Families and how to survive them

This is the title of a book written in the 1960's and co-authored by John Cleese from Fawlty Towers. A great book on family relationships and issues, a must read for all who are passionate about creating good family relations.

This article is a follow on from my recent philosophy about family, "Family Demands and Can They Be Managed Better?"

As children, and adults for that matter, our perception is our reality. What we are told and what we take in becomes what we believe, or our reality. And that is so true. If you talk to psychologists they would probably tell you the number one problem in society is that our beliefs are often a long way from the reality. In other words what we know or believe is not always true. Maybe we live in a fantasy, not relating to how life really is.

When we get back to basics and get our beliefs lined up with reality we are really starting to get some traction.

Now, this takes me to farming and families. If we are told we will "get" the family farm and we believe it, then "that is our reality". Our whole focus is on our belief we will "get" the farm. It may only have been a comment made by somebody whom we think is an authority on the matter. We may then not make a lot of effort to be a self-starter and get stuck into our life. We may expect that our perception will be met by some strange twist and the parent's farm is ours. Not always true.

In my own case, I was told by somebody when I was a little guy that I would "get" the family farm. That was my belief.

It wasn't until I was well into my 20's that I was told otherwise. Now that came as a bit of a shock because my belief was that I would "get" the farm. The net result for me was that I suddenly realised, "what my life was going to be, was all up to me". I consequently got stuck in and made my own life.

And why am I telling you all this? To illustrate that what we tell or indicate to our kids creates a belief, that they accept that as their reality. It's not until we realise we have to make our own way in this life and not rely on our parents that our beliefs are lost and hopefully we make our own way.

In the western world, we never really hand ownership of our children's lives to them. Our kids grow up thinking they are an extension of us and consequently expect to share in what we have. The result is they never get a feeling of self and independence, and many people just find that all too difficult when they have to get started on their own life.

In some African cultures they actually take the boys aside, have a serious ritual, which often involves circumcision and hand them their lives! They have a similar ritual for girls. The closest western culture gets to this kind of ritual is a 21st birthday party and a haphazard handing of the "key to the door!"

As a recycled dad with a 14 year old daughter, my wife put a bag on her back at the age of 3 and sent her off to pre-school. Her mother made it very clear it was her life and she had to take ownership of herself and her possessions. That model continues today and she is now very clear about where she is going, what is expected and what is acceptable and so on.

In summary, farming families are the backbone of New Zealand agriculture. I can only salute the massive contribution they make to our rural and economic existence. We need to hand ownership of our kid's lives to them at an early age. We need to get our children to realise the decisions that they make are about them and not us. We need to be very careful about making open ended promises, especially about property and succession. We need to set clear boundaries around property ownership so we can take the land from one generation to the next but not make it an expectation for our children.

Families, and how to survive them is a key issue and interwoven into the fabric of our farming society.


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