Thursday, April 24, 2008

Spiritual Parenting

©2008 Joan M. Newcomb

My philosophy is that I’ve manufacturer my kids’ bodies, but they’re the drivers of their own physical vehicles. I’ve given them some rudimentary driving lessons, but they’re the ones with the keys, and they inherently know the route they’re taking through this lifetime. I also believe they accumulate experiences to prepare them for wherever they’re going.

Unlike those who view children as blank slates or as lumps of clay that require molding, I see them as treasure chests of wondrous knowledge. My inclination with my children is to step back and see what they reveal to me, and it is continuously miraculous what they come up with.

My eldest and I had some challenges when he was younger, some of it being basic personality styles. He gets energized being around people, I get depleted. He’s high testosterone, very athletic, likes team sports. I’m very self-contained and like to meditate. Early on I saw a potentially unhealthy dynamic and realized I had to change some patterns. One decision I made is that I was ‘on his side’. I saw myself as his advocate in situations with school and sports. Even if we disagreed on something, I still held the space of being ‘on his side’. The other decision I made was to not give him anything to rebel against. I had some bottom-line rules (no bloodshed in the house, and no football in the house as well) but practiced non-resistance about anything else. I also developed a technique of ‘aikido’ so that any energy coming my way I would step aside and let pass. He could get angry, but with no resistance on my part to fan the flames, it would subside quickly.

What developed was a child who is very self-disciplined and self-directed, who is well aware of his passions and his abilities. He has the space to make his own decisions and determine his own direction through this life. He finds great joy in things that hold no interest for me, but I fully support him in pursuing. I’ve spend many a freezing evening watching a sporting event whose rules are incomprehensible to me, hearing his name mentioned many times over the loud speaker for what, I don’t know, because I love my son.

My youngest requires a different parenting style but has always been easier to live with. There was only one time where we had a disagreement (in Barnes & Noble, when I insisted that he pick out a gift for a friend’s birthday party) and I discovered a will stronger than mine – we would have sat there until closing time if I hadn’t capitulated. He’s self contained, like me, and requires a lot of ‘down time’ to recover from school. His passion is movies and he intends on being a filmmaker. He’s also a phenomenal writer, with a sarcastic tone saved for school papers whose topics he deems unchallenging (which are most of them).

Another aspect of my ‘hands-off’ approach to parenting is that I never pester them about their homework. I asked my youngest the other day how he’d feel if I did nag him about it and he said ‘I wouldn’t feel like doing it!’

Both of my kids are ‘self-made men’ in their own unique way. In high school, the oldest was a straight-A student, very ‘nose-to-the-grindstone’ about his studies. He read a book a week to ‘exercise his brain’, left the house at 5:30am to lift weights before school, was a varsity athlete in three different sports, was co-editor of his school paper, and took Russian as an independent study for his school language. It enabled him to get a full scholarship to college where he's now undergoing a huge transformation which I perceive is about manifesting *without* effort. The youngest gets straight-As because it’s easy (he could read at an 11th grade level in 5th grade), and wrote four screenplays in middle school and in high school taught himself guitar, musical theory, and performs his compositions at Open Mic.

To me this is all the more amazing considering the circumstances they came from. There was a difficult divorce when they were little, losing the home they were born in, many moves (albeit within the same school area), struggles with finances, and there's alcoholism and the resulting dysfunctional behavior in the family backgrounds.

With the youngest considering higher educaton and the eldest in the midst of college life, I occasionally get concerned about their lives in the outside world. I release my children to their choices, I see myself as still loving them and also detaching. If they choose to drive their vehicles down roads in unfavorable areas, they’ll definitely be learning something from the result of their actions!

I see them as capable beings who’ve each chosen the circumstances they came into, as part of the required experiences they intended to accumulate to help them get to wherever they’re ending up going to. I see them as collecting both spiritual and social merit badges in a surprisingly balanced way. I’m quite curious to see what routes they’ll be taking and what sights they’ll be seeing on this adventurous journey called life.

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