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Investigative Solutions

Experts & Expert Advice
By Bill E. Branscum   ©2001

I don't claim to have any particular expertise with regard to interpersonal relationships or parenting issues, but I have things under control. When my children and I are in public, people often comment upon how well behaved they are, how much fun we appear to be having and how lucky I am to have them. Where exactly does one go when they need good advice? I personally would have no idea where to send them.

You cannot count on therapists and counselors; what credentials do they actually have? In Florida, a counselor can be just about anyone who wants to hang out a sign and I understand that this is true in most places. It seems sad that people who need help can be counseled by those with no legitimate claim to the knowledge, training, education or experience necessary to be helpful.

Nor can you count on your friends as they generally don't know the facts you won't share with them and they lack the expertise necessary to proffer advice if they did. Furthermore, people who have trashed their own lives, often seek to vindicate themselves and validate their failures by encouraging others to do the same. Whether they are friends of yours or not, don't seek the counsel of losers; losers tend to self-servedly create other losers.

Of course there are always plenty of "self help" books and talk show experts, but have you ever noticed that the experts who claim to know everything there is to know about child rearing and interpersonal relationships typically leave their children and significant others at home when they appear on TV? Why do I suspect that there is a reason for that?

One thing is clear to me. Children need their parents and the structure of a family unit no matter what the nouveaux liberal intellectuals have to say. It is incredible to me that the force behind the single most embarrassing example of family integrity I can think of can proclaim that, "It Takes a Village" and people will listen. I suppose she made a fortune on her book.

Apparently, there is a strong market for bovine excrement in this country and this market is met by self proclaimed experts who, understanding the realities associated with "the bottom line," propound and promote marketable agendas rather than encouraging hard work, integrity, responsibility and sacrifice.

How wonderfully seductive it must be to be told that your personal failures, and irresponsible behaviors, are justifiable and understandable. I suppose that making the liars and losers of the world feel good about themselves must be a lucrative business.

Frankly, I am not particularly impressed with the "system" either. I am eternally grateful that we are blessed with social services employees who work hard for little compensation, struggling to do the impossible with inadequate resources, but it looks to me like altogether too much money they could put to good use goes to pay "experts" who create cute little euphemisms to help us avoid calling things what they are.

A family in the throes of divorce is no more a "Family in Transition" than the Titanic was "Buoyancy Challenged." Spare me the "feel good" rhetoric and give the money that pays for it to Children Family Services, Child Support Enforcement or the Office of the Guardians Ad Litem.

However we got here, and whatever "expert intervention" we enjoyed (or suffered) along the way, we as single parents are the default captains of ships we cannot allow to sink as everything in the world we care about is at stake. Competent or not, fair weather or foul, we have an obligation to the crew we brought with us - a responsibility to do for them as best we can.

Unfortunately, there are no charts to guide us and help us steer clear of the rocks and shoals. Although we hear them a lot, the "I cannot afford to . . .," or "I haven't got time to . . .," excuses don't work for us; we come up with the money and we make the time. I cannot tell you how to deal with this other than to tell you what works for me.

On my ship, there are no excuses or recriminations. What could have been, or should have been, is no longer relevant. Don't get me wrong - I have had many failures in my life, I do care, and it troubles me, but allowing myself to ruminate upon the past is an exercise in futility as endless as it is ineffectual. I just don't have the time.

On my ship, I recognize that I have no right to happiness or any entitlement to dream. I have a course to hold which is my responsibility and I am accountable for the welfare of all souls aboard. When things go well, it's because I have a competent little crew and we work together; when things don't go so well, it's my fault, and my failure to correct.

On my ship, it's always my watch. I keep a firm grip on the tiller and a weather eye out for trouble on the horizon, steering by the lights as I see them and compensating as soon as I see we're off course.

On my ship, we have fun. I make sure that we enjoy ourselves because I know that our journey has no destination and we sail together for just a little while. I know that when all is said and done, it's all about the course we held and the events that transpired along the way as I taught these kids about responsibility and how to sail a ship.

On my ship, I keep my crew happy but I know what it is to feel alone. I am sad and disappointed that I find myself without the company of someone with whom I should be sharing this wonderful experience and it's a tragedy that hurts my heart. Sunset at Fiji, the Aurora Borealis and the clarity of the Southern Cross are no less beautiful in her absence, but it damn sure doesn't feel that way.

I cannot give you advice other than to exercise caution in accepting the advice of others. Don't be afraid to do things the way you think they should be done no matter what the experts say. Remember, the man who built the Ark was an amateur boat builder with no experience and everyone thought he was crazy; the Titanic was built by experts thought to be infallable.

Ask yourself what you could do better and do it. There's no reason to make it complicated; simply do what you know in your heart that you should, and do it the best that you can. Nobody could ever reasonably expect anything more from you than that.



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