Our children may be small and powerless in terms of living independent lives but they are mighty in their potential to be our life’s greatest awakeners.
Awakeners.?I like this term.
It transcends the usual cliches we use to reference our children: friend, ally, partner, muse. It speaks directly to our children’s potential to enlighten us and raise our consciousness to new elevations.
When we begin to notice how exactly it is they do this, we will be in awe.
Of course, if we expect this discovery to be epiphanic, we may be disappointed. Such gifts are hardly every stumbled upon in the extraordinary. Instead, it is in the plainest of moments and most humbling of situations that our children’s capacity for kindling our consciousness rises.
It is usually in conflict situations of course that we get to see the full range of our unconscious theatrics. This is why instead of shying away or denying the existence of conflicts, I encourage parents to fully accept the inevitability of conflicts and “use” the material that emerges, the data if you will, to awaken us to the growth that still needs to take place within us. It is so easy to blame our children for all that goes wrong in our relationship with them. It is easy and simply too delicious to ignore. Where else than with our children do we get free reign to act dictatorial, controlling and monarchical? Who else would allow us to? So if this is one of the few areas our power demon gets to live freely, why would we seek to tame it?
However, when we ignore the messages for spiritual development that our children are constantly reflecting back to us, we are in effect turning down one of the most profound invitations for change. It is in the tiny, ordinary moments that we get to see many-a-thing about who we are as human beings and the ways in which we have yet to grow. If we completely surrendered to this process, we might also lay glimpse of how much our children can teach us – but only if we are able to be open to the lessons.
Take for example the mother who complains that she loses her temper with her children because they never seem to listen to her in the morning causing them to arrive late at school. The natural response to such a parent would be to encourage her to discipline her children more and teach them to listen. While this may be one of the right paths, it is not the only one. What about exploring if the mother herself is unorganized and tardy in the mornings? What about exploring if she herself is unable to function well in the morning? Ah, now we have shifted the focus away from what the children need to change, to what the mother may now need to transform within herself. Yes, she may indeed need to look in the mirror and ask herself, “is it time to change the way I operate? Are there ways I need to restructure my life so I can be more organized for my children?” Where before a certain level of disorganization was acceptable in our lives, we realize quickly upon having children, such chaos is simply too destructive in a children’s life. In this mother, her children will reflect that she has yet to grow and mature in organizing her life – a seemingly small thing – but one that has the potential to create many a dysfunctional pattern in a family.
Or take for example the eight year-old child who has suddenly become a social recluse. He refuses to go to school or play with his friends. His parents are going stark mad. Every expert has been called in to “fix” the child. While these interventions may be necessary, what about the focus on the parents? What about exploring what the parents’ history is in terms of social situations? Perhaps then the experts would discover that the mother herself went through a trauma when she was around seven years old. She was in a car accident where her father died. She saw the whole thing. She reacted by going selectively mute for about two years. Perhaps if the focus turned on the parents, the experts would see a generational pattern of anxiety. Mother to son.
These are just two examples – one seemingly superficial and one more profound – of the ways in which our children tell us, “wake up, look at yourself, transform yourself, heal yourself – do this for you so that I may be free of what burdens you.”
Sometimes our children awaken us to our tardiness, other times to our obsessions, yet others to our anxieties, our need for perfection, our desire for control, our inability to say “yes” or our inability to say “no,” our power issues, our dependency issues, our marital troubles, our addictions. Most often they teach us how unable we are to be still. How to engage with full-on presence. How to be open. Spontaneous. Playful. Intuitive. Authentic. The list is endless. It is in how they act and react to us and then, how we act and react to them, that we are able to see our unconscious at play.
Let us stop imagining that parenting is about the raising of our children. Let’s get real and begin acting like a true parent and begin raising ourselves.