I love this blog, which sends me daily inspiration: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/12/14/daily-prompt-19/ Today’s challenge: Write a letter to your mom. Tell her something you’ve always wanted to say, but haven’t been able to. I think instead of talking to MY mom, I want to talk about MOMMING in general today. Telling my mom, your mom, the mom in me, all the other mom’s I love, that stuff that I wish we could all hold steady in our hearts. And Dads — Parents in whatever form that happens to take.
See, there are fewer jobs which come with such baggage. Parents are maligned, held divine, credited with and blamed for such joy and misery. For me, it is the most meaningful and challenging part of my existence. And sometimes, the simplest. So let me send myself this straight forward set of operating instructions, for those times when I lose my way…
– Keep it simple
– You are a farmer, not a sculptor
– Be you
Keep it Simple.
Gorillas don’t read baby books or go to Parenting Support groups to fret over how to optimize their off-springs’ PQ (Primate quotient?), and yet the vast majority of infant gorillas manage to become functional members of the tribe. In this culture, we tend to over-think EVERYTHING, especially parenting. But the truth is, Except when something goes horribly awry (trauma, severe mental illness), we each have an innate drive to parent that in my experiences, is infinitely more wise than the experts. In the toughest moments of parenting, though you need to talk it over with your co-parent and other allies, You will generally find that if you sit quietly and breathe, what is needed is obvious.
The Dalai Lama talks about this a lot (Here’s an example). He points out that cultures don’t generally need to legislate parenting, that all religions hold space for reverence for the mother, that every one of us was at some point a newborn vulnerable to the care of a special adult. The truth of this commonality is MORE fundamental than religion, society, culture or government. It is a unifying principle where we all can meet.
So, breathe. Do what seems obvious. Feed it healthy food, provide it with an environment that is non-violent, water it occasionally, keep it clothed. Get the Maslow’s Hierarchy nailed, and the rest will fall into place, because, really…
You are a Farmer, Not a Sculptor.
We’ve all met the sculptor parent – who has an ideal about raising a child properly, which generally has more to do with the parent’s Self than the child’s. Don’t do that.
You were given this precious little seed. Observe carefully to see what it is, and then parent accordingly. If you got a cactus, quit over-watering it in an attempt to make it a bamboo. If you got an old soul walnut tree, recognize that at some point you’ll need to quit blocking its sun so it can grow bigger and stronger than you. Expose them to opportunities, then follow their bliss. Partly, they will gravitate towards what you teach them, and partly, if you get your ego out of the way long enough to let it happen, they will lead you to such joys and pleasures that you never could have found on your own. That’s the magical part. Let it happen. Support it. If you have any molding you feel inclined to do, work on yourself, not them. Which leads me to…
It has been my experience that the most conflicted parents I’ve met are the ones trying to do it someone else’s way. Read the books if you must, but keep reminding yourself that There are an infinite number of ways to raise a child. I’ve also seen, and even fell victim myself, to thinking that when we become parents, we somehow have to become some prototypical automaton that isn’t colorful, unique, quirky or flawed. Now there is a guaranteed way to mess up a kid! So laugh at yourself, yell when you need to, apologize when you make mistakes, share your dreams and disappointments — let them see YOU being the full human being that you are (duh, in an age appropriate way).
Their capacity to love you is so big, it is nearly impossible to contemplate… how dare you do anything but be your big messy lovable self for them? When you lop off pieces to be somehow acceptable in some story you’ve made up in your head, you are actually giving your kids LESS to love. How sad. And also how understandable, because, and here is the biggy:
Start by forgiving yourself. You are going to make mistakes and be imperfect and even that is going to help your child develop empathy, compassion and resilience. Forgive yourself.
Forgive your parents. Honestly, I promise, they did the best they could with what they have – it is in all of our DNA to do so. If your childhood sucked, that is undoubtedly the BEST that your flawed human parent could provide. Forgive them, so that your spirit is free to hold your child in the light of gratitude and abundance. Forgive them so that you get off that pity train and really can take a different path.
Forgive your co-parent. This bears repeating. Whether you live together, co-parent equally, have way out of balance custody, have the job of parenting completely solo – whatever your situation, the best way to support your child’s healthy relationship with their “other” (parent/memory) is for you to get to a healthy place about them too.
And finally, forgive your kid. I mean DAILY, live in a place of tolerance and compassion for their errors, mistakes, flaws & humanity in general. There will NEVER be another person your child will want acceptance from more than from you. After you have the basic daily feeding and watering down, make this your next and most important parenting accomplishment: To Love Them Whole-ly.