himself on certain points.
“The old regime” of bringing up kids…it still bothers me, even if my generation and the environment I grew up in…we did what we could to create opposition, I think, make our own culture, our own life. I was not exactly a revolutionary back then, when it came to family business, I think maybe because my father after all also had a heart, even if he was also difficult and often impossible to talk to, totally out of reach of a discussion. But he had after all other sides and there was freedom and a limit to dífficulties.
But I wanted to make my own version of a mainstream culture, or simply take part in creating a new culture. This became an idea in my head and in many people’s heads.
Freedom was an obvious issue in this project. I thought maybe one reason, for me, personally, was that there were so many fixed habits in our family – and in other families – things that didn’t change.
The war, or peace after it, had also given my parents’ generation a real boost in thinking about freedom, believing in it, and the will to give me freedom was there, this came not least from my mother. From my father came the will to decide, and as years passed by in my own life, I wondered what role the war had played in the development of his personality and in his life and his way of thinking.
The fact that I had a severe mental breakdown at the age of 27, which lasted for many years, made all problems I had towards family more difficult to deal with, for myself and for the family.
The problem with my father’s authority and style was there from my childhood, but it was also coloured by my mother’s views on those things, she was of course taking part in the conflict, and her built-up tension through many years eventually came out in the open, pretty suddenly, around the time I became a teenager.
What happened to her was women’s lib. in our house. In many ways for the good, my mother put us to work in the house, which was totally fair, she got higher education (she already had examen artium, secondary education to the age of 18, which was not so common in her generation (she was born in 1929). My father complied, I think, to spenging time and work on the education, I cannot recall any serious problems around this.
In general the air became easier to breathe in, in the family, at this point, at least I think like that now, when looking back.
My father also broke off a career in shipping around the same time, when I was 16-17, starting to work as a freelance writer. I respect this decision a lot, still, and some of the writing was a gift to us, consciously or subconsciuously on his part, because he told a lot about the place he grew up, Tjøme, outside of Tønsberg, and about work and life along the coast. His father was a skipper, one of his grandfathers a boatswain, a craftsman at sea, specialist in making knots and working with ropes, he was working in the naval military base in Horten and as a teacher there.
The sea was an important part of our family’s life for generations, before my father and before us.
I was too angry with him to really appreciate his writing, both because of my chaotic situation and because of both my own and his stubbornness in many ways. We had good times too, but trouble…until he died. I spoke to him the very evening before the night he died, and he managed to say that he cared for me, which was a sensation and very important for me. Neither my mum or my dad had ever said those words to me, and I think the same with my brother and sister.
This, I think, is very much a generation problem. I met a German psychologist a few years ago who works here, he is around my own age, and we compared some family experiences and found many similar things, for instance a general remoteness as an everyday state of mind for our parents, and as a phenomenon in their generation. Not in every situation, of course, but in many ways. I know people who hardly ever had a real hug from their dad. You could say things like this possibly came from old-fashioned gender roles, or the shock of the war, or both, or other things.
The psychologist told me this had recently become an issue in Germany, in public discussions about the war, and the discussion was not only about the war generation, people who had experienced the war, but the impact they had and this had on our generation, people born fairly shortly after the war.
Something to think about, also, when the talk is about refugees, today.
There were of course a lot of things in my relation to my parents which were totally ok or even fantastic, but what I still don’t accept is an attitude of really not talking about problems in relations, pretending that everything is fine.
I am sometimes considered a nuisance, a troublemaker, and I have to admit that the last years things have sometimes been over the top for me for quite some time, and subsequently for people I know.
But we live in special times. I feel the urge some have not to move one millimeter in a mental position, sometimes is in effect real fascism, stemming not only from the war, I think, but partly from the fact that much shit suddenly hits many fans, problems which have worked themselves towards the surface for generations and generations of suppression do exist, now.
A lot of other things emerge, reactions to freedom, really, too, which in many cases seem unacceptible to me.
Freedom…I asked for it, many did, many still do – we just have to handle freedom, and to keep it, and also handle the shit which comes up together with the joy.
I don’t think there is one solution to all this, other than sticking to as much positive humanness as is possible.
No wonder there are difficulties around, I think, but there are also huge opportunities to solve major problems.
These are some of my opinions on the upbringing of kids. Nothing of this touches upon actual formal laws in society, it is all about how we live and how we regulate life socially, not judicially.
I have written a stack of articles in Norwegian about the subject, published on my Norwegian blog, which I had the intention of translating into English. We’ll see if I get that far.