Brand building through storytelling

The boy who called a truce where adults made nothing but trouble

I’ve been cheering for a boy in Ontario, just turned 18, who has achieved what battalions of lawyers and child welfare experts could not. He brokered a peace in his conflict-ravaged family, torn for the past eight years by the implacable fury of his parents’ divorce. He is publicly known by his initials, P.F., to protect his privacy and the family’s. But I’m betting we’ll be hearing his name in years to come. Few so-called grownups have the courage, the vision and the sheer good sense that this young man has already proven in the face of dispiriting odds.

P.F. has two younger brothers, ages 12 and 14, for whom a judge had ordered deprogramming therapy on the grounds that one parent had turned them against the other. The case made “parental alienation syndrome” a cause c?l?bre. Distrustful and despairing, the boys refused the therapy. Their intransigence landed them first in a psychiatric hospital, then in a group home. P.F. came to their rescue. In a stunning display of leadership, he convinced the court to let him seek custody of his brothers. It was going to be a struggle for a teen to raise two boys on welfare, with supplementary support payments from their parents. But if he didn’t rise to the challenge, he would witness his brothers’ destruction by the wrath of Mom and Dad.

Did P.F. shame his parents into opening their barricaded minds? Or, to put it more positively, did he inspire them? He is, after all, their firstborn and a tribute to them both, as well as to the long-forgotten, grievously mutilated love that brought him into the world.

However it happened, the story ended well. The mother, to whom P.F. could barely speak, invited him for a birthday dinner at her home. They talked the night away. “We weren’t jumping at each other’s throats,” said P.F. in an interview with The Globe and Mail. “The idea occurred to us that we might be able to work this out with each other.” Within days they had done just that. The family and the lawyers held an emotionally charged meeting (tears were shed) in which, for a change, the interests of the children trumped the agendas of parents and the pet theories of professionals. Everyone agreed that all three boys will live with their mother, but she will pay for therapy to heal the family and affirm the role of both parents in the lives of their children. “My dad came up and shook my mom’s hand,” said P.F. “That was something I hadn’t seen in a very long time.”

This story moves me on a number of levels. It proves that no matter how hostile and hopeless things may seem in a family, one member’s commitment to change can have profound repercussions. It reminds me that peoples and countries, so often mired in ancient conflict, can also be nudged toward compromise. And it shows that teens, who are widely dissed as gossip-crazed airheads, may in fact have much to teach adults. The way I see it, growing up is not about turning 21 or 35 or 50. It’s about assembling the emotional tools for solving grown-up problems. That’s what P.F. has done at 18. I can’t help but wonder where this young man is headed. How about the Middle East?


Posted by Rona

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