Last spring when Mia was having so many challenges with anxiety, Oprah happened to have Dr. Shefali Tsabary on her show Super Soul Sunday. While Oprah's program always inspires me, this particular episode was especially poignant as I faced the challenges of trying to help Mia navigate going to school, attending her usual extracirricular activities, socializing with friends...all the things she had been doing just fine until one day, she wasn't.
You see, Dr. Tsabary is a well-known psychologist from New York who has spent years counseling families in trouble. In 2010 she published a book entitled The Conscious Parent: transforming ourselves, empowering our children which was the purpose of her interview with Oprah. Needless to say, I was so inspired by Dr. Shefali's insight into parenting I immediately ordered and devoured her book as soon as it reached my front door.
One of the many, many interesting points Dr. Shefali's book makes is on page 15 where she states:
This short statement alone allowed me to connect some dots. Dr. Shefali's conscious parenting theory has helped strengthen my resolve to parent my children as their attuned guide, not as the ultimate authority figure in their life. Because I truly believe our children know [in their hearts] their purpose for coming into the world. And, in addition to serving their own purpose, I learned part of the reason for their arrival is because I called them into the world to help me work out some poop from my own childhood!
I know, I know...it's DEEP!
And maybe you're like...ah Kim, I don't want to rock your boat, but honey you have gone completely off the deep end!
Wait, hear me out. Part one of this post gave you a clear example of what I interpret conscious parenting to be when I shared the story of how my parent(s) handled my crisis when I was nineteen, and then how I handled my son's crisis when (oddly...or not so oddly enough) HE was nineteen-years-old.
This post aims to provide yet another example of Dr. Shefali's theory about how our children come into the world to help us get past our own emotional challenges which result of our own upbringing.
Okay, back to the Mia story...
Wait, no, I have to backtrack just a bit to my own childhood first, or the example won't make sense.
When I was nine, my parents took us (I am the oldest of three, I have two brothers) to Florida for Easter break. We had moved to a new town over the previous Christmas holiday and I wasn't 100% certain I liked my new school and was very much missing my best friend from my old neighborhood. So, at the time of the family vacation I was emotionally struggling with school and friendships.
Then, after being with my parents for a week of "fun in the sun" (and I think a visit with Mickey if I am not mistaken), I really, really, really had a hard time going back to school. From tears getting on the bus every single morning (with my brothers looking at me like, "what's wrong with this freak"), to being in the nurses office multiple times everyday, to having my mom come get me for lunch everyday for weeks on end, to actually deciding to run away from school during lunch recess one day. (Which was a big deal because it was a three-hour walk home along very narrow country roads wherein anyone could have stopped to "help" me, if you know what I mean).
Suffice it to say, the last eight weeks of the school year when I was nine-years-old was a nightmare for me (and my parents). The nightmare ended with the beating my dad gave me because I had scared my mother so much when I ran away from school. (I still remember how he said it hurt him more than it hurt me...).
Let's just say I "shaped up" right after that incident.
Fast forward thirty-six years to last spring when our family vacationed in Sedona, Arizona...
Mia (who had just turned nine) was unusually quiet, distant, and did not want to participate in family activities...very unlike her usual incredibly bubbly, cheerful, smiley, easy-going self. For the most part, Tom and I wrote it off as a reaction to the sixteen-hour-straight drive from Dallas, and to her lack of quality sleep. She was very clingy to me but by the end of the trip, for the most part, she was back to her normal self.
Until we got home and it was time to head back to school.
Over a series of just a few days we went from living with happy-go-lucky daughter to a child who did NOT want to go anywhere. Not school, not hip hop, not church, not to her favorite restaurant, not to Justice, not for ice cream, not to horseback riding....NOWHERE. To a point where we were at a complete loss as to what to do with her incredibly-anxious-cry-at-the-drop-of-a-hat soul. It was bad would have been the understatement of the year.
I was paralyzed with fear because, try as I might, I did not know how to help her, and because I could totally identify with her desire to stay home (where she felt safe) with her mom.
However, the adult in me knew she couldn't just drop out of life. We had to find a way to help her. And eventually, through a wonderful counselor, we were able to get her back on track.
Here's the kicker...in helping her I also helped myself.
This post is already much longer than I intended, but the point of my stories throughout both of these two posts is to tell you The Conscious Parent by Dr. Shefali Tsabary is a TERRIFIC and insightful book for any parent, grandparent, teacher. I have read it twice, taken an online course and am now honored to say I could not be more excited that in the next few weeks I will be partnering with a team of people who want to bring the movement of consciously parenting into practice all over the country!
I truly believe if we want to make some significant changes to the next generation it will be through our parenting. More specifically, when we look at our own upbringing, concentrating on the areas where our parents fell short in meeting our needs, and we acknowledge and work through those parts of our life, we can then parent our children in a more present, conscious manner.
It is a practice, NOT a destination. And something I work toward daily. If these last two posts have struck a chord with you, pick up Dr. Shefali's book and see how her theory applies to your own life.