They say that becoming a parent should come with an owner’s manual.
But what if we have something better? What if we actually have perfect guidance available to us in every moment, and it’s completely unique to the child and situation?
My children are now grown – my son is 21 and my daughter is 19. But I still remember staring at each of their little faces when they were born and being in complete awe that they had been “given” to me to raise and be part of my life.
With this responsibility came the great fear – what if I screwed up? What if I said the wrong thing? What if I did the wrong thing? What if I transferred my issues and challenges onto them? What if they would be lying on a psychologist’s couch one day saying, “Well it’s because my mom did this and that….”. These fears dominated my thoughts in their early years. So, I did everything I thought was “right” so that I would never make a single mistake.
But, in truth, I became extremely exhausted. I did everything the books said. I did everything my mind said to do. I tried so hard… But this didn’t stop my son from being colicky for 11 months… And going without sleep for 11 months definitely makes you need to rely on something other than your brain to make any kind of decision.
But then I had a health crisis (breast lumps) that took me down a path of healing that included how I listened for guidance in every aspect of my life. And my relationship with my children changed completely and to this day, we never had a single issue – even through their teenage years. (In fact, many of their teenage friends even came to live with us when things got tough at home for them).
And the core of my new parenting model (and life) was constant listening inside – living as a mystic.
What is a Mystic?
In every religion, there are mystics. These are the people who desire a direct experience of God (please insert whatever word makes sense to you here. I like the term God, but it definitely means different things to different people, so please substitute what feels right to you.)
Mystics walk through life constantly listening. They listen inside as to what path to take in big decisions. They listen inside for the small things. They are literally in “constant communion”.
This is the incredible gift that we can apply to parenting.
Imagine that no matter what came up with our children – regardless of whether they were six months, nine years old, eighteen or forty-five – that we could simply listen inside and know what the next step was.
Imagine having this kind of surety as a parent? Knowing that each step you’re taking is perfect.
This is truly blissful parenting.
Becoming a Mystic:
We all are mystics at our core. It is a built-in ability. It is our design. We have an inner navigation system that called many things. Some call it “maternal instinct”, gut feeling, or just something that you can’t ignore. You simply have to do it.
For me, during my illness, the instructions were clear:
- Ask a question
- Listen for an answer
- Take action
Each of these steps posed it’s own challenges. Even posing the question is an interesting one. What is my true question? What is my true intention here? This is important since it is the foundation of the answer you will receive.
And then to listen for the answer… To find clear direction in the myriad of voices in our head. Hmmm… This is a great challenge. This is where everything that we learn in meditation and yoga are so helpful – to help quiet the “monkey mind” so that we can hear true guidance. Personally, my wise voice inside is always the quietest. It’s like there is a room full of people in my mind arguing but my wise voice just sits quietly in the corner whispering the same message over and over again. He never participates in the argument. He just repeats and smiles.
And then to take action. This is often the most challenging because you can’t always justify your choice and most people don’t like “the little voice in my head said it was right”. This is where we truly rely on our own wisdom and personal connection and “take the leap of faith”. It is definitely a challenge in the beginning. But with each time, it truly gets easier and easier.
Applying this to Parenting:
1) Be Clear and Conscious of Our Own Issues:
We all have “stuff”. We are all working through lifetimes of programming and challenges whether it’s our own upbringing and traumas from this lifetime or perhaps karma or the “sins of the forefathers”. Regardless of where they come from, we are not blank slates. We have issues.
The important thing is to do this inner work. We need to be at least conscious of what we are working on even if we haven’t fully solved and healed from all of it. This way, when we ask for guidance with our children, we will be able to clearly ask the question, hear the correct answer and take action.
For example, if we are struggling with self-worth, then it might be very important to us that our children do well in sports, school and look right to the community. So, we might have an issue with our child because they aren’t trying hard enough in school or on the team or that they have purple hair. But whose issue is this really? Is it the child’s issue at all? Or is it our own fear of looking like a “bad” parent?
If we had very dominating or abusive parents, we might become controlling parents as well. We might do it unconsciously because we don’t know any better. And we might also do it from a deep-down need to control the world around us because we felt so out-of-control growing up.
If we had very distant parents, we could be very distant ourselves because it feels normal. Or we could become clingy and co-dependent with our children.
And while we are working with these personal issues, we want to be extremely kind with ourselves – not only because we will heal faster, but if these issues arise in our children, we will be able to be compassionate with them as well.
2) Ask the Right Questions:
In the previous example where we are struggling with personal self-worth, we might ask the question, “How do I get my child to try harder in school?” But this only reflects our own projection that the child must be an A-student.
A different question might be “Is there anything I can do to help make my child’s school experience a positive one?Or perhaps the question is “Is it in my child’s best interest to continue playing this sport? Is there something else that he would be passionate about?”
Or in the controlling example, we might ask the question, “How do I get my child to obey me?”. But this only reinforces our own need to control others. Instead we might ask “How do I create trust between us?”.
3) Be Open to Different Solutions for Each Child:
A wise person once said, “Before I had children, I had six theories on raising children. Now I have six kids and no theories.”
My first child loved to sleep in bed with us – plus he was colicky, so this gave me a chance to sleep a little bit. So, I decided that I was definitely a “family-bed” type of parent. I thought it was the perfect way to parent.
But then my daughter was born. She wasn’t colicky at all – she was one of those babies who just laid there and cooed and was so happy. But apparently my “family-bed” idea wasn’t her idea. And by the time she was two weeks old, she was already stretching her little arms out wanting her own space. I was not only confused because this didn’t go along with what I believed that I believed. But how could she not want to sleep with us? It actually hit my own self-loving issues. Fascinating to look back on now.
And so, I moved this little babe to her own crib in her own room and she was blissfully happy. My son would have screamed. But she didn’t. She preferred it. Is she more distant than her brother now? Did this indicate a difference in their personalities? Nope. They are both loving and close. But asked very different things of me as a mother along the way.
4) Be Vulnerable:
This is especially important as our children become able to form thoughts of their own – and especially in the teenage years. We have a tendency to always have to have the answers and appear strong and all-knowing to our children. And this, when our children are very small can create great safety and security. But as our children become able to have their own thoughts and desires, being too sure all of the time can definitely lead to incredibly rocky teenage years as our children are becoming adults.
My kids now joke about having to “come to the couch” with me. If they were having struggles, I would say, “Let’s go sit on the couch.” All this meant was that I didn’t really know what was at the root of their issue and I definitely didn’t know how to help them.
So we would just sit and talk. And if I didn’t know what to say, I would listen for guidance. My question would be “What can I say to help them open up?” and then the words would come. And then maybe the answer would come as well that I could share something with them. Or maybe I would get a picture in my mind of us going for a walk or making cookies. And so we would do that.
But I was always open that I didn’t really know how to help them. But that we could chat about it and see what came. And maybe nothing came. Maybe we walked away from the couch agreeing that we didn’t really have a solution at all. But maybe we would tomorrow.
My kids always joked that I never punished them for anything but that they DID have to sit on the couch which was like torture sometimes! But my daughter recently told me that it was the best thing because it taught them how to process their emotions. She said that most of her friends were simply sent to their rooms if they acted out – thus teaching them that their emotions and what they were going through wasn’t important and should be ignored. But that now she appreciated kind of being forced to look at the issues as they came up.
Mystical Growth Through Parenting
Being a parent is one of our greatest opportunities for true spiritual growth.
Having children asks us to face and heal our own issues, dig deep for wiser guidance, and children provide us with joy and love that is absolutely unparalleled anywhere else.
Being aware of the fact that WE TOO are growing as we parent our children takes the pressure off of our children to be perfect (because who wants to be perfect?). Suddenly, each issue that arises in the home has a broader scope. Is this part of MY journey? Is it only my child’s? Is it a combination?
Our desire to create the perfect foundation for our children’s lives gives us incentive like no other to truly do our work and be healthy, conscious and truly happy ourselves.
The very act of parenting asks us to be mystics – with our children and in our whole lives.
Kahlil Gilbran – On Children
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.