Month: June 2017


Kids need to orient towards a parent. It is how nature made us.

If that orientation is broken or weak, your children will orient elsewhere.

It’s just like a parent-less baby duck or goose bonds with a human, or a doll or a cat or a dog, imprinting and following them around as if they were its mother. You don’t want that.

Video games, drugs, risky behaviours, poor choices in friends and an over-reliance on peer groups are some of the ways a teen will make up for a lack of connection with a parent or parents or family.

What the heck do peers know? In general: not much. It’s scary how little.

Orientation is often the issue when kids go off the rails. And, after age 14, it becomes more difficult to maintain parental orientation as time goes by. Can you reclaim orientation? Yes, indeed you can. Why? Because teens want desperately to be rescued from themselves. Desperately.

So the heart of parenting is connection. It’s worth repeating. It keeps it simple. The key question to ask your self is this: Is what I’m doing going to increase connection… or weaken it?

If it increases connection, you are probably doing what nature intended. If it weakens or severs connection, that is wholly unnatural. Unnatural, I say. It goes against the natural order of things.

Ask yourself this question often; make it part of your approach.

So to me, it’s ALL about connection. Focus on connection right from the start. When parents realize it’s really this simple, many aha! moments ensue from its simplicity. Connection is surface simple but vast and deep in practice.

To connect, you need time. Not “quality time” so much as just time spent in connection. Safe, secure, predictable. The need to belong is universal. It’s largely what drives us in life.

From connection, the child will feel “valued.” Feeling like you matter to someone or a group of people is at the heart of attachment–our primary psychological need.

Connection’s opposite is loneliness. We do a lot of messed up things out of loneliness. How many of us have been in a group of people in our lives… and felt lonely? It sucks.

Imagine a child or teen feeling lonely while in your house? As part of your family? Happens all the time.

From connection and time and a sense of value, you can coach a child or teen to anything. What you want to teach them is self-discipline.

I don’t mean bootcamp discipline. Rather, the ability to delay gratification. It is the single best predictor of a successful life.

Intelligence helps a person live well but the advantage stops at just above average.

No. It’s self-discipline that counts.

Know any intelligent losers? Of course you do. We all know plenty.

Know any self-disciplined losers? Doesn’t happen. In fact, the two are opposites.

We could talk about how feminism is ruining the cultures of the western world. Dare me.

Or how the banking system uses interest to create scarcity and competition; its unrelenting need for growth forcing more parents into work to earn for their families. Double dare me.

But in the end, it misses what’s important. It’ll be the rare person who gets to 80 and says they wished they worked more or took up yet another cause.

Very few get a diagnosis of terminal cancer with months to live and wished they had a Ferrari.

No. Time and again, in the end people wish they’d spent more time with their friends and families, especially their children. Connecting with loved ones folks.

So just focus on connection. If you get that right, most of everything else takes care of itself. By putting connection first, everything seems to fall into place. It’s nature’s way.

Here’s a pithy quote:

“As long as we feel safely held in the hearts and minds of the people who love us, we will climb mountains and cross deserts and stay up all night to finish projects. Children and adults will do anything for people they trust and whose opinion they value.” Bessel Van der Kolk.

Find it early, find it late, you must find love. We must all find love, and it starts with the family of origin. Ideally, it’s where we learn how to love and be loved. This must be part of your legacy to your children.

Connection is your key.

© CKWallace, 2017

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Father’s Day, 2017


Howard Carew Wallace, my Chief

It’s Happening to Me


I have to admit, it’s happening to me,

It was something I could not foresee.

Decidedly, I’ll just let it be.


Oh, I may have dreamed it long ago,

But being so young, I did not know

Of all that was to follow.


Despite it all, for the life of me,

And my attempts to live contrarily

Now resigned, eerily,


For the truth is, I’d no longer rather

By this living eulogy you’ll gather

I’m turning into my father.

ckwallace, 2016


18 June, 2017


Today is Father’s Day. Dad has had more than sixty, each one earned.


Like many boys, my father is my hero. Though there came upon our relationship a darkness that lasted a decade. Even during this estrangement, there were lessons unfolding for both us, perhaps, more so for me. Though, it’s hard to tell.


It was my father who inadvertently gave me my animal totem when he told me at the age of fifteen there wasn’t room for two roosters under the same roof, and since it was his roof… What a great gift.


Regardless, eventually we got over it and I metaphorically became a cockerel (three children too!). Not so bad when you consider that the bird stands for pride, honesty, courage, vigilance, arrogance, strength, watchfulness and flamboyance, all traits I share with my father.


On top of that we are descendants of Celtic tribes, who considered the rooster a creature of the underworld, serving as a messenger of the hereafter, screeching out warnings of danger and calling out to the souls of those fallen on the battlefield. Perhaps my father knew I’d be an envoy from darkness, sent to share light.


Forgiveness is one of life’s greatest tests of virtue. It was my father who taught me this. His father was a troubled man, a WWI veteran with an impatient irascibility about him that bordered on meanness at times. War does that to people.


Dad was a dutiful son to his father right to the end. My father wrote a short account of his father’s passing for our family site at Reading about how he sneaked in to hold his father’s hand at the very end of Gimpy’s life, until his father’s hand returned the faintest of signal and then, before him, was no more, serves as a beacon, a triumph of kindness over anger, of putting love first despite all else. It’s an image I continue to hold dear.


Of course, my father also taught me patience… using golf as his instrument. Hitting that damned little white ball all over Eastern Ontario with passion and commitment required enormous patience. He set an example, we followed.


My father’s invitation that we golf with him meant that along the way, I also learned behaviourism. Intermittent reinforcement being the strongest reinforcer is plain to see in the game: you hit close to a hundred shots in a typical round, most of which are going to be not so good. But there will be one that’s absolutely amazing. One shot that makes all the pain of the rest of the shots dissolve away like salt in warm water.


In fact, I won the family’s last golf tournament with a perfect seven iron on a par three that bounced once just before the pin and almost went in, landing a foot and a half away from the hole. The rest of that day’s game? Less memorable. I could curse him or thank him for the gift of golf, depends on the day. But I keep coming back. Patience indeed.


I learned to accept homosexuals from my father. While still just a single digit in age, I spied a sister cuddling her younger sibling while watching TV, and called them lesbians.


I was invited for a chat in the inner sanctum of my parent’s room. There my father asked if I knew what a lesbian was. Of course, I really had no idea. He explained that it was a woman who loved another woman. He added that it was just how they were made and that, in the end, they were just looking for love like anyone else. With that understood, I was dismissed. It was the 1960s.


Once through the homophobic peer pressure of my teen years, I returned to that wisdom. With maturity, I gained a greater sense of justice. Those words came back to serve me: “just looking for love like anyone else.” It was all the justification needed for tolerance and understanding. Simple, effective, and just.


Later, at some occasion the subject came up again, this time with some of my adult siblings around. In one of dad’s famous quips, he said: “Sometimes, you just have to brush your teeth, close your eyes and keep an open mind.” I’m sure that ended the conversation. I’ve never had the nerve to ask him about it either. Some things are better left unsaid.


My mother taught me to read but it was my father who made books available. We had bookcases all over the house. Even now, when I imagine a room, I see a bookcase there. Dad made it perfectly normal to sit and read, all day if necessary. Learning is my top strength and dad’s influence is never far.  I’m mostly a non-fiction type and I have some of his old books. The pages are yellowed and delicate like rice paper; each one a treasure. Like my father, I have a book habit. Not so bad an addiction at all.


When I began to scribble words of my own, it was my father who helped me along, patiently correcting my stuff with his editor’s pencil. I still look over the notes he put on texts I sent him.


He also taught me to be frugal about using swear words in my writing, despite dropping F-bombs most of his life. In one of his juiciest lessons, as a kid he told me swearing was “good old fashioned Anglo-Saxon expressions of emotion.” I was allowed to swear, just not at him or at ma. He wisely figured that as we grew socially we’d soon learn from the reactions of people around us and temper our language accordingly. How very true…


Dad taught me to be honest. As a younger man, I didn’t know anyone who was, so it mattered not as much. Over many years of conversations with my father, I’ve watched as he found just the right words to describe a subject.


He’d go to lengths for precision’s sake, keeping reference books nearby to look up a fact or a definition. What emerged for me from the way he did this was the need to search for truth. There was truth, there was lesser truth, and there was falsehood. Often the lines between them are blurred and hard to discern; but truth is there, every time. It just takes a little effort to find.


Watching my father meant learning to dig a little deeper, to broaden the scope, to see a larger or more refined view. And in this way, he taught me that intent mattered. By filling in the history of a subject, a population, or a place, we learn something of the motivations of people, even nations. We do not exist alone. Having seen more than fifty countries during his navy service, I have visited the world through my father.


As a young man in Ottawa growing up during the seventies and eighties, I went to practically every large rock concert and saw many smaller bands that came to town. I had an extensive collection of vinyl music from the heyday of rock and roll. Later, my tastes grew from rock to blues to funk and jazz. All of these genres form the basis of my musical identity, so can anyone explain why it is that I now listen almost exclusively to the CBC?


As I write this, a collection of opera is playing on a second laptop nearby, someone’s favourites uploaded to a YouTube channel. I think it started when I put a radio in my garage.

There, puttering around, doing something handy, I found opera and the classics to keep me company.


As a young boy, watching my father at his workbench, with old tools, each one a place to return to after use, is one of my best memories. Opera still plays Saturday afternoons at one, perhaps just like it did back in the day on my father’s little radio. The smell of wood, the sounds of sawing and hammering, and the possibility of fabricating something out of raw materials left an indelible impression on me. Perhaps the radio keeps me close to dad when I’m away. After all, the CBC teaches, just like my father does.


My father taught me about love by way of his example with my mother for the sixty two years they were married before she passed away. Theirs is a love for the ages, and no mention of my father’s teachings is complete without also mentioning ma. I heard his sweet reassurances to her in her final hours. It was essential attachment, a juxtaposed tragedy and triumph of human love.


Though, for the record I’d best explain that it was probably more my mother’s patience and virtue that lay at the foundation of their longevity as a couple. What a beautiful gift that was. It meant that you could be as faulted as my dad, even as annoying at times, and still be loved. There is hope for us all is what it says.


I could write much more about my father and his impact on me. It’s easy to get carried away with this kind of thing, writing words in ways he taught me, listening to music he influenced me to hear, searching for truths the way I learned them at his knee.


Like the time he told me it takes a hundred years for an immigrant group to acclimatize to Canada, several generations—something I still hold as my benchmark of understanding. After all, we are all immigrants here.


Or when I was worried about being a father for the first time: He, with nine children of his own, said to me: “Babies are like little miracles, son, they don’t take up much room, they really don’t cost much, and somehow, all of us find a way to move over a little bit to make room and welcome them into this world. You’ll do fine as a father.”


I’ve used those exact words countless times with new fathers and each time they have reassured as much as I was over three decades ago.


I believe attachment to each other is our most fundamental need. My father told me of the people from where I came. By widening my understanding of our family’s history, I got a sense of my place in time, and how I live at the crux between the many who have come before me and those after. If we exist within each other as endless loops reverberating down through the ages, knowing your ancestry means you are never alone. My father is part of me, and I continue to pass along his fine lessons to those who follow.


Rather than reluctance at becoming like my father, glimpses of him that show up in my life are hints of a re-discovered familiarity, and it gives me strength. My father is who he is, unapologetic, unafraid, and unique: good personal aspirations for any man. I welcome the part within me that is him, like an old friend sent to keep me company, as an elder looking in on my life with love and compassion.


I’m very proud to call myself his son. So happy Father’s Day my dearest Dad, may you live to a hundred.




© Christopher K. Wallace 2017