This feels like a good place to start this little piece about being a conscious parent: “God has no grandchildren!” This axiom reminds me of the words of Kahlil Gibran that our children are sent from the Archer, they are ‘Life's longing for Itself...they come through us but not from us’.
Even though we refer to them as 'Our Children' (not to worry, I won't ever stop calling my children, 'my children'!), we recognize that the beings who have come through us are ultimately not our own. We cherish them, have ultimate love, reverence, and respect for them and have ultimate trust in the One to whom they really belong. We have been, we might say, divinely appointed to a Caretaker position in their lives, providing safeguard, support, guidance, supervision, nurture, and love. We are their ‘tour guides’ as they become accustomed to this planet and learn the ropes to use in the self-evolution of their souls.
My kids are pretty cool, even if I do say so myself, but if anyone congratulates me on how I have raised my children or commends me for the delightful individuals they are, an inner certainty has compelled me to reply, “Actually, they came with all their splendor. I was just fortunate enough to recognize that my part was to adore them, help them discover and then support their 'beingness', and then endeavor as much as possible to get out of the way of their expression of magnificence.” I just don't feel like I can take credit for how awesome they are! Well...maybe, a little!
What if every expectant mother received a visitation from Archangel Gabriel and was informed that she would give birth to a child ‘of the Most High’ and ‘the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God’ as Mary, mother of Jesus, was? How might each child then be raised? And with that kind of an upbringing, how might that child experience childhood, and how might this child ‘turn out’? What if we could see that we have all been entrusted with a sacred task? Hmmmm….
For thousands of years, Tibetans have reorganized their lives in preparation for the arrival of the newborn. They ready a welcoming reception for the baby, understanding the new arrival is bringing a gift. They anticipate the coming of one who may be a teacher and revere the soul and spirit that is to grace their family and community.
According to an etymology study of the word parenting, this noun/verb was first coined in 1959 and is often used as an adjective, e.g., parenting skills. The word parent has Latin, Old French, and Proto-Indo-European origins (can you tell I am a home-schooling mom?) and means to bring forth, give birth to, produce. Parenting refers to child-rearing: the experiences, skills, qualities, and responsibilities involved in being a parent and in teaching and caring for a child.
For the most part, the birth and reproduction aspects of parenting seem to be pretty much out of our hands, elegantly orchestrated by an unseen intelligence. (However, we’ll talk elsewhere about how, in fact, conscious parenting begins even before conception and continues through the birth process, etc.) But this illustrates the point I referred to earlier, that we can perhaps make our biggest contribution sometimes by getting out of the way and trusting this orchestrating intelligence even after the birth of our child. It seems to do a pretty good job.
Again, referring to Khalil Gibran's poem, we 'are the bow from which our children as living arrows are sent forth'.
But, how about the ‘bringing forth’ component of parenting? I liken our role in the ‘bringing forth’ to the way some plants orient to the sun, turning or growing towards the light (heliotropism). We can provide a heliotropic environment of love, support, guidance, and grace and we can do so consciously. Which leads us to the exploration of being a conscious parent. Following are some thoughts on what the characteristics of a conscious parent could include.
I don’t remember where I came across the words of Melody Beattie, but it has stayed with me, tenaciously…it was probably in her book ‘Codependent No More’ or another one of her books relating to codependency, because as I recall she was addressing the issue of boundaries with respect to our teenagers (more on that topic later!). What struck me, however, was her suggestion that when your teenager comes to you for a hug, let them be the first to release the hug. I have used that little bit of advice thusly:
A simple practice of staying present—hugging your child.
Countless times, I have been inclined to listen to mind chatter reminding me of all that I need to do and feel the urge to pull away. But I tell my mind to ‘hush’ and settle into the hug until my kids signal they are hugged up good.
Deliberate, intentional, conscious choosing to stay present and celebrating the expression of my child. And how sweet it is to hear often, ‘Mom, I need a hug!’ (Just now, while I was taking a little break from writing, my 14-year-old daughter asked for a hug and rhapsodized, "there's nothing that makes me feel better than a hug from you, Mom!")
Rob Bell, author of ‘Love Wins’ says something wonderful in his book: ‘My wife, Kristen, and I often talk about raising our kids in such a way that they have as little as possible to unlearn later on in life.’ I almost want to leave it at that and not add anything (!), but, I’ll just say that this means we have to have done and are continuing our work of self-love, forgiveness, and reining in our controlling, manipulative fearful ego.
There have been times when I have found that practicing this in situations with my children has been dramatically effective in defusing the energy of what could potentially be explosive.
Times when I have been on my last nerve, overwhelmed and overstimulated, the house has looked like a bomb went off, the kids have been persnickety…
I have mentally taken a step back and watched the scenario as if pretending that I am watching a movie. I look at my children as characters in this movie. I can remark to myself, oh, how cute they are...the messy house is just the set of this movie, the infighting is just the script...then, wow, this looks a lot like my home and family--I hope the mom in this movie sees how adorable and scrumptious these little ones are!
I can then participate in the fray with a dramatic shift in perception and energy. I have settled into non-attachment. I don't take things personally. I don’t get all entangled in the jumbled energy. I have no need to control the course of events. Nothing is a reflection on me. It's just a movie I'm watching!
For example, there are many distractions which may pull us away from our intention to hold onto our chosen path of seeing motherhood as sacred. Social life, spiritual community obligations, earning an income…but, the conscious mom catches herself, sometimes later rather than sooner, and says, whoa, what is important here? Why do I feel that for me to have value, I must be over-involved, I must have uber-recognition from others…?
These pursuits are not bad in and of themselves and are even vital for our soul and self-expression, but we can bring ourselves back to an awareness of the holy ground we embody as mother (parent). In so doing, we choose as part of our sadhana, spiritual practice, doing what it takes to evolve ourselves in the blessedness and messiness of motherhood (parenthood).Read here about a test of my willingness to stay true to my intentions and be an advocate of my daughter.
To be continued...Conscious Parenting starts with and even before pregnancy.
Finally, here are the words of Bruce Lipton, author of 'The Biology of Belief': "...remember that for human beings, the most potent growth promoter is not the fanciest school, the biggest toy or the highest paying job...Conscious parents and seers like Rumi knew that for human babies and adults the best growth promoter is love..."
Let me know your thoughts on being a conscious parent. I'd love to hear and share what you have to say.
Site updated March 5, 2020