Most of us spend a great deal of time walking about life half asleep.
Especially when it comes to raising our children.
And then we wonder why, by the time they are teenagers (sometimes long before), we get eye rolls, back talk, and feel generally disrespected.
There is good reason our kids rebel against the nuturing, caring, sacrificing individuals who brought them so lovingly into the world.
It's because we treat them as extensions of ourselves, rather than as the individuals they were brought into the world (yes, through us) to become.
We use our children to feel better about ourselves. For example, we encourage a sport, academics, a hobby, a college from the time they are old enough to walk, in order to feel a sense of accomplishment that we are lacking within ourselves.
And then when they don't meet our expectations, or want to quit the team, or pursue a musical instrument we know nothing about (and care even less for) we have the audacity to get upset with them.
Don't get me wrong, we don't do this with malicious intent, most of the time we are completely unaware we are even doing it at all.
You may argue you just "want the best" for your child, or that "he/she really loves the sport", but our children are much wiser than we give them credit for, and they are in touch with the energy we put out around the expectations we have of them.
And, much of the expectation we have of them centers around filling our inner lack, which, by the way, developed in our own raising.
Let me give you a clear, very recent example from my own parenting...
About a week ago, my son received the final of five answers to last fall's college applications. Though this wasn't his first pick school, we felt he was a strong candidate. When the letter arrived, with some conditions for enrollment attached, I immediately became personally offended (triggered) and incredibly self-righteous.
Though I tried not to let this show to my son. Because, after all, I am the "conscious" parent who loves, supports, and accepts everyone right where they are.
My son appeared, on the outside, to blow it off, saying it wasn't really something he was considering anyway, so he was dismissing the school completely. From my mouth came, "Okay Brigham if that's your decision, that's fine with me."
But, I was lying.
I struggled for a few days with that stupid letter because I found it personally upsetting they didn't accept MY child into their program. After all, he is a wonderful person, a committed student, and would be an asset to their campus (in my opinion)...why didn't THEY see this?!
Thinking further through this situation, I realized by their not accepting him into the school I was feeling personally rejected. Something I felt a lot of around academics as a child/teen...this brought up all those feelings of unworthiness inside of ME again.
Not only that, gods-honest-truth-be-told, I wasn't looking forward to having to share this news with a few people I knew would be asking.
This from the woman who works so hard at not caring what other people think.
The ability to take a simple situation, like a letter in the mail from an admissions office, and be in tune with myself enough to (a) observe my reaction, and (b) stay with the feelings to understand where it was coming from, and finally to (c) give myself permission to acknowledge and then release/disconnect it from my child is what's called conscious parenting.
And it takes work! And it is a p-r-a-c-t-i-c-e!
But it is SOOOOOOOOOOOOO worth it to be able to help my kids to know they are deeply loved for exactly who they are. And that I am right behind them (sometimes I have to think through it first...) in whatever choices they make. I fully believe each one of my children is a spirit willing to teach me where I need to grow.
Someone parenting from the traditional "dominant" paradigm might have become resentful of the child for not working hard enough at school, for being too laid-back about taking the SAT seriously, or want to rail at the school itself for it's inability to see the value in his application to the institution. In the meantime causing the child feel badly about his worth and likely not changing any of the outcome, but to instill (or compound) his own sense of inner lack.
In talking with parents (raising kids of all ages) about their trials and disappointments over behavior/grades/sporting achievements/personality conflicts, I am even more committed to the movement of practicing peaceful, conscious parenting.
And to helping others do the same. Because there is no question in my mind the problems we are experiencing in our home life today stem from our own inner lack which we (often inadvertently) project onto our kids.
That, and the fact we all try to do too much. Contrary to what the world continues to tell us, WE CANNOT DO IT ALL. I have decided I would rather do less and do it with presence of mind, than to run myself ragged through a job and kids activities in order to validate myself as an "accomplished" person.
Conscious parenting is not for the weak, the faint of heart, or for those who think they can snap their fingers and it arrives. It IS for those willing to take an open, honest look at themselves, their upbringing, their motivation with their own children...and to work hard at the relationships in their lives...starting with the one they have with themselves.
What was the last parenting challenge you faced? What thoughts or feelings did it bring up in you? How is your inner lack being played out through your children?
All big questions...but all worth answering in working towards a more peace-filled home environment.