One morning, my daughter shook me from sleep with great excitement. “The fairy has left you an amazing present,” she whispered. “See what the tooth fairy left you!”I reached under the pillow and found a one dollar note, torn down the middle in exactly half. Said my daughter, “The fairy left half a dollar for you, and the other half is under daddys pillow.”
I was speechless. Simultaneously I found myself in a dilemma. All of those messages about “money doesnt grow on trees” and how important it was for my daughter to learn the value of currency came flooding into my mind. Should I use this opportunity to teach her about not wasting money, explaining to her that a dollar note torn in half is worthless?
I realized that this was a moment in which how I responded could make or break my childs spirit. Thankfully I chose to shelve the lesson and tell her how proud I was of her willingness to be so generous with her one and only dollar. As I thanked the fairy for her big-heartedness and her acute sense of fairness in giving both daddy and myself an equal share, my daughters eyes responded with a sparkle bright enough to illumine the bedroom.
You Are Raising a Spirit Throbbing with Its Own Signature
Parenthood affords many occasions in which we find ourselves in a battle between our mind and our heart, which makes raising a child is akin to walking a tightrope. A single misplaced response can shrivel a childs spirit, whereas the right comment can encourage them to soar. In each moment, we can choose to make or break, foster or cause to freeze up.
When our children are just being themselves, they are unconcerned about the things we parents so often obsess over. How things look to other people, achievement, getting ahead-none of these issues that preoccupy adults are a childs agenda. Instead of engaging the world in an anxious mental state, children tend to plunge head first into the experience of life, willing to risk all.
The morning the fairy visited my bedroom, my daughter wasnt thinking about either the value of money or the egoic issue of whether I would be impressed she had shared her dollar. Neither was she worried she might be waking me too early. She was simply being her wonderfully creative self, joyously expressing her generosity and delighting in her parents discovery that the fairy had visited us for a change.
As a parent, I repeatedly find myself presented with opportunities to respond to my daughter as if she were a real person like myself, with the full range of feelings I experience-the same longing, hope, excitement, imagination, ingenuity, sense of wonder, and capacity for delight. Yet like many parents, I tend to become so caught up in my own agenda that I often miss the opportunity afforded by these moments. I find myself so conditioned to sermonize, so oriented to teaching, that I am often insensitive to the wondrous ways in which my child reveals her uniqueness, showing us shes a being unlike any other who has ever walked this planet.
When you parent, its crucial you realize you arent raising a “mini me,” but a spirit throbbing with its own signature. For this reason, its important to separate who you are from who each of your children is. Children arent ours to possess or own in any way. When we know this in the depths of our soul, we tailor our raising of them to their needs, rather than molding them to fit our needs.
Instead of meeting the individual needs of our children, we tend to project our own ideas and expectations onto them. Even when we have the best intentions of encouraging our children to be true to themselves, most of us unwittingly fall into the trap of imposing our agenda on them. Consequently the parent-child relationship frequently deadens a childs spirit instead of enlivening it. This is a key reason so many of our children grow up troubled and in many cases plagued by dysfunction.
We each enter the parenting journey with visions of what it will be. For the most part these visions are fantasies. We hold beliefs, values, and assumptions we have never examined. Many of us dont even see a reason to question our ideas because we believe we are “right” and have nothing to rethink. Based on our unexamined worldview, we unknowingly lay down rigid expectations of how our children ought to express themselves. We dont realize that through our imposition of our ways on our offspring, we constrain their spirit.
For instance, if we are super-successful at what we do, we are likely to expect our children to be super-successful also. If we are artistic, we may seek to push our children to be artistic. If we were an academic wizard in school, we tend to carry a torch for our children to be brilliant. If we didnt do well academically and have struggled in life as a result, we perhaps live in fear that our children will turn out like us, which causes us to do everything in our power to ward off such a possibility.
We want what we consider to be “best” for our children, but in seeking to bring this about, we can easily forget that the most important issue is their right to be their own person and lead their own life in accord with their unique spirit.
Children inhabit a world of “it is,” not a world of “it isnt.” They come to us with their being brimming with potential. Each of our children has their own particular destiny to live out-their own karma, if you like. Because children carry a blueprint within them, they are often already in touch with who they are and what they want to be in the world. We are chosen as their parents to help them actualize this. The trouble is that if we dont pay close attention to them, we rob them of their right to live out their destiny. We end up imposing on them our own vision for them, rewriting their spiritual purpose according to our whims.
Its no surprise we fail to tune into our childrens essence. How can we listen to them, when so many of us barely listen to ourselves? How can we feel their spirit and hear the beat of their heart if we cant do this in our own life? When we as parents have lost our inner compass, is it any wonder so many children grow up directionless, disconnected, and discouraged? By losing contact with our inner world, we cripple our ability to parent from our essential being in the way conscious parenting requires.