My tongue is in my hand…

Love your self, change the world: My parenting manifesto

Posted on: October 2, 2008

The following is directed at parents, but it can apply for anyone if you interchange the parent/child relationship with a more general people/others relationship.

People talk about how, to be in a healthy relationship, both partners have to be a “whole” person individuallylly.  Well, I think people overlook that this is an extremely important idea for parents.  Parents need to take care of themselves enough physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, socially, and whatever other -lly you can think of so that they can in turn handle the stresses and challenges of parenting while developing healthy relationships with their children and modeling for them how to be healthy people overall and how to have healthy relationships.  Your first relationships are the ones you have with people in your family, so these family relationships are the foundations of all other relationships.

Parents have power, so much power.  I think overall, parents don’t acknowledge this the way we should.  And too often I think the focus is on doing things the right way, or just making sure your bases are covered.  DSS (Department of Social Services) parenting as I like to call it.  Kids fed, clothed, doctored, schooled, and told to go play while the parents maneuver their way through the day to day.  But, DSS parenting and love itself is not enough and is a lousy implementation of the powerful possibilities that parents have in their children’s life.  Example trumps love in parenting.  An alcoholic parent can love their kid but be a horrible example both in the way they live and in the way they show love.  An overstressed parent can love their kids and still leave them starving for more because the parent is starving for more.  So, the first responsibility of the parent is their self.  Their inner arena that houses everything their children need and crave and everything the parent them self needs and craves. A parent can, in seeking wholeness, share it and the journey towards it with their children, educating and empowering their children through this journey.

This seeking is of course not something that should take over the practical and functional roles of parenting, but instead should complement and supplement.  DSS parenting guidelines do serve a purpose here.  You know, you’ve got to feed and clothe and doctor and educate your children.  And love them, of course, but do this too: Be a person; a real, authentic, multifaceted, emotional, social, spiritual, intellectual person who is not stagnant, but active and open in growing as a person and a parent and managing their self.

Of course, in this is the inherent understanding that the parent is not a finished product, but a person with flaws and goals and dreams and desires who is doing their very best to improve and achieve in their life while caring and providing for their children.  The question is though, how are parents doing this and how is it affecting children and how can it be a powerfully positive thing for both the children and the parent?

I think it’s all about examples. What kind of model you do want to be for your children?  What are you teaching children if you teach them that being an adult means you’ve got it all figured out?  You are teaching them a BIG FAT LIE.  What are you teaching children when you neglect your self on a regular basis (not a short term act of sacrifice, but neglect) so that you can take care of material things?  You are teaching them that self is not important; yours, theirs, and/or others and encouraging placing materials over people.  What are you teaching your children if you hide flaws and mistakes?  You are teaching your children that it’s not okay to mess up and are encouraging an atmosphere of inauthenticity and unrealistic expectations.  What are you teaching children when you gloss over emotions (your own, theirs, or others) in an attempt to keep things light or smooth?  You are teaching them that it’s not okay to feel what you feel or to express it and that it makes things easier if you keep it to yourself as well as teaching them that you are not a safe place to go with emotional needs or concerns- so you can bet your bottom dollar they will find it somewhere else.  It goes on and on, obviously.

But what if instead of being right and worldly and flawless and flat, parents were more? Not the standard loving, giving, sacrificial more that is common parent territory, but more within our self kind of more?  I say it would catapult our relationships with our children and all relationships related to them because the loving, giving, sacrificial more can only as abundant and authentic as the well it is drawn from and I think far too often, these wells are shallow and dry because people aren’t sure how to tap into these inner wells and keep them filled.  So parents need to be active in delving in and seeking out, creating, and caring for these calm deep waters within from which love is drawn and distributed.

Being a mindful person serves your children because you are present with them, not thinking about any other concerns and this feeds their need for attention, and is an example of love which cultivates feelings of safety and confidence. Being a healthy person serves your children because it enables you to really take part in their life instead of sitting them aside while you get yourself (or hold yourself) together.  Being a content person serves your children because you aren’t consumed with negativity that shortens your patience and squelches your ability to connect in a meaningful way or to have fun engaging in child-like ways.  Being a conscientious person, who is able to think of others because you have first taken care of your self and addressed your own needs and is not waiting or seeking this elsewhere, serves your children because they see that there is a bigger world that they are part of and this encourages respect and wonder.  Being a loved person (as in loving yourself) serves your children because it allows you to share love with a fullness that only comes from unbridled giving that happens when you know how to cultivate it within yourself.  Being a growing person serves your children because it shows them that change is natural and part of life that whether exciting or scary, is manageable and shows that opportunities are abundant throughout life (not just in youth) as well as showing them that you acknowledge that you can improve and are not flawless.  Being a person constantly seeking peace and harmony in your life serves your children because when children have a safe place, they can rest and restore their spirit and can in turn be more capable of managing whatever challenges they will face.  Being a  person who works to cultivate joy and fellowship with others serves your children as they will begin to understand positive interactions and have examples of ways to interact positively with others and build around them a community of mutual acceptance and enjoyment which can serve as a home base for them as they venture further and further out into the world.

All of these things are active and engaging and provide children with examples of ways to navigate through life with what they already have: you and their self.  As these are the only things you can guarantee your children, how can you afford not to try this?  When children have an environment in which their needs are addressed on the physical and metaphysical planes, in which they have been exposed to actions of love beyond the basics, and in which, through example and shared experience they understand that life is a journey that requires active input on their part for which they have within them the ability to create a personal environment of positivity or negativity regardless of the outside world they have within them a well from which to draw, not only for themselves, but for others, as you have done for them. They have a solid, irretractable foundation of more than societal norms and formal education and they have an internal compass that will serve them long after you are part of their day to day, in which they carry the examples of your life.

We do best for others what we do for ourselves.  So love your self.  Not like get your nails done or take a day off kind of love, and not that physical idea of self. But your self, you, the you that governs the get your nails done take a day off you. Take the time to look inside and appreciate and cultivate love within you through activities that allow and encourage you to grow as a person. Neglect your self and as a bi-product, your children are neglected (and everyone else you encounter).  We are all children and have our own experiences, preferences, opinions, and environments that shape us, but in the end, we can do this. We can give our children more than DSS parenting.

The world we are most able to change is the one we are in; so in changing our parenting, we are changing our world; our personal world, our family’s world and whatever communities in which our family participates. This world is also our children’s world, which is our future world.

So: love your self, change the world.

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