The reasons for relapsing, “Ah because I take my eye off the ball. “I don’t really believe that I am an addict. I think I just had a bad time. I got into stupid habits. I met some stupid people. I did some stupid things.” No, sorry, not true. The process of coming to the terms of the fact that I am an addict is fundamental. If I think it has to do with my mother, my job, the place I live, the influence of other people, I’m dead in the water. All those things have relevance but nothing like the relevance of the fact that my name is Robert and I am an addict. That is the crucial acceptance.
So, with teenagers they will inevitably have peer pressure. It is the greatest peer pressure time of all when one’s a teenager because the purpose of teenagers is to kick the boundaries, to push them down all together or certainly press them, to challenge parents, to challenge orthodoxy, to challenge the government, to challenge everything. That is the purpose of being a teenager to try to become an individual rather than simply an offshoot of one’s parents or alternatively, you know, a unit of society.
What a terrible fate, to just be another unit in some grand plan. So I’m for teenagers, I’m for the rebellion. I rebelled plenty in my own time. My children rebelled and guess what? Their children will rebel against them. I’m looking forward to that.
I look back at my own parenting with horror. [Real nursing unclear] what a poor parent I was. And I think probably we all do that. We look back and say, “Oh, I could have done that better.” “I could have been more understanding.” “I could have spent more time.” “I could have…I could have… I could have.” We do that and it’s quite right that we should and we can make amends.
I asked my younger son who lives in Australia, what sort of a father I’ve been and he said, “I’ve got no idea dad. You were never there.” Ouch, ouch that hurts. That hurts.
Nowadays, I do the best I can to do whatever he asks me to do. I went over to see him in Australia for a week in February. I left on the Sunday evening and I was back in my office at work on Monday of the week after. You tried that? That is heavy going. But of course I did that. It was his daughters sixteenth birthday and it was important. I went to see Henry as well. I want to put something back for what I didn’t do as a parent when they were young. That’s perfectly reasonable, that’s what we need to do.
But how did they behave towards me at that time, not very well. That is their right and do as children. I don’t want obedient children; I want healthy children and healthy children rebel. I really do not want this place to be run on strict rules. I want patients to rebel to say, “I don’t believe you Robert. I think what you just said is a load of rubbish.” I’ve heard that said to me twice today. Well it’s early [0:04:16.7 unclear] what’s the time? Here we go. Only two by this time?
I hope for that. I want people to have their own commitment, not to do something simply because I say it or the staff says it or because their parents say it or whatever. Now that’s very difficult for parents to allow our children to individuate; to be themselves and to make their mistakes. That is very difficult for parents to allow children to make mistakes and learn from them.
But look at the opposite. Supposing our children only do what we tell them to do, they’re all the time they’re being obedient, well I promise you it doesn’t last. There will come a time when it all falls apart. Well, I’d rather it fell apart in adolescence than when they’re thirty or forty. A rebel without a cause aged forty-five. It’s not going to be a terribly good husband or a wife or parent or whatever.
Let’s rejoice that our children rebel at the right time. Let them make their mistakes. Let them take the risk. Let them get a bit hurt at times.
Now, with very young children there are some things that we need to train them in, we say, “Hot, hot hot.” We don’t want a young child to put a hand on a hot plate and get burnt. So we have to train our children at any age to some extent, to be protected against things that are going to damage them. At an older age you’d say, “Do please practice safe sex because otherwise you’re going to get all sorts of nasty illnesses. I can’t stop you, you know, grabbing a bird and doing whatever but please, please, please use safe sex.” We can say that. We can say, “Please don’t use drugs.” Of course all parents say that. Even addicted parents say that. “Don’t do as I do. Do as I say.” It’s the classic statement of parenthood.
And what do our children do? They do what they’re going to do? And that is very painful. We think we’re being bad parents if we don’t protect them against that, we’re not. Why should we be bad parents if we try to protect them too much? Because we’re not allowing them, their own individuation, their own capacity to learn from their experience, their own capacity to move on rather than stay stuck in dependency.