Author Christine M Knight's Blog
Wednesday, October 10, 2018
Set between 1988-1990, In and Out of Step’s thesis picks-up on a period of significant change in Australian social and cultural history which mirror the wider western world. The novel reflects the popular perceptions of the era and explores reaction to changing roles and values, the relationship between generations, gender dynamics, and power in society through contrasting character perspectives.
The novel charts Cassie Sleight's (rhymes with slate) and her generation’s journeys in new and uncharted territory in their relationships: personal, social, and work after the second wave of the women’s movement.
Life forces the women in my novels to reassess what they are doing, how they are doing it, and to evaluate who they are and want to be.
Through Cassie’s experiences, the reader is entertained and provoked to consider the perceptions held and dualities of women’s roles in western society. That may suggest that this is a non-fiction work masquerading as fiction. However, this aspect is firmly set in the external world of the story and Cassie’s experiences.
In and Out of Step explores:
- how identity and relationships are shaped by the way gender operates and gender differences
- how place—geography, attitudes, values, and culture—shape people’s lives and actions
- the culture that supports and promotes sexual harassment in the workforce and social spheres
- changing perceptions of gender roles
- adapting to change in oneself and the wider world
- the personal, social, and workplace influences that contribute to change.
My novels—In and Out of Step, Life Song, Song Bird— portray the diverse and changing realities of women in the time the novels are set: 1980-1990, 1996-1998, 2000-2002. The stories are anchored in the social and historical context of each period.
Saturday, August 12, 2017
Twenty-two-year-old Mavis Mills first appears in my novel In and Out of Step. Outgoing, gregarious, and confident, Mavis is a significant secondary character in that novel. Mavis' story - a subplot - is used to provide contrast to and insight into Cassie Sleight's (the central character) journey.
At one point in the novel, effervescent Mavis is severely injured – physically, emotionally, and psychologically - by domestic violence and the fire of her partner’s rage. He also destroys her guitar and the copies of her original songs. Part of the subplot from In and Out of Step explores the context of the domestic violence and provides insight into the psychology of it. Excuses are not made.
At the start of Life Song, Mavis is twenty-eight-years-old and very different from the young woman who shone throughout most of In and Out of Step. She is the central character in Life Song. She has become subdued, distrustful of her own judgement, and an echo of her former self. Unexpectedly, she discovers she has a choice: continue to live a life tainted by domestic violence or seize the opportunity before her and try to rise above her circumstance and, like the phoenix bird, leave the ashes of her past life behind.
'Could she live the rest of her life as she'd been living. She couldn't, not now she'd glimpsed another world, fleeting though that vision had been.'
Life Song is not a cliche 'chic musician on the road' story and is definitely not a romance. It is about the woman Mavis becomes and the people who stand by her as she undergoes transformation – physical, psychological, and to an extent spiritual. She does not solve her problems in the arms of a man but makes the hard choices herself.
The drama comes from the tugs-of-war that Mavis has to work though. It is made all the harder because Mavis' heart is in conflict with itself. One person, no matter how strong, cannot win a tug-of-war alone. The same applies to Mavis.
Readers learn about the things that give Mavis strength and that enable her to boldly embrace the inevitable changes coming into her life as she becomes Nikki Mills, the Song Bird from Oz.
There are many kinds of wins in life, most of them personal rather than widely acclaimed. It's those personal 'brave heart' moments that define Mavis. Reader feedback through my publisher and website is that Life Song is a gratifying read.
As part of your journey in reading this blog, I suggest you listen to Move On. In my imagination, it is first sung by Mavis' support network, but ultimately the song becomes her personal mantra.
Australia is a diverse landscape and has diverse communities. Life Song gives readers an opportunity to spend time in some of those communities. The title alludes to the fact that each character's life has its own melody and when sung in concert become the symphony that is Life Song.
Life Song is one of four novels in The Keimera Series. Each novel is a standalone narrative and has the backstory woven into it. The Keimera Series is an opus.
Keimera does not in any way allude to chimera, a monstrous fire-breathing hybrid creature from Greek mythology.
If you would like to lend me your support so that I can produce more music from my novels, you can buy any of my songs from CD Baby. Each of my songs can be purchased for the very small price of $1.69. My music is also on iTunes and other major online music sellers as well.
Sunday, June 25, 2017
'The Flame' features in my novel ‘Song Bird’. In the novel, it is sung by rock legend Rick Brody who serenades Nikki Mills (the central character in the novel). In real life, it was sung by Funnie Williams and Thanapat Yarchartoen (aka Film). I produced the song through Karma Sound Studios in Thailand.
BACKSTORY TO 'THE FLAME' - The Singer or the Song?
In ‘Song Bird’ and its prequel 'Life Song', Nikki Mills - the Girl from Oz - is a survivor of domestic violence. Once an innocent, she believed the very convincing serenade of her first significant love, Terry Kikby. Long before Nikki met Rick, his song 'The Flame' resonated with her. She believed that Rick's songs really expressed his own ideas and values.
Having been at the top of the music industry for sixteen years, Rick finds his music is dropping in the charts. Defined by his 'bad boy' image, he has lost sight of his real self. Consequently, his music has lost its connection with his fan base. Interested in Nikki as a woman as much as in her skill as a lyricist, Rick collaborates with Nikki on a new album.
Flattered by Rick's interest in her and impressed by 'The Flame', Nikki embarks on a relationship with him. A subplot in the novel explores the ramifications of that decision. Can she help Rick find the heart that his music once had? Will Nikki be hurt or healed by the relationship with him? The answers are found in my novel 'Song Bird'.
Readers of this blog may also find the pop rock song 'Masque' and interesting insight into Rick and Nikki's relationship issues.
I currently have 8 songs on CD Baby and iTunes. You can help me raise the money to produce the rest of my songs by buying one or more of my songs at the very small price of $1.69 per song. They are on sale at CD Baby and iTunes. Online music streaming services such as Spotify and Deezer promote my music, but I only earn approximately one cent per one hundred streams.
Sunday, June 25, 2017
'Masque' features the vocal talents of Australians, Skye Elisabeth and Nic James. I am the composer and executive producer for all of my music. Although I am a musician, I no longer perform publicly but use talented session musicians.
I use music as part of my writing process when developing a novel as it allows me to explore character perspectives, challenges, and personal journeys.
My song ‘Masque’ evolved out of my exploration of Rick and Nikki’s relationship when developing 'Song Bird', the novel . The song helped me better understand rock legend Rick Brody, the impact of being a rock star on Rick's relationship with Nikki, and the core obstacles they faced. Rick Brody is one of four pivotal men in Nikki Mills' life.
The song has relevance for anyone who feels compelled to be what others expect the person to be rather than being true to self, something that is much easier said than done.
'Masque' also has relevance for a diverse number of people. For instance, I play many roles: wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, teacher, author, musician and so on. I understand how the expectations and demands of others put me under pressure not to let others down. In trying not to short-change others, it was so easy to forget about who I was separate from those roles and what my being real meant.
The context behind the song 'Masque'
In ‘Song Bird’, Rick Brody is charismatic rock star who has been living the cliché - sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. Like the Tinman from Oz, Rick is injured by his trade. For the Tinman, it was his axe. For Rick Brody, it was his status as a rock star and image of 'bad boy’. He became defined by those roles. Life became a masquerade.
In both cases, the Timan and Rick become manufactured men in want of heart. Rick’s preoccupation with living the cliché meant that his music lost its heart and the appeal that had drawn audiences to him as he rose to the pinnacle of the music industry.
By contrast, Nikki refused to sell out in order to achieve success. She was determined to get to the top on her own terms and to not be treated as a commodity in the industry.
At the Australian Recording Industry Awards, Rick asked his manager to connect him with Nikki after seeing her perform. Rick claimed his primary interest in Nikki was musical collaboration, but his libido and history of conquests shaped his reason for collaborating with her and definitely shaped the way he interacted with her.
Although Nikki pretended not to be attracted to Rick, she was flattered that he was ‘interested in her of all people. Unlike his fans, Nikki did not have an urge to flash her breasts, hand over her panties, or suggest a threesome.’ She maintained a mask of cool indifference and stayed work-focused throughout the early stages of their musical relationship. Consequently, Rick viewed Nikki as a challenge. Committed to the long game in winning her, he courted.
A survivor of domestic violence, Nikki was cautious about the men with whom she mixed. ‘Song Bird’ explores the ripple effect of her decision to work with Rick. Can she help Rick find the heart that his music once had? Can he become real with her? Will Nikki’s relationship with him injure her?
You can read more about 'Song Bird' here and on other pages at my website.
You can help me raise the money to produce the rest of my songs by buying one or more of my songs at the very small price of $1.69 per song. They are on sale at CD Baby and iTunes. The online music streaming services such as Spotify and Deezer promote my music, but I only earn approximately one cent per one hundred streams.
Note: As the novels are set in Australia, I use the British spelling system and language conventions. There are minor differences to the American system.
Saturday, May 20, 2017
'Sunshine Days' is the most recent of my songs to be released. It features Rachel Thorne (vocals) and Milo G (performer, arranger and producer). As with all of my music, I am the composer and executive producer. Although I am a musician, I no longer perform publicly but use talented session musicians.
I use music as part of my writing process when developing a novel as it allows me to explore character perspectives, challenges, and personal journeys.
'Sunshine Days' is an intimate song of disillusion, longing, and hope that is relevant to world-shaking events that generate fear as well as being a song about personal moments of disillusion, loss, and pain. Although the singer feels oppressed by her current circumstance, she does not seek escape into a fantasy land. She recognizes that life - past and future - had and can have golden moments even though the present is tainted by disillusion, isolation, and the pain associated with loss. The song is about facing reality and committing to reclaiming what has been lost.
'Sunshine Days' features in chapter 1 of my novel ’Life Song' and later in its sequel, 'Song Bird'.
Initially, it is sung by Mavis Mills (aka Nikki Mills – the girl from Oz). My songs 'Life Song' and 'Sunshine Days' provide the backstory for Mavis' choices and the motivation underpinning her narrative journey. She chooses to boldly travel down the road less traveled and is determined not to let trouble get the best of her. Easier said than done though.
Although music and a career in the music industry function as a portal into a better life for Mavis and her son, Dan, it also adds complexity to Mavis' life as she works to balance her personal needs and the demands she faces as a single parent.
When 'Sunshine Days' recurs in 'Song Bird', it is sung by Zoey Blake (a secondary character), the illegitimate daughter of Susie Blake and Max Ryan (rock musicians). Susie and Max had a passionate relationship until Susie fell pregnant. While Max supported Susie's right to choose abortion, he opposed her choice to have a baby. As a result, the couple broke up.
Zoey sings 'Sunshine Days' in her late teens. Having lost the innocence of her childhood and confronted by the knowledge that her biological father did not want her, Zoey struggles with her loss of innocent hope. In that context, 'Sunshine Days' is a turning point in Zoey's personal journey.
OVERVIEW OF MY NOVEL ‘LIFE SONG’
My novel 'Life Song' picks up Mavis' story six years after the end of 'In and Out of Step' in which Mavis was a significant secondary character.
There are many harrowing stories of violence against women but a lesser number of stories address how some women rise above the trauma and move on in life. 'Life Song' does the latter.
A character-driven novel, 'Life Song' explores the choices Mavis Mills makes as she balances competing demands and responsibilities with her desire to find an identity beyond motherhood. A survivor of domestic violence, Mavis discovers unexpectedly that she has a choice: accept her life as it is or try to rise above her circumstance, realize her potential, and make her nearly forgotten dreams become true.
The novel does not focus on the abuse – that is in the backstory - it traces the ramifications of it as Mavis strives to put her past behind her. The novel's uplifting plot is very much about the woman that Mavis becomes and the influences that shape her rather than being a novel about a ‘chic-musician on the road to fame story’.
In terms of its appeal, readers agree 'Life Song' is a blend of wry humour and vivid storytelling. The general feedback from readers is that the characters are memorable and inhabit the imagination long after the reading of the novel is finished.
OVERVIEW OF MY NOVEL ’SONG BIRD’
In 'Song Bird', Nikki (aka Mavis) has become an international singing sensation - the Girl from Oz. Determined not to be caged by the media circus, she travels down the golden road through a land of glitter and gloss, facing challenges on the way while struggling to leave the demons from her past behind. In ‘Song Bird’, Nikki continues to grow into the woman she wants to be, not the one others expect her to be. She forges ahead with the support of men, not because of them.
ONLINE SITES WHERE YOU CAN BUY THE SONG
You can help me raise the money to produce the rest of my songs by buying one or more of my songs at the very small price of $1.69 per song. They are on sale at CD Baby and iTunes. Online music streaming services such as Spotify and Deezer promote my music, but I only earn about one cent per one hundred plays.
Thursday, March 16, 2017
Over a steaming mug of coffee, we discussed the inspiration behind their current cabaret show Fifty Years Ago Today.
Cobargo Folk Festival commissioned the cabaret after Shortis and Simpson’s acclaimed festival performance about Eurovision and the context out of which it evolved.
John said, ‘That show was really an entertaining look at the history of Europe post World War 2 linked by bad songs.’
Fifty Years Ago Today marks the anniversary of the launch of the Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album in June 1967 in the northern hemisphere.
Apparently, the album’s release date in Australia was delayed until July 1967 because the British producers did not trust Australian printers to faithfully reproduce the elaborate artwork of the Sgt Peppers album cover. The covers were produced and printed in England and shipped here via the Suez Canal. Regrettably, the six-day Arab Israeli war broke out and so the shipment was detoured around the South African cape. The album was launched in Australia at the end of July.
The cabaret’s story line positions the Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album in the context of what was happening globally at the time. It also provides fascinating insights into the backstory of the album’s creation, dating back to the early 1960s when the Beatles were mop tops, in the heyday of swinging London.
John said, ‘You can’t tell the story of the Sgt Peppers album without showing the Beatles’ evolution from catchy pop rock songs to complex artful experiments in music.’
Sgt Peppers is the first Beatles’ album after they gave up touring. The album marks The Beatles’ arrival as recording artists instead or touring musicians. For instance, ‘Ringo’s drumming is more orchestral in its approach. McCartney’s bass work transitioned from simple bass lines that filled out the pop rock sound to complex, intricate bass countermelodies that actually featured on the Sgt Peppers album rather than being fill.’
Shortis and Simpson’s Fifty Years Ago Today incorporates humour and poignant stories as well as songs of different tempos and styles from that Beatles’ milestone album as well as songs by other famous musicians from that era.
I was fascinated to learn that the Beatles’ celebrated producer, George Martin, used his background in producing Peter Sellers’ Indian characters on comedy records to bring together Indian and orchestral musicians to produce George Harrison’s Within You Without You.
John said, ‘While the lyrics are hippy trippy, the music is quite extraordinary because it follows the traditional rhythms and scales of Indian music.’
Moya said, ‘It was a nightmare to learn!’
John admits to scoring the music into a computer software program and practicing to it every day for ages so that he could synchronize his keyboard part with the rhythms.
Another interesting aside is that, in celebration of the link between the Beatles and Peter Sellers, Moya sings the Sophia Loren and Peter Sellers’ hit Goodness Gracious Me in the cabaret as part of the side story to the Sgt Peppers album.
Fifty Years Ago Today was not designed as a nostalgic trip down memory lane, although people who lived through that era may relish the show as such. It provides insight into a seminal moment in music and world history when world music influenced the Beatles music not only in composition but also in performance.
As we talked, it struck me that the show was very much like a great meal: lavish, prepared with great care, nutritious and good for the soul, and an experience not easily forgotten. The cabaret utilises the rich harmonies of a large choir, the vocal skills of its musicians, and the rocking talent of a hot backing band. It has appeal for all ages. I also realised that Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album prepared audiences for the emergence of another musical phenomenon, Queen, masters of pomp-rock with its diverse rock styles and intricate vocal harmonies.
This cabaret should not be missed when the show comes to your part of the country.
© Christine M Knight
Friday, November 25, 2016
Recently, I wrote a blog about the restoration of The Carrington Inn. My article about the inn also appears in the District Bulletin's December issue. The District Bulletin reports on country living in the Palerang region. I feel it would be remiss if I did not also acknowledge the importance of Indigenous heritage as a side bar to the Carrington article.
Heritage places are a visible reminder of Australia’s history and identity. If they are neglected or demolished, then part of our history and identity is lost. When they are protected and restored, they add value and dimension to our community. This applies equally to the heritage represented by the traditional owners of the land. It is important to acknowledge that Indigenous heritage when promoting awareness of colonial heritage as it shows respect for Indigenous culture.Before European settlement, Indigenous people represented an unbroken culture that was inextricably linked to the land and history of the continent. That relationship and life as Indigenous people knew it changed drastically as a consequence of Dr Charles Throsby and Hamilton Hume's exploration of the region in 1820.
By the end of 1821, Europeans had settled the region. The provision of a mail service in 1837 formally made the settlement a town while the arrival of train services in 1885 resulted in the town becoming the hub of the region. Cobb and Co coaches transported travellers to far flung settlements.
During this period and into the twentieth century, Indigenous people experienced a history of exclusion, denial, and were silenced. Many Indigenous people many died as a result of white settlement (disease and conflict). Indigenous heritage is in the land, in sacred places, lore and values. By contrast, colonial heritage is in buildings and property and its laws.
To better appreciate the impact of the European arrival in Australia and related issues, click on The Dispossessed.
Sunday, November 20, 2016
Originally known as The Lord Carrington Hotel, the property was built between 1884-85. It was named after the newly appointed governor of NSW. When the governor retired, the inn became The Carrington Hotel.
In the 20th century, descendants of the Winters sold the property to Toni Dale who reverted the property to its original function from a domestic residence. It later changed hands until Richard bought it eight years ago.
As we walked through the half acre of man-made gardens' entrance to the Wintergarden complex, I was struck by their intrinsic naturalness and the patterns of dappled light. Richard said they are ‘one of the largest publicly accessible private gardens in the region.’ He credits the illusion of a much larger space to the use of meandering sinuous paths.
There are three distinct themed locations within the Wintergarden complex: The Tom Wills Tavern, The Empire Hall and Salons – fine dining, and Myee’s Tearoom. Myee is pronounced my. The tavern’s namesake and a local, Tom Wills was a leading Australian cricketer from 1856 and is said to be the founder of Australian Rules football. Heavy drinking was apparently part of the sport's culture at that time and purportedly played a role in his tragic death in 1880.
Maria Myee Gallagher, 1889-1967, was the granddaughter of the original owner, William Daniel Winter. ‘An educated woman of many talents, Maria Myee never married and lived in the hotel throughout her life.’ She was a skilled pianist and taught the piano as well as the sewing arts and painting to locals. She was also well-known for her charitable work in the town.The interview and tour began in Myee’s tearoom. Its décor, like the rest of the complex, ‘pays deference to the 19th century colonial Victorian nature of the Carrington Inn.’ An airy and serene space, the tearoom’s authentic hand-painted stencilled wallpaper, pale green wainscoting, slate floor, furnishings, and hanging baskets suggest a Victorian garden conservatory.
When I asked about the ideas underpinning the renovation process, Richard explained the choice before him. Restore the inn to look like the property as it had been in 1885 or restore it to reflect the Victorian era from 1885 but have modern restaurant equipment. For commercial reasons, he opted for the latter.
After much research, Richard and his team distilled the Victorian period to a single restoration intention: ‘allow modern-day patrons to appreciate the aspirational nature of the Victorian era’ and witness a different lifestyle.
The aspirational mood of the period is clearly visible in the style of ceilings in the tavern and the Empire Hall and Salons. The tavern’s patterned copper ceiling is reminiscent of Tudor ceilings and represents the revival of British styles during the Victorian era. The decorative tin ceiling in one of the salons is another popular architectural element from that period as are the subtly lit, rounded vaulted plaster ceilings in the Empire Hall.
The Victorian theme is evident in the use of decoratively etched glass mirrors, beautiful period-styled drapery, luxurious furnishings, dining settings, and décor accents. Thirty-three hand-painted artwork reproductions tell the colonial story, including artwork by Tom Roberts. In the tradition of the time, a picture of Queen Victoria dominates the Empire Hall.
The attention to authentic detail is also seen in the use of deeply embossed wall covering (Lincrusta) in the Empire Hall. Lincrusta was invented in Britain in 1877 by the same man who invented linoleum floor covering some years before.
Having visited many famous historic sites, I found The Carrington Inn as striking as places like Chatsworth House and Hampton Court in UK. Of course, The Carrington's pristine interior décor and the inn are much smaller in scale than those other historic UK properties.As Richard told the stories behind each room’s décor, I realised that he is more than the owner and operator of an enterprise that happens to exist in a heritage property. He is keenly aware of his custodial role in restoring, documenting, and protecting heritage.
As I left that afternoon, I realised that heritage places not only add dimension to the character of a community and its diversity but to its unique features of streetscapes as well.
Left to right: Mark Summers, General Manager; Edwina Fitzgerald, Accommodation Manager; Me, Innkeeper; Merili Pihlamäe, Venues Manager; and Andrew Stansbie, Executive Chef.
Monday, August 17, 2015
While we may chalk up this double standard to human nature, the tragedy in this dynamic involves more than mere ignorance; it can include children too. In recent decades, feminists and others seeking to have children without traditional family structure have argued that, with sperm donors and surrogacy, men have become redundant. Similarly, there are lobby groups arguing that women are equally redundant and that all that is needed is a loving parent. Also other lobby groups are promoting the myth that having children is a right.
No one has a right to have a child, but people have a natural and understandable desire to have children. Historically, the only people who could have children were those couples who were able to procreate. I’m sure readers are aware that not all of those people capable of procreating should have had children. Since the advent of IVF and surrogacy, the number of people capable of having children has increased. People who have to go the extra hard yards involved in 'having' a child demonstrate a high level of commitment to forming a family. But is that enough?
Is this discussion – what’s sufficient to raise kids – more about the narcissism of adults/would-be parents?
No, it is not automatically about narcissism, but perhaps it is about an unchallenged view that has been handed down over the generations. Remember the saying ‘Children should be seen and not heard’ – that saying encapsulates an adult perspective only - the desire to have a child. That perspective becomes narcissism when adults talk about children as if they are coloring books or mini versions of themselves with identical needs – clones. It ignores any consideration of what a child may want in terms of parents. In the current lobbying by special interest groups, children are lost in the mix.
What is needed to raise children?
Just to be clear, when we’re talking about raising a child we are referring to the conscious decisions involved in bringing a child up rather than a child growing up without adult direction and input.
Raising a child goes beyond the provision of the basics such as love, shelter, food, clothing and education. A focus on the welfare of the child and her/his needs has always been crucial and is even more so in the 21st century given we live in an increasingly challenging world.
You know that saying ‘It takes a community to raise a child? It’s so true. Whether that community is extended family, friends, supportive neighbours or single parent groups, it doesn’t matter as long as there is tag team approach to support parents as they wrestle with the issues of life and parenting. A tag team approach is important as it provides opportunities for parents to have respite from the daily, at times grinding, stresses of parenting. Respite enables all parents to retain perspective and to recharge emotional and psychological batteries. Respite is crucial to reducing depression in adults and in contributing to healthy emotional growth in children.
It also takes a community to raise a child because adults through their actions and interactions role model the various ways a person can be a woman or a man. They also model how people respond to the stressors in their lives - successfully and unsuccessfully. Children are discerning. They will often pick the behaviour that they see works. It is really important to talk about reactions to stress and what truly works and what only appears to work at the surface level.
Depending on your parental circumstance, you need to be aware of the stressors that your child may face due to your family structure, and you need to anticipate those stresses and have strategies in place to deal with them before they arise. Forewarned is forearmed. Ideally, you need to lay down the positive ground work that can defuse the impact of such situations before they arise.
There’s extensive research now that shows the variables that impact on children increase as the parental circumstance varies away from the traditional mother and father household. Single parents are a good example of the added stresses and challenges that a child has to navigate as well as the added challenges and pressures that the parent has to face and resolve. Similarly there are lobby groups in 2015 populated by children from same sex partnerships that reveal the challenges that children (irrespective of the child's sexuality) face in such family structures. Those challenges have less to do with the child's relationships with lesbian/gay parents (often reported as harmonious, warm, and caring) and more to do with backlash that the children faced in the brutal world of the playground.
Be aware that the world in which our children live and mix - at school and socially – is not one governed by political correctness. In the playground, children reflect the unguarded voiced views that parents express in the privacy of their homes. Think back to your own childhood. So the more a family structure varies from the traditional structure, the more challenges the child faces and the greater need for thoughtful adult intervention and support. Parents need to be aware of this and not be deceived by the myth that all they need to do is provide a loving home environment. Of course that is important but in itself it’s not enough. Children are not colouring books in which you impose your own coloured values.
Whether you like it or not, children learn that it takes a woman and a man to create a child. That knowledge sets up an expectation in children that they will have a parent of each gender. There’s extensive research to show that children separated from biological parents for whatever reason often feel driven to connect to and seek them out in adult years. Readers will be aware that even adopted children with fantastic adopted parents want to know their biological parents and often seek to forge some sort of bond with them.
Children also want what they perceive others to have and that they believe they should have. They don't want to be different even when they are in a loving non traditional supportive family structure. I explore this through Dan Mills' and Zoey Blake's subplots in both LIFE SONG and SONG BIRD.
Historically and for generations, there have been plenty of non-traditional family structures for a variety of reasons. For example, children raised by loving aunts or uncles or grandparents. What’s needed to raise healthy children is AWARENESS of the child’s needs from the child’s perspective and a willingness to address them to the child’s satisfaction. Good parenting involves achieving your happiness without it being at the expense of your child's happiness and well-being.
I’ve researched this subject matter extensively before writing LIFE SONG (https://youtu.be/dEioHGbnWiA) and SONG BIRD (https://youtu.be/x-vNrsKCYUY). In a subplot in those novels, this subject is explored from the different children's perspectives and from different family structures. When you read those novels, think about Dan, Zoey, Kate, and Shaun's views on this topic. Irrespective of the family structure, diverse role models are important as children learn how to interact and function with both genders through observation and experience. Children need to know there isn’t one mold and that diversity is acceptable.
It is absurd to claim, as many lobby groups have, that either gender is redundant. Women and men play important roles in children's lives beyond the role of procreation. Children and teenagers learn about life through observing and modeling the behaviour of others. Children and teens learn how to interact in a variety of settings and how to form relationships by observing people and seeing the reaction to behaviour. They learn how to form relationships with people from both genders, preferably functional ones, from observing the adults in their world. Children identify what is acceptable or unacceptable, what creates popularity or makes them a target. Research shows that children learn a huge amount about adults in conflict but need to learn more about how to constructively function and form relationships with a diverse range of people as well as how to successfully resolve conflict.
It’s important that parents remember the perspective of a child when they are dealing with situations that stress the parents. Children absorb parental stress even if the adult thinks it is hidden. Children read you. It’s hard I know, but irrespective of whatever you’re going through, the child’s needs have to be addressed as well especially so when the stress stems from the family structure. The unknown frightens children. It destabilizes them. So too does isolation from parents. Providing comfort to a child who is in conflict with a parent is not taking sides in an argument when that comfort assists the child to reconnect to the parent and resolve conflict.
When those stresses arise from conflict with your child, it is important to remember how you felt when you were a child and in conflict with your parent. Why? It re-frames your perspective and generates compassion. You see the conflict from both perspectives. That compassion can defuse the heat in conflict and get you to healthy resolutions faster.
Parents have so many distractions and demands on them nowadays that it’s easy for them to define their children’s needs from the parent’s perspective and forget that the children’s perspective on what they need from parents and extended family may be very different.
I’m not saying children should be placed at the centre of the parental universe and that parents should be subordinate to it. Such behaviour fosters the growth of narcissism. What is important is the continual effort to find a balance between competing needs and maintaining an ongoing dialogue with children about choices that affect family members and the consequences. The act of considering consequences and dialoguing about them with your children is what matters when raising children. It develops understanding. It role models critical thinking processes. When things don’t work out, it is crucial to openly dialogue about why.
In IN AND OUT OF STEP, my debut novel which is confronting at times, I explore the way parent role models and childhood experiences shape life behaviours and goals. Both Cassie Sleight (the central character ) and Mavis Mill's lives and the choices they make are directly impacted by the role models with far reaching consequences. Consider the dance video and how this subject is embedded in the choreography https://youtu.be/5HdLfeX6d78
So irrespective of family structure, adults who come into contact with children need to be aware that through action and lifestyle we are teaching children about how to function in life. We need to demonstrate a range of positive roles – how to be assertive rather than aggressive, how to be flexible and resilient rather than defeatist or a victim and so on. Importantly, we need to consider, scrutinize, and discuss with them the values actively and passively modeled by the world at large.
Another thing for parents to consider when raising children is the inter-generational transmission of attachment styles. Within the context of this discussion, attachment refers to bonds between parents and children. Research shows that people who received sensitive and well-balanced care as children find it easier to form secure attachments in adulthood. By contrast, people who received insensitive and indifferent parenting in childhood have greater difficulty in forming positive and secure adult relationships.That is not to say the latter can't form positive and secure relationships. They can, but it requires thoughtful behaviour, introspection, and a desire to be a better version of 'self' in all arenas. It is important to avoid the mentality of it never harmed me. It is also important to avoid being a helicopter parent who denies the child opportunities to play, explore, risk take, and experience the world within safe parameters.
Importantly, parents and adults who come into contact with children and teens need to model resilience. Getting back up again after life experiences have knocked you down is as important as providing a loving home environment. Raising strong children is not about wrapping them in cotton wool and isolating them from the world. Rather it is about demonstrating resilience when hardships occur and showing children how we recover from hardship and learn from it. We need to show children that we don't have to be defined by the circumstance that we are born into or that our choices have created, but that we can rise above those circumstances and become who we were meant to be. This message is central to the plot of 'Life Song' and its sequel 'Song Bird', available through Book Depository, Amazon, Powells, Barnes and Noble, and other major sellers.
How would you categorize the socio-political biases involved in this discussion?
It’s Life viewed through a lobby group’s lens, isn’t it? It’s a very narrow view driven by lobby groups’ desires rather than anyone’s rights. It is an approach of self-interest. Self-interest can become narcissism and ultimately results in injury to others.
I have concerns about any lobby group that reduces complex and important issues to a bumper sticker approach to it. That approach denies the perspectives of the multiple interests groups affected by an issue. That denial can result in injury to those groups denied a voice or an advocate. Some elements of those socio-political groups even resort to -ism statements and other derogatory terms to shut down objective discussion.
Does this criticism extend to “modern families,” which include parents from the LGBT community?
Good parenting is not shaped by or determined by anyone’s sexuality.
I’m not passing a negative judgment on anyone which is what is implied by the word criticism. Rather, I’m initiating a discussion on issues about raising children and good parenting. My message is the same regardless of your audience’s sexuality and family structure.
Good parenting is determined by the parents’ commitment and willingness to consider the needs of children and a willingness to weigh up parental and children's needs and seek balance. As I said before, the more your family structure differs from the traditional model, the more variables are introduced and the more strategies you need when raising your children. Don't make the mistake of parenting by remote control. By that I mean unthinkingly repeating parent and adult behaviours that you observed as a child. Be discerning. Select from the battery of positive strategies and avoid repeating negative parental behaviours that you learned from your parents. When you react unthinkingly in any situation with children, discuss your reaction and the consequences with the children concerned and discuss other ways the situation could have played out.
The key to raising a healthy child is to help your child feel competent and confident as she or he navigates life, its stresses and its challenges. Teach your children resilience by focusing them on the positive things in life when they are dealing with hardship. Provide them strategies to deal with hardship and strife. Be positive that life can get better. Encourage them to be mindful of the way they live life and of the values that underpin the way we live. Foster empathy. Teach them to forgive themselves when they make significant life mistakes, to learn from those mistakes, and to move onto better days. Be involved in your children's lives; you only have them for a short time and that time passes all too quickly.
© Christine M Knight
All of Christine M Knight's novels are available on order through major book stores and online sellers. Her paperback novels RRP: A$24.99 and her eBooks RRP: A$11.99.
Wednesday, August 12, 2015
The bad role models that have the greatest impact on a child, tween, or teen are those people in our immediate world – not celebrities. I’m referring to the adults who act badly and who model questionable values and injurious ways of living. For instance, you might know someone who behaves badly – drinks too much, is aggressive rather than assertive, is defensive rather than open to constructive discussion, assumes the role of victim when faced with conflict and as a result escalates the conflict and so on.
There are values embedded in everything we say and do and don’t say and don’t do. If you don’t talk to your children about the consequences of bad behaviour, you are unintentionally condoning it. This is the same as saying the value you walk past is the value you accept and reinforce. When adults do not challenge assumptions underlying questionable behaviour, there is a genuine risk that children will adopt and mirror that behaviour.
The community that you live in and the values of the people in it have an even stronger influence on your child than any one person. Nowadays, that community includes images and values sold to young people through the entertainment industry.
The difficulty is having any discussion about bad behaviour is the risk of appearing wowserish (a puritanical or censorious person). To avoid being cast as such, ask your child, tween or teen what they thought of the bad behaviour. Get them to reflect and think through to the effect on them as well as others. Ask them if they thought another type of action/reaction was possible in that situation. Develop your young person's ability to be discerning.
A proven successful strategy when attempting a discussion is for you to put the bad behavior in an event in context. If that person is also a celebrity, it’s important to also discuss the way the event is covered in the media. Bad behavior is an opportunity to explain that, yes, people mess up, but it's how we deal with the aftermath that matters. Discuss the aftermath as well as what choices the person faced before the person messed up.
Of real concern to me is the Culture of the Looking Glass perpetuated by the mass media. For commercial reasons, the mass media sell women and girls on the importance of being a particular shape, size, age, and on the need to look sexy. We are bombarded by those images on a daily basis. They have become subliminal messages that encourage inadequacy and the lowering of self-esteem in order to make money and that detract from what really matters – a person’s inner qualities.
So we need to challenge and discuss with our children the images being sold to us on a daily basis. We should speak up and protest against objectification of women and unrealistic portrayals of them and instead reinforce the value in diversity as well as women’s traits, qualities, and achievements.
I recommend http://theresilienceproject.com.au/corporate
© Christine M Knight