As I continue to work on things away from this blog (which is a collection of Free-Time/Casual Online Writing, Remarks, And Notes By ME Whelan) and continue to figure out what goes and what stays of my existing online-writing, the de-emphasizing of one or another continues as well....

Thursday, February 20, 2014

An Attempt To Describe How At Least SOME Parents Think (At Least SOMETIMES)

This is a first-hand perspective on what I've realized about the difference between how I think now (now that I have grown kids) and how I thought both before I had children at all, but also how that thinking evolved as my children (but also I) grew.

Based on a lot of serious and in-depth conversations with other mothers over the years, I really think that most mothers have some similar changes/patterns in the way they think.  People are individuals, of course, but I mean "most normal mothers in general".

I don't actually know how effective I've been at actually portraying how mothers/parents think (and mothers sometimes think differently from fathers, no matter who the mother or father is).  That, however, is why I put the word, "attempt" in the title of this post.

In any case, that's what this post is - an attempt.    One day I may figure out a more skillful, efficient, or generally better way of portraying all that goes into the think of a person once there are grown children involved.  For now, I figured instead of leaving all this writing buried in my PC I may as well post it "as is".


a)  Since this is a piece I deleted from HubPages there are references to "Hubs".  I'm not going to go through it all and remove them.  They don't take anything away from any of the points made.

b)  Also since this is something I've removed from other places online the images are either not there, or small, or otherwise not presented the way they once were.  I'll do my best to include as many of them as close to how they were originally presented with the text as possible.

c)  By the way, if you're wondering who "Lisa H. Warren" is, that's the pen name I was using when I first wrote this.

Parents and The Way They Often Think

Author's Note

It should be noted that this discussion is based on the presumption that the people involved are individuals and families who, while inevitably imperfect as everyone and every family may be, would be said to be "perfectly normal" and without serious mental/emotional issues in degrees that would fall outside what would be considered "normal range" for generally healthy individuals and families. A question most of us have heard someone ask at one time or another is, "Is there even such a thing as a 'normal' person or family?" The answer to that is that there is, and the majority of individuals and families would, in fact, fall under the category of "perfectly normal". While I acknowledge that mental/emotional issues and/or degrees of family dysfunction, even if not occurring with the majority of individuals/families, exist in great numbers among the population; those issues are beyond the scope of this Hub.

It's also important to note that the Hub doesn't disregard, or fail to acknowledge that there are individual differences between people. Obviously, all grown children or all grown parents don't think "all the same things". Still, there are generally things people of both groups tend to have in common as a result of their stage in life. What's offered here is one perspective.


What Teens and Young Adults Need to Understand About How Parents Often Think - "The Basics"

Addressing Some Of The Misunderstanding That Can Exist Between Grown Kids and Parents

There are two main reasons children (even grown ones) can have trouble understanding their parents. One is simply that parents have lived longer and view life and the world through eyes that have seen more. The other (and perhaps the one with the most impact) is that parents' thinking comes not just from a mind that has grown from youth to maturity, but often from a heart that has felt more as a result of having become the heart of a parent.

Before we have any children, and particularly when we're young, we tend to spend our time thinking about ourselves, our own life, our own dreams and aspirations, etc. Although how much time anyone spends thinking about these things can vary from person to person; for the most part, we generally spend most of time figuring out who we are, who and what we want to be, and what want from life.

Again, acknowledging that there can be differences between individuals, it's probably safe to say that once people become parents they continue to think about those things they did before having a child. It's just that they also have other things factoring into the mix of what they think about and/or how they feel about some things in life. The focus of thinking shifts from "me" to "my child" but also "me as a parent". Also, the longer we're adults, the more some of those issues so intensely focused on ourselves drop off the list as some of the matters involving a once-blank future begin to fall into place.

Here's a list of the kinds of things we tend to think about when as individuals (as opposed to the kinds of things we think about once we've become parents).

Typical thoughts "as an individual" are often about:

The things I want in life

The things I want to do now

The things I want to do in the future

What kind of person I want to be.

We also often think a lot about:

My relationships with others

Relationships in general

My place in the world

The world in general

My own life and managing it well

My own life in general

"All of life" in general

A separate, underlying aspect of thinking would be in a category, "All the Things That Have Gone into The Things I Think"

This category would include things such as childhood, upbringing, degree of closeness in one's family, education, individual and shared experiences, etc.

Other thoughts to which energies are often devoted are:

About learning, and thinking, about all the things that help guide an individual toward being the kind of person he wants to be, and having the kind of life he hopes to have.

We try to figure out, learn, and remember what might be thought of as "The Rules of Life"

The are the rules and concepts about what make up a mentally/emotionally solid person, as well as those rules and guidelines that help us define what makes up a well managed life.

Some of those "rules of life" are common sense we've developed along the way; so rather than learn them or figure them out, sometimes we use them in thinking about other things that apply to us or our lives.

We also spend time thinking about forming our "personal policies".

Also, we spend time forming our philosophies for our own life, as well as philosophies about "all of life".

Something else we often think about, or ask ourselves, if whether we think we've learned the above sorts of things well enough. People who know they've done all this thinking about all these things usually feel reasonably confident that they've covered the bases necessary for being a grown-up person and managing a life well.

Note: For the purpose of making some points with the use of the illustrations below, this list appears in the first image, which is intended to show one simple, single-color, block on which not just points about subsequent images will be made; but also from which an individual's thinking becomes more complex after he becomes a parent.

Image 2 shows a nutshell version, or at least a different view, of the things we tend to think about before we've become parents.

Image 3 shows the dramatic change in the types and complexities of thoughts that arise once we become parents. From there, the words and images below should help present what it is grown people need to understand about parents.

It's worth noting here, too, that this discussion isn't limited to just teens and the youngest of adults. It's aimed at any grown person who finds himself asking how it is his parent could seem to think so differently from him.

Something that occurred in my life highlights how little we sometimes understand about our parents:

There was someone I knew who was dealing with a very troubled daughter in her late teens and then very early twenties. The young woman didn't make life pleasant or any easier for her mother, who had health issues. (The daughter had been a hard-to-place child who had been adopted as an older child, which contributed to some of the problems that developed as the girl got older.)

During that time frame I was in my late thirties and just around forty/forty one. My eldest child was in his mid- teens. My younger children were in middle school and primary school. Knowing I was "good and mature", I allowed myself my opinions about what this other woman should do about her problem daughter. I didn't always voice them, but I was sure I knew what I would do, should I find myself in a similar situation.

Although, fortunately, I never did find myself in that kind of situation, I did find myself with kids had gone from being as as mine had been to being the age of the troubled young woman in question. I discovered how mothers feel about even grown-up kids, as well as a lot of other things about kids who are almost grown or just about grown.

It wasn't as if I just woke up one day "smarter" than I'd been, but over time some of those opinions I'd had previously gradually changed. Things looked a lot different to me once I knew how a mother feels about kids who are grown. More importantly, I understood the issues that start to face parents of older sons or daughters; especially when they're colored by love for, a sense of responsibility for, and hope for the future of, even the most troubled of grown kids.

The point here is that, even when we have kids as old as fifteen, and we're in the area of forty years old, there can still be things we can't understand about a parent who is older than we are and/or has a child older than ours is/are.

My thinking is that, perhaps, the telling of that story will help illustrate the need for better understanding of the things that "make parents tick", and the reasons there can be (even when parents and their kids are close) an unseen gap in thinking between a grown child and a parent.

So, here in words and pictures are the ideas I hope to share here:

Source: Lisa H. Warren
(Image 2) Looking at What We Tend to Think Another Way

Source: Lisa H. Warren
(Image 3) Things We Think About Once We Become Parents

Source: Lisa H. Warren
Being of "Two Minds"

Once a person becomes a parent he usually become more than thoroughly familiar with the phrase, "being of two minds". At least when it comes to some of the simpler issues of life, the person who is a parent sees that sometimes he operates from the side of him that's "only him". Sometimes he must operate from the side of him that is a parent.

Examples of one of those simple issues might be when a parent is tired and really would love to sleep, but the child needs him for one reason or another. With this kind of issue, there's not usually a lot of complicated sorting out that a parent needs to do, because most parents know that the parent-side of themselves is the one that must "have the final say" in any number of relatively minor situations.

The side of the parent that is "just him" might be represented by something like this:
(Image 4) Thoughts Focused on the Individual Himself

The parent-side of the person may be represented by something like this:
(Image 5) Thoughts From the Parent Side of the Person

And, although the person who is also a parent may look very much the same as he's always looked on the outside, how his thinking is viewed by him (from within his own mind) might look something like this. (By the way, if the block belows appears larger than than the blocks above that's to show that once a person has become a parent he has grown.

(Image 6) Being "Of Two Minds" Once An Individual Becomes A Parent

(For what an image of two, colored, rectangles is worth: Image by Lisa H. Warren)

Because some matters are too complex to deal with by choosing between "the me side" and "the parent side", and because no individual is ever truly "of two minds", around the two distinctly differently colored sides of the person who is a parent the "whole person" he has become is wrapped. When it comes to the more complex issues (whether related to the individual, himself; to his role as a parent, or to specifically to his child), it is from the more complex coloring and depth of shades in that "whole person" that a parent operates. It might best be illustrated like this:
(Image 7) Unifying Those "Two Minds" Within One "Outer Wrapping"

Source: Lisa H Warren

It's still not this simple, however, because each and every human being (child or adult) grows (intellectually and emotionally) in "layers". Using the images above, and colors as a reference point, it could be said that each us starts out small and with only the palest of color, and it from that "core" that we grow by adding layers around the outside, one by one.

For an individual, the pattern of adding layers might look like this, with the darkest tan indicating the point at which the individual has reached adulthood:

(Image 8) One Way to View Individual Growth

Source: Lisa H Warren

Separate from growing as an individual, a parent can follow a similar pattern of growth in his growth as a parent:

(Image 9) One Way to View Growth As Parent

So, I you keep in mind the image above (Images 8 and 9), and if you visualize how each of the two separate blocks (that represent the two sides to a parent's thinking) becoming more and more complex as layers and increasingly deeper colors are added as time and growth go on; you have something of an idea of what each parent brings to his relationship with his child.

(Image 10) One Way to View Two Types of Inner Growth "Wrapped in One Person's 'Changed Inner Self'"

Source: Lisa H Warren

The above image (Image 10) still doesn't very well represent all the things that go a person's growth as a person and as a parent, however. It can help to think back to Image 3 and add those factors, concerns, and the growth that can come from them. The more complex Image 11 offers a slightly better idea of the kinds of things that can go into a parent's thinking at any given time, or with regard to any given issue.

(Image 11) A Simplified Representation of Things Factored into a Parent's Thinking

Source: Lisa H Warren

Image 12 represents the different "places people are coming from" as children or as parents, and it represents the factors that go into what a parent brings to the relationship with his child:

Image 12 - Parent and Child Come From Different Places

Source: Lisa H Warren

It's still not all that simple, however, if/when subsequent children are added to the picture, which might look something along the lines of Image 13:
(Image 13) Factors That Go Into A Parent's Thinking and Growth

Source: Lisa H Warren

The image below represents the difference in "complexity of issues" associated with what goes into how a parent thinks and how a grown child thinks. It's important to note that the illustration is not intended to imply anything about different levels of intelligence or abilities, different educational levels, or even "wisdom" acquired through aging, alone (as opposed to wisdom or emotional complexity acquired as a result of raising one or more children). Neither is it intended to imply that parents' emotions are always factored into their thinking. It is, in fact, the understanding of the need to so often separate emotions from thinking that contributes to some of the complexity of parents' thinking and challenges.

After all the illustrations above, the following one gets to the real heart of the matter (which is how easy it is to see why a grown child would have such difficulty understanding "where his parent is coming from".
(Image 14) The Difference Between What Goes Into A Parent's Thinking and A Grown Child's Thinking

 image by Lisa H. Warren

Is it difficult to imagine why a grown son or daughter would have trouble understanding "where a parent is coming from"?

The point that all these grossly over-simplified illustrations show is the once a person becomes a parent, not only does everything in his life and thinking become so much more complicated, but the degree of worry and thought required multiplies exponentially with each child and (in some situations) with the increasing age of the child.

As children grow up, parents gain maturity too. Maturation is a funny thing in that, at least until we've had a couple of decades' worth of it, we tend to think that we've reached it completely at whatever age we are in life. Maturation is so gradual, we don't see much difference between the year when we're 23 and the year when we're 26. Life and/or inner growth may shown us a little bit of maturation between those two years, but that's usually it.

When it comes to maturity, we tend to just think we've reached it, until we continue to live and gain maturity long enough that we can look back and see how far we've come along that road.

In the two decades of so it takes for a child to go from being a baby to being grown up, a parent has been doing a lot of living "in his own right", separate from any growth he's experienced as a parent.

In general, by the time a son or daughter has reached twenty or so, a parent is in the area of forty (give or take a few years). Life looks different from forty than it does from twenty, just as it looks different from fifty from the way it looked fifteen or twenty years before that.

Painful experiences parents may have had in those few decades after they, themselves, were twenty are things from which they've learned, things from which they've gained strength, and things they wish (if at all possible) they could spare their child(ren) from learning the hard way. Some of the more painful experiences in life are such that there can seem to be little learned from them, but even those are things from which parents often try to make something positive arise by trying to share with children whatever they may have learned.

Parents usually recall exactly how it feels to be just reaching adulthood and to have that youthful sense of invicincibility that makes someone young believes, "It can't happen to me." A parent may want to warn a child who is being a little too careless that "it can happen to you". At the same time, most parents wouldn't want to rob their son or daughter of one of the traits of youthful thinking that, in fact, contribute to what youth, itself, is and feels like.

It isn't just with issues associated with the example above that parents need to sort out how they'll present their own ideas and views to their child. It's with things like wanting to let a child know a parent believes in him, but not wanting to make him feel his parent is expecting more of him than he's capable of. Trying to raise a child to "have a mind of his own" is what most healthy parents do, but with "a mind of his own", of course, comes a child's reasonable and real need to question the things his parent believes or says. A parent can have that urge to say something like, "Would you just, for once in your life, believe what I'm saying without questioning me!" Usually, the cool-headed, level-headed, reasonable parent won't say something like that. The issues are so far beyond the scope of this particular discussion, it's not possible to raise more than a few examples of so many of the most common things that become challenges or concerns in parent's minds.

Most parents will tell anyone who isn't a parent how there is no possible way someone who isn't a parent could ever have any idea of the complexities and magnitude of the things parents must think about, worry about, process, sort out, and figure out just for themselves. That doesn't even include the things that involve figuring out how to help a child best process some experiences, whether the parent has experienced them in his own past, experienced the situation at the same time as his child, or has not personally experienced it at all.

Something else that doesn't help grown kids understand how parents think is that they cannot possibly know the complexity, degree, and expanse of the kind of love a parent has for his child. One might believe that once a grown child has a child of his own, he'll then know exactly how his parent feels.

In some ways, he will have a sampling of it. Until his own child has reached adulthood, however, that person still will have no idea of how the love (and worries) a parent has for his child mature along with both the child and the parent.

Although it can be as gradual a process as growing up and aging, itself, is there's also a gradual process to a parent's "letting go" once his child has reached a certain level of maturity. There's a point when a child is mature enough that the parent can free up his mind from some of the those concerns, thoughts, and worries that were associated with being responsible for a growing and maturing individual. Just as toothpaste can't be put back into a tube, and genies usually can't be put back into bottles, the growth and learning of the parent and of the love he has for his child don't just "all shrink back" once the parent no longer has to concern himself with some of those issues that are now the child's own responsibility and concern.

And so, there is a grown parent and a grown child. Assuming that both the parent and child are without any serious emotional difficulties, and assuming their relationship is a healthy one; one of the biggest problems in relationships between parents and their grown children may be the fact that there is such a gap in complexity between being a young person without children (or even with one baby or toddler) and being a person whose life includes the array of issues, as well as the depth of those issues, as part of simply growing as a person, a parent, and part of the family one has built.

It's no secret (and I don't dispute this) that parents often don't understand their grown children. It's often a complaint adult of all ages have about a parent at one time or another. There's that other side to the parent/child equation, however; and there is at least the possibility that an even bigger problem in relationships may be that grown children cannot understand their parents.

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