When I started working with children as a teacher, I began to sense that, as adults, we are spiritual equals with the children in our lives. If we were to mark our chronological age and that of our children on the infinite timeline, being 30 years older than them is so insignificant the marks would appear as if in the same place. The benefit of more mature physical development and earthly life experience gives us practical advantages that we can use to help and teach our children. It may or may not have given us wisdom. We’ve all seen adults behave “like children” and met children who seem “wise beyond their years”.
Knowing we are equals challenges the usual assumption that as adults we “know better” & must “be in control” and it, therefore, changes the dynamic between us. Being equals entails that our children are here to raise us just as much as we are here to raise them. I am only beginning to see the many ways that they do this for us.
CHILDREN ARE EXAMPLES TO US
As I’ve said in previous posts, I think children have a natural connection with Spirit until socialisation teaches them to ignore it. Naturally present, young children are true in each moment and this may be their ultimate example to us. (See JUST BE – Presence and Stillness) I’ll write about a couple of things that my boys’ presence has taught me recently about how to live in an authentic, connected way.
Flow – It is hard to spend time with a child and not feel that you have been taken, at least temporarily, into another world. At times, I have watched my boys play and have recognised their feeling of full absorption & joy from my own childhood. I used to get it when I was swimming in our pool, singing along to music and writing stories. Scientists call this state “flow” and I think of it as allowing God to flow through me. Do you remember the healing quality of that feeling? How content and internally energised it left you? From my boys, I have learned that making time for those activities that we lose ourselves in is a spiritual practice. When doing them, the chatter in our minds quietens and, in some way, we connect with God, allowing ourselves to be filled up. We then continue our day with a fuller heart. I find flow when writing this blog and it leaves me with a lightness of spirit and more to give.
Truth-telling – Isn’t the honesty of very young children beautiful? Before they have learned that certain acts will create trouble for them if confessed, they just say it like it is. Before they have learned that the expression of difficult emotions makes them vulnerable to other people’s negative reactions, they just say it like it is. Before they have learned that voicing an unpopular opinion might open them up to criticism, they just say it like it is. I do not consistently say it like it is. My children are more honest, more true to themselves than I am. I don’t like to think someone has a bad opinion about me, I will do almost anything to save another person’s feelings (even hide my own) and I fear that someone will find a hole in any viewpoint I carry that I won’t be able to explain. I am very good at not lying but I am not very good at truth-telling. I have written a whole post about how important it is to allow and enable our children to be themselves, to be who God intended them to be. (The Real Purpose Of Parenting) To do this, my boys need to keep being honest but I need to do this for myself too (and before they catch me not telling the truth!). For me, what it boils down to is that I need to care less about what others think and more about what I know is true for me. This I have learned from my children’s honesty.
OUR CHILDREN SHOW US OURSELVES
Through our interactions with our children, we can learn how we both block and allow God to flow through us. With this knowledge, we can choose to open ourselves further and dislodge the blockages, becoming more of who we really are. Two ways that our children help us to develop this awareness are by being our “mirrors” and our “button-pushers”.
Our Children are our Mirrors You’ve likely heard it said that the people in our lives are mirrors of ourselves. I’ve been listening to Deepak Chopra on YouTube recently. I “happened” to come across his thoughts on mirroring one afternoon after I had started work on this blog post. I had typed the heading “Our Children are our Mirrors” then left it to come back to later, not knowing what I was going to write on the topic. Deepak said that the qualities we are attracted to & admire in others show us the qualities we wish to increase in ourselves. Equally, the qualities we are repelled by & feel hostility towards are those we are denying in ourselves. After hearing this, I wanted to consider how this might be happening in my relationships with my children.
Jake’s social resilience and confidence are beyond mine to the point that I am sometimes amazed that he is my child. Watching him interact so easily with others has prompted me to look for these qualities within myself. As a result, for example, I have become more forthcoming with others & more likely to accept invitations to events I once would’ve declined because they entailed meeting new people. Through Jake’s example, I have found greater confidence within myself and, as a result, my world is expanding.
On the other hand, I can get frustrated by his unwillingness to give new skills a go, particularly physical skills. Yet his reluctance is an absolute reflection of me. I thought I might have somewhat “outgrown” my own fear of new physical activities until I took him to the swimming pool last weekend and we both wanted to go down the waterslide but were too scared. I realised I had to do it, to model for Jake (and myself!) how to “feel the fear and do it anyway” (thanks Susan Jeffers – my first self-help love). Jake kindly offered to wait for me at the bottom of the waterslide. Of course, I was spat out the other end with a huge grin on my face and it took little convincing to get Jake to come down the slide with me after that. I lost count of how many times we went down the slide together that morning. I know this example isn’t particularly profound on the face of it but it shows how fear can block joy and how I recognised my own fear in my frustration with my son.
Our Children are our Chief Button-Pushers “She knows just how to push my buttons!” Have you said this before?! When your buttons are pushed, a wounded part of yourself has been activated. I am still getting to know how this mechanism works and what wounds they are pointing at in myself as this is an idea I’ve only recently thought about.
When Jake is disrespectful to me, my buttons are definitely pushed and I instantly feel hurt & angry. I forget my inherent worthiness as God’s child and immediately doubt that I am deserving of respect. In fact, I feel like I spiral backwards to times in my childhood when I felt undeserving & that I just couldn’t do enough to be worthy. And having reverted to childhood, I lose my ability to respond wisely to Jake. When this happens, I am being shown that, despite my belief in the principle of everyone’s worth, I haven’t fully integrated it with myself. And now that I have been shown my wound, I have a choice – to heal it or to let it rage.
This button-pushing is not by chance. One of our children’s jobs in this life is to push those buttons, regularly! We must thank them for pushing our buttons, pushing us into awareness.
OUR CHILDREN PROVIDE OPPORTUNITIES TO PRACTISE RESPONDING FROM LOVE
Our children consistently give us opportunities to practise responding to life from love rather than fear. When we feel fearful reactions bubbling up within, we can choose to detach from the fear and respond from love instead. When we do so, our interaction with the child-of-the-moment will be very different from what it might have been. As in the following example:
Recently, Jake had an after-school playdate with a friend. Normally respectful and well-mannered, he was tired and hungry. When it came time to leave, he put up uncharacteristic resistance. I managed to extract him from his play and herd him down to the front door, trying to be firm without causing a scene. When I asked him to give the toy he was holding back to his friend, he threw it on the floor. My ego was mortified! It wanted to shout, “You know better than that! I am so embarrassed by you! Just wait ‘til we get home…” But, I took a breath and detached myself from my ego. I calmly insisted on him picking the toy up and giving it to his friend with an apology. Once we were in the car on our way home, we had an honest talk about his behaviour and playdates have ended much more positively since. My opportunity in this situation was to practise not reacting from my embarrassment. And as soon as I made the decision to switch to love instead of fear, the embarrassment left.
I remembered that I am not measured by my children’s behaviour. It would’ve been easy to inflict my embarrassment onto Jake by humiliating him in front of his friend with my reaction. But, if I had done that, I would’ve likely triggered him into responding with fear and we wouldn’t have had the fruitful conversation we did in the car. In that conversation, he shared his feelings, apologised of his own accord and set different intentions for future playdates (with a few questions from me as prompts). He couldn’t have been so open if he was feeling shame and thought that I was boiling with anger.
IN SUMMARY: PARENTS AS LEARNERS
This relationship we have with our children is a partnership between equals. It is mutually serving in that we can help one another to become more aware of ourselves, of our blocks to & our connections with God. I don’t believe children are randomly dished out to parent. I think it’s more likely that they are divinely-assigned souls, charged with giving us the opportunities to learn specifically what it is we have to learn on this earth. In this way, and many others, they are truly our gifts.
Much love to you and your little souls,
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