“Grown-ups never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.” -Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince
Imagine a baby shower where the guests bring a special kind of gift for the new parents. Not baby clothes. Not strollers or cribs. Not even a single book on child-rearing. The gifts for the new parents? Self-awareness, self-love and self-growth as a person, as well as a parent. The best parenting requires that we not only work to nurture and care for our children but that we nurture and care for ourselves.
Parenting is one of the-if not the-most challenging jobs on the planet. There is the awesome responsibility of raising and guiding another human being, of course. But it’s the daily interactions between children and parents that can require almost super-human amounts of flexibility, patience and awareness. All the experts and all the books aren’t there when it’s your toddler who won’t nap, your child who stole a valued toy from his best friend, your depressed teen who is desperately searching for answers, your adult child who can’t hold down a job.
Successful-even joyful-parenting is about listening to ourselves as well as listening to our children. It’s a hands-off approach that brings the focus back to what we are feeling and experiencing, so that we don’t unthinkingly rain anger and fear down upon our children. Being aware of ourselves helps us develop a strong “inner authority” or an intuitive sense of knowing what is best for us and our children in any moment. (And accepting that sometimes we really don’t know yet!)
“We guide (our children) not because they have basically shabby motives, but because they lack the one strength most of us have: awareness of the world,” write authors Hugh and Gayle Prather in their book, Spiritual Parenting: A Guide to Understanding and Nurturing the Heart in Your Child
Their book calls parenting a spiritual path that helps us grow as people while we are helping our children grow into adults. Our children challenge us and if we can truly listen, we can grow.
One of the first challenges is to understand that old patterns-often formed in our own childhoods-can often rule our behavior as parents right now. For example, if our own parents tried to fix everything that went wrong, we may try to do the same with our children. But our children may need us just to listen to their fears and not jump in with our own fears and try to “fix” it all. In the process, we allow our kids to make mistakes, and that means we can, too. And if we can forgive our kids and accept them in all their flawed glory, it can’t be too big a jump to do this for ourselves.
As author Joyce Maynard writes, “It’s not only children who grow. Parents do, too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. I can’t tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it myself.”
Author’s content used under license, © Claire Communications