By Michael de Glanville & Viola Edward…..
A young loving couple, setting out to create their very own family are drawn into a world filled with opportunity and potential. It is also one where they will experience the joys and trials of the family environment from a very different perspective, that of the responsible parent. In this new role, they will need courage and determination to navigate successfully through the testing occurrences that lie in their path.
Modelling the Experience
They arrive at this point of creating their own family with plenty of baggage, some of it essential, some of it practical, some of it detrimental, but most of which will be carried in their subconscious. The dreams and visions of their parents will have influenced them, the personalities also. They will have developed their own characters as a result of these varied inputs, rebelling against what they lived through or anxious to emulate it, modelling the experience or creating something diametrically opposed to it.
A Complicating Arrival
Their own experiences as children will have given them some familiarity with the coming succession of events, a pattern lived through by most growing families of changing jobs, the births of new brothers and sisters, the progression of kindergarten schools and colleges and the moves to different homes with more rooms and so on. However the most recent and less familiar task, that of developing a loving sexual relationship with a partner, is about to be further complicated by the arrival of a third entity, the couple’s own child.
Parents in Law
We have written in previous articles about the dynamics of loving relationships and the forces that propel us into them and out of them. Mostly focussing on this two-way relationship of the loving couple, we have looked at the different qualities that will help us on this journey, such as the giving and receiving of love, emotional expression, good communication, the skills of knowing, valuing and daring to be oneself, the practice of acceptance, toleration and the respect of the other. While the new couple relationship is developing without children, the parents of both the partners will have limited reasons for interference in the couple’s life unless for some reason they are still living in one of the parental homes, or the detachment of one or both of the partners into autonomy from the parents has not yet taken place. However, the establishment of a steady relationship between the couple will have already brought into the relational field of play the two sets of parents.
There will have been the usual scanning and assessment of the prospective son-in-law or daughter-in-law. It is unfortunately quite typical for both of the two sets of parents to form a negatively biased vision of their offspring’s choice of partner, while being unwilling to see any of the failings of their own offspring, producing judgements of the type “ Surely she can do so much better than this” or “I just can’t understand what he sees in her”. Alternatively, there can be a delighted approval of the match and this acceptation and absence of judgement will bring a fruitful extension to both the families and pave the way for much nourishing contact between the three generations. It is such a valuable investment for the future when parents avoid rushing into hasty judgement at these times. Better to be trustfully supportive of the son or daughter, giving them the time to find out for themselves how to deal with the circumstances of their relationship. Although it is not such a frequent occurrence, it is wonderful for all the parties when the young come to the parents to share and ask for opinion.
The Expanded Relationship
Whether the choice to become parents has been a conscious one or not, the development into a three way dynamic which includes the child will always create major changes in the couple’s relationship. Furthermore, beyond this new three way dynamic is another stage that includes the four grandparents as well. The aspect that intrigues us here is the dynamic of this relationship between the grandparents, the parents and the grandchildren. In this transformation into parenthood, the relative two-way simplicity of the original couple relationship has been much expanded and the potential for misunderstanding and conflict will probably follow in good measure.
An Effective Team
What is this attraction that leads us to wanting to become parents? The force seems to work differently for men and women, but it certainly has its origins in their physical natures and the power of love. The creative beauty of the feminine body is based on receptivity, fertility, reproduction and nurture, though female energy can also be fiercely protective of a child’s wellbeing. The masculine beauty is more in strength and is naturally intrusive. He can be possessive and also be a provider. His desire to become a father will stem from a sense of accomplishment and purpose, perhaps seeking to perpetuate family tradition. For the female, the attraction to motherhood can be part of the fulfilment of her physical nature and her caring instincts; she will choose a male partner whom she sees as capable of sharing her philosophy of life in raising a family together, protecting her and her offspring. The male has an instinct to guide and provide security. Present within the couple is an instinctive desire to reproduce and also to protect and nurture the delicate helpless baby and this symbiosis has developed as a most effective survival mechanism for our species. When these natural capabilities are well balanced, the male/female partnership can develop into a most effective team.
Innocent and Wide Eyed
Very few of our animal counterparts will spend so long caring for the newborn before it is capable of looking after itself. Our brains and bodies are powerful and intelligent but they take some time to develop beyond the instinctive capabilities inherent at birth. It will take most babies nearly a year to be able to balance on two legs and walk and another cycle of the seasons before it manages to communicate in the language of spoken words. This raising of the offspring is physically tiring and time consuming, but where is the adult that has not been touched by the soft miniature dimension of a tiny but perfectly formed baby’s hand, or captured by an innocent wide eyed inquisitive look and melted by a baby’s spontaneous and gummy gurgling smile. We are instinctively programmed to respond to these triggers with love and care as we are also programmed through our sexuality to mate and procreate.
So why do we run into so many problems in our practice of parenting? Perhaps the most prevalent pitfall is sometimes simply a product of the clumsy way we choose to show our love. Some parents get confused over finding suitable limits while assisting the natural development of the baby through childhood into a balanced, self-sufficient adult because the three stages of interactions between Attachment, Differentiation and Detachment are not very well understood and practiced. (Positive Psycho Therapy).
Differentiation & Attachment
When prolonged by the parents, this attachment, initially an essential protectiveness can develop into an impending filter from the harsh but instructive experiences of life. By tasking themselves with shielding their children from all pain and suffering, the parents don’t differentiate between their own fears and needs and the actual capacities of the child; in this way they disable the child from learning those skills for themselves. By imposing rigid behavioural patterns on the children, to ensure social acceptation, the parents can block the child’s capacity to adapt to changing environments and detachment doesn’t happen. The growing children can easily become confused over the purpose of this process of ‘being raised’, as they receive this endless stream of love and generosity. Their experience of life is biased towards their right to receive in the absence of a balancing return of grateful generosity. The key for both parents and children is to be conscious of the moment when this loving protection begins to transform itself into restricting shackles and create a new distinction of independence, which is simply the detachment from one stage to go to another level of attachment and so life progresses through this sequence of stages.
Without this conscious and two sided release of the out-dated parent/child roles into a new and spacious mutual respect, the over protective demonstrations of love can still be flowing from the parents when the child has matured into a responsible adult. Often the son or the daughter will resort to rebellious behaviour in an attempt to rid themselves of what is perceived to be unwelcome authoritarian control. If this controlling energy is still present in the parents when the ‘children’ are ready to create a family of their own, the stage is set for much suffering. The wealth of experience that might be passed down with love to the neophyte parents becomes un-receivable. The delight of the grandparents at the birth of a new generation ploughs into a resentful barrier of resistance from the new parents and the wealth of helpful co-operation from the grandparents in the tiring task of coping with the young children becomes sadly wasted as they are excluded from any meaningful contact with their grandchildren.
Among the young parents and their parents and in-laws, the more conscious ones of the group should assume the responsibility for balancing conflict or avoiding it while the less conscious ones develop a deeper understanding of their roles. Merely the existence of a loving presence with continued support when requested, together with the letting go of always knowing what is best for others will be very appreciated and valued. The time for parental protection and control is limited and has a sell by date. Once that date is passed, the parents can release themselves from that responsibility and observe what follows with humility, understanding and compassion. The empowering way of raising responsible, creative, free spirited children comes from the parent’s ability to dance between a number of different styles, according to the age and the skills of the children. These styles include directive control, negotiation, encouraging support, giving freely available assistance and delegating.
The above article is not only recent theory, as evident from this beautiful poem written by Kahlil Gibran and published in 1923.
If you are interested in deepening your knowledge about “Conscious relationship” you can participate in sessions with Viola and Michael, in person and online.
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About Viola and Michael
Viola came to Cyprus from Venezuela in 2002 to join Michael who was born on the Island and returned from France in 1999. Viola and Michael are both trained therapists in Breathwork and they founded Kayana Ltd in 2003. Viola specialises in Relationship Coaching, Business Consulting and Colour and Image. Michael has an Engineering background and specialises in Massage and Watsu.