I Hate You, Dad!

I'd just watched a great movie called Man From Earth.  The premise is awesome, and without it I wouldn't have watched it.  But during a good-gye party, friends learn that the honorary guest is a caveman who has lived for 14,000 years.  That's right.  A bonafied caveman, cro magnon, to be exact.

It was written by famed science fantasy writer, Jerome Bixby.

It's a fantastic premise because what the caveman reveals is just earth shattering.  I'd suggest watching.

One of the things John, the caveman, reveals is that he was a well known religious figure.  Everyone in the party at this point doesn't really know whether to believe his story so far, but to claim to be this certain figure seems heinous.  Until John explains how this religious figure got his mythical status.  How history can apply layers of mythicism on an individual.

And that got me thinking.

I'd had the pleasure of pitching to Donald Maass, the famed New York agent who wrote How to Write the Breakout Novel.  This was my first book on writing.  I'd attended his one hour lecture at the San Francisco Writer's Conference.  His whole thing is to write with emotional depth and make your story big.  Big with emotions.  (Wow.  I'm using a lot of fragments today.)

Some examples are betrayal, retribution, and the all time favorite "I hate you, dad!"

In my book, my hero has severe issues with his father.  His father left him without saying good-bye after being convicted of a murder.  With this, a lot of people assumed that the father was guilty, despite his fervent attempt to prove his innocence.  Kinda like OJ hurling down the freeway at 152.5 MPH.

My hero is left with the question of why.  Was his father guilty?  Did he not love my hero enough?  What did my hero do to make his father leave?  As the days pass, my hero is forced to answer these questions and begins to layer greatness upon his estranged father.

Sorta like someone breaking up with you, and you can't stop thinking about all the good times you both had, even though there may have been a lot of bad.

Maass said these past parental issues tend to manifest themselves in other parts of your life.  For example, if your father was a perfectionist, forced and punished you to be a perfectionist, then you grow up and torture yourself to be a perfectionist at work.  Your relationships go bad because you're trying to find the perfect man or woman.  You can't seem to settle on any home that you visit, driving your real estate agent crazy.  You go into deep debt, buying every electronic device because they keep getting better.  You get ten plastic surgeries trying to fit the perfect mold.  All because your father prodded you to be perfect.  Then, all of a sudden, you yell at a picture of your father, "I hate you, dad!"  But what you actually hate is the person you've turned into, and, hopefully, as up-lifting stories go, you realize that his world of perfection doesn't have to be yours.  And you begin to live a life that's true to you.

The point is, when writing stories, sometimes childhood issues bubble up without the character knowing it.  He may never know it.  She may scream at a jar of honey and remember when her mother yelled at her for spilling honey on their new carpet.  It's a great way of deepening a character.

Changing Role of Parents

If you've watched any movies or films where there's a parent/child dynamic, the parent always views their child as children, no matter the age.  My mom does this to me a lot.  When I visit her for dinner, she'll make three dishes-chicken, beef, and a vegetable entree.  She makes enough to feed an family of four, but it's just the two of us eating. First she'll say that all of this costs less than a single entree at a restaurant.  Then as I take a piece of chicken, she'll point to the beef dish and ask if I don't like beef.  I take a piece of beef, and she points to the vegetable dish and ask if I don't like vegetables.  I take some and put it in my bowl, and she points to the chicken.  She asks me why I won't eat the chicken.

Over the years of mediating between parents and their children, I've noticed that parents are reluctant to change their role.  As babies, parents provide everything-food, clothing, healthcare, etc.  When children get older, the amount of care needed lessens.  Obvious, right?  You're not going to prop your ten year old on the table and change their diaper.  If you do, then there are issues of discipline you'll need to deal with.  During the teenage years, kids tend to want some sort of independence.  That's why they don't like to be seen with their moms or dads.  It's totally uncool.  Once people grow into young adulthood, then further on as adults, parents still care and worry about them as if they were little kids.  As children grow, so must the parent's role.

When I taught privately, my advantage was not having any emotional attachment.  I would listen to my students problems or issues, and I wouldn't judge them.  Some had sex early on.  Other's cussed a lot.  Many had complaints about their overbearing parents.  They told me everything.  I'd help them if they wanted, but left the subject if they didn't.  Parents would be thankful that I was there to listen to their children's problems, but didn't really know how to gain their child's trust.  It's simple, but can be hard to do.

Listen to them, ask questions about what they're talking about, and do your damned best not to judge.  Don't overreact, yell, scream, or solve their problems.  Ask if they need help, for sure.  But just listen.  If you want to give your two cents, then ask if you can give your opinion.  Trust me, if they want it, they'll say yes.  IF they don't want it, and you give it to them, it'll go out one ear and out the other.  That doesn't mean you don't make them aware of issues of sex, drugs, or alcohol.  You do.  I'd recommend not to be overbearing.

I live by two guidelines when I teach.  The teacher appears when the student is ready.  So if people are ready to learn, they will listen.  When I teach, I don't teach, nor do I take the role of teacher.  When I teach, I take the role of guide.  Life is a massive landscape of unknown.  Just as you would hire a guide for a safari, be your children's guide when they need it.