The Conscious Parent.

Monday, April 8, 2013

As long as my memory doesn't fail me,
I will never forget.
Being pushed (literally, in a wheelchair,)
through the automatic sliding doors of our city hospital, 
into the new world that awaited.
The world of motherhood.
I held my hand over my eyes, blinded by the bright August sun,
as if I'd never been there before.
Caught completely off guard by the barrage of light, sounds,
overwhelming hues of green and blue, the cars, people, birds chirping,
a cacophony of noise vibrating through my ears.
Where am I?
I'd always been here in this world, of course.
Only now?
It was as if in the birthing of a baby, I had actually birthed my SELF.
Right through some crazy wormhole into another dimension.
One, I just so happened to have been in all my life.
Only now it was different.  Alive.  Terrifying and real, open and exposed.
This awakened life laden with the most heavy of responsibilities. . .raising a child.
I wept in the backseat at this frightening but BEAUTIFUL new existence.
Consumed by the intoxicating joy, excitement, raw newness, 
but also fear, anxiety and dread, quick to follow.
How?  How would I do this?
Be a mother?
Years later now, hours of sleep lost, 
sanity and any wits about me, long since gone,
my role as mother can easily be seen in the new lines and dark circles around my eyes, 
grey strands of hair popping out like wiry kinks from the top of my head.
The length and depth of each stretch mark from child after child after child,
physical proof of my adventures and devotion to the job.
Life has a way of continuing to show up, 
over and over again,
until you finally see what needs to be seen.
Not just to notice the outward reflection of your life,
but what's happening inside.
I've never been one much for parenting books.
Let's be honest, never have been one much for ANY one telling me how to do things. 
NOR one to let down my guard long enough to accept help.
I stumbled across Dr. Shefali Tsbary's Ted Talk through Facebook.
Instantly sucked in to the wise words of this practitioner and mother, 
who just seemed to get it.  I had to get her book.  
I HAD to know what else she had to say about parenting.
Launching me not so much into a book review, 
but an honest review of how I've been parenting thus far.
Quite simply, in her words (something I've always believed in,) 
examining how PRESENT I've really been and AM on a daily basis.
Simple words I hear and even preach daily, 
but SO, SO hard for a tired mother to settle into a lot of the time.
To me the words are as enticing but foolhardy as saying, 
Clear and forceful, simple on the outset,
hard to follow suit.  
The topic of parenting, how to be the best parent, the how to's and what not's and you should's,
are deep, dirty, gritty below the surface, 
FILLED with opinion and fire and vehemence.  But such an important conversation to continue, not just with our fellow mothers,
but ourselves.
What I love about this read,
is the space and simplicity in her approach to parenting,
that there is no ONE "strategy" for ONE whole family.
No ONE technique to try and implement to maintain for a phase or a lifetime.
If you're a parent, you learn quickly that your son requires a different approach than your daughter, your youngest versus your oldest, your "typical" kid versus your special needs.
Each of their temperaments as unique and ever changing as the clouds in the sky.
Always moving, always transforming, ALWAYS and forever, floating away out of reach.
This book isn't about how to teach, guide, discipline,
as much as it is simply about being present with ourselves and our children.
About BEING PRESENT to our individual children and their INDIVIDUAL needs.
Allowing us to authentically do ALL of those things the BEST way for THAT moment.
JUST that moment.
Parenting is hard.  A little bit insane.
The psychological, emotional and spiritual commitment required is downright ludicrous.  
But we come to realize, there is NOTHING of more importance, 
than showing up to our children over and over again.
Reminded beautifully by Emily Rapp, in her book, The Still Point of the Turning World,
that "children do not exist to honor their parents, their parents exist to honor them."  
Not our careers, our image, our hobbies, even our friendships take precedence over the responsibility we have to our children and raising them the ONLY way we can,
How often do we REALLY do this, I ask?
As Dr. Tsbary notes, "Never having had to care for another being in this way, we are thrust into the orbit of incessant giving, which confronts us with both our highest and lowest self."
Tell me about it, sister.
Mothering is daunting, and we make it much more so,
by doing it UNCONSCIOUSLY.
Now having children of my own,
it seems I've spent many days working to quiet them or control them.
Pushing them to bed time, away from me, out of my sights as fast as I can.
Like most parents, my ego, my need for control, my fear, my current stress level, 
gets the best of me more often than not.
My daily mood reflected all over the damn house like spray paint on city walls.
You can't not notice it or become overwhelmed by it.
The amazing power we have over our homes, our families, our children,
as mothers, but how much damage we can do with that.
Leaving me wondering, often,
why I ever thought it would be a good idea to selfishly fulfill my own longing,
to HAVE children in the first place?
Because it's tough.  Really tough.
It seems once we've settled or found our grip in one phase, 
another is upon us, pulling from under us, the tightly woven rug.
The one, for months, we've kept vacuumed and clean, now unraveling out of control.  Again.
We all desperately want our children's behavior to be fixed right now, 
without having to go through the painstaking process 
of examining and changing ourselves first.
We want things to be easy and quick and do what it takes to move past the tough stuff.
Rarely, myself included, do we stop for a second to examine how WE are behaving.
Seeing how WE react in a traffic jam, how WE behave when something is spilled, how WE sit and talk to our children, how WE greet them in the morning, how WE react to yet another broken toy, or whether or not WE really LOOK at their work they proudly show us.  How WE kiss our spouse or talk to one another as a married couple.
It's all right there.
In the way WE, the parents,
live out each day.
Either consciously or unconsciously passing down the emotional inheritance of our parents before us, from which WE, often and unknowingly, continue the cycle,
of remaining "asleep" to the world we inhabit as parents, and the amazing influence we can have on them when they're young.
I took to the pages of Dr. Tsabary's book, The Conscious Parent,
not knowing how the beautiful, kind and gentle words of her knowing,
would help to transform me, 
gently guide me to reawaken to myself, as a parent, moment by moment.
Allowing me to release myself from my ego, and my thoughts that "tough love" is the only, and the best way to parent.  It's not.  
Although it has been my "thing" recently, 
to constantly reinvent, shed old skin, let go of stale energy and repeated cycles, 
to BE something MORE to myself and my family,
I've come to realize, thanks to Tsabary's words, that it doesn't always have to be about relentless self-improvement.
Because we never really arrive to that life of perfection, of complete ease, of endless happiness and peace.
Everything we need, all the happiness we're looking for, the failures followed by the triumphs,
is right here, to be lived and experienced in the PRESENT moment with ourselves AND our children.
And in doing so, teaching our children to live the same. 
This book goes so far beyond the act of parenting our children, 
but parenting ourselves.
Learning to let step away from our ego, our need for control,
our attachment to the idea our children are a reflection of us or here to feed US.
Realizing that is NOT why they are here,
allows us the freedom to live authentically and release the obligatory notion,
that we have to do it all "right" with an image to protect.
The only image that is ours to uphold, is the vision of our children as happy, self-actualized, compassionate adults.
Grown from a childhood of love and PRESENT-directed parenting.
That's it.
Every page of this book is highlighted, marked, pages bent and folded forward, 
wet and then dried from coffee spills and water stains,
one I will continuously return to as I navigate my way as a mother.
This book has become a friend and fantastic reminder of what's most important.
Not to dwell and reflect on my failures, my moodiness, my strictness or laziness, but simply being present in every moment that unfolds in this spiritual practice of parenting.
That THIS moment, maybe only a few moments a day, 
working and practicing to be mindful and present with my children.
I am a "young" mother to young children,
I know nothing of the future.  
Nothing of sleepless nights in the recliner, waiting for the garage door to open to 16-year-old curfews.  
Nothing of the inherent double standards in raising our daughter versus our sons and the fights that are sure to ensure over that.
I know nothing of deep depression, body obsessions, insecurity and hormonal teens testing limits and leaving me wishing to go back, to here. 
I can talk openly in this space, share my feelings and weave my thoughts and opinions into a tapestry that,
sort of makes sense to me.
But I (we) have our work cut out for us.
And it starts here, in this moment. 
{Both books can be ordered or picked up from the sweetest bookstore in the Twin Cities,  Micawber's in St. Paul, MN.
Follow them on FB with fantastic posts and updates.}


Unknown said...

Beautiful words, Liz. They hit home in so many ways. It is more important than ever, in this digital age, for all of us to set down our devices and make eye contact with the people around us, be they loved ones or the people that we meet in our neighborhoods. Meals shared, stories told, glances exchanged, laughter echoed - all create and strengthen the bonds of family and community. Let's not miss out!

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