One of the 32,000 challenges I’ve encountered to date as a parent, has been the one that requires me to give up, let up, and let go. To hold Sweet P accountable for her choices. To allow her to cry through her disappointments and cope with uncomfortable things in life – instead of taking over and trying to make everything better.
I hate this part. I want her to know now, how great she is. I want to take her pain, so that she doesn’t have to. I want to beat up the kids who are mean to her. I’d also like her to stop sassing and whining and to always clear the table while wearing a face-cracking smile, but since those last few things aren’t going to happen anytime soon, I suppose it’s unlikely the first few will come to fruition. And, I’m thinkin’ that punching out the other six-year-olds who are mean to her isn’t a great coping strategy either, so I’m leaning again on my spirituality.
In order for our kids to become all of who they are, we’ve got to get out of their way emotionally and even physically and set a spiritual example.
My friend Megan is dealing with this now. Her son is learning to live with a newly diagnosed chronic condition and it sucks. She wants to take it away, keep it from happening, ease the hardship even while she knows that this is the road he must travel to discover who he already is. There is something in this experience for him, (and for her). But right now it’s hard and scary and obscured by grief and uncertainty.
It’s moments like this that you need to call up your faith – that intangible knowing that we are doing just what we need to be, even though it’s icky and scary and infuriating. Faith, says life coach Martha Beck, is the trust that all is happening just as it must. Our job is to find that trust from within.
Allowing our children to be who they are
We all have these moments with our kids, when there is nothing to do but step into our faith and stand with our kid as they encounter what they must.
When she is cut from the basketball team, or he forgets his part in the recital; when he gets his first speeding ticket, or she is rejected by a friend. When she cheats and gets a zero on her test. When life becomes hard and hurting and troubling our job as a spiritual parent is to be there with our kids through the experience. Our job is not to take it from them.
In this way, we’ve got to let go so they become more of who they are. The process, while at times painful for them, is downright excruciating for us. When one of her preschool friends pushed Sweet P down the first time, I honestly felt like leaping over the two-foot craft table to take out the four-year-old brute who ravaged my kid. But, just as I didn’t then, and I’m pretty sure I couldn’t actually have jumped over the table anyhow, I know that I can’t step in and save her now when a friend is being mean or she gets in trouble for talking in line. I’ve got to leave space for her to find her way. It’s a gift to her – even while I hate it.
The best we can do as parents is to teach our kids to become aware of their spirits. To let them know that when external troubles show up and bruise their egos, that that isn’t really them. They are not the trouble. They are more than disease and disappointment just as they are more than the good grades and cute hair-dos. We are not the sum of our external success, nor are we only our failures and sicknesses and stresses.
If we can teach our kids to feel compassion for themselves and others, if we can teach them acceptance and self-love, if we can help them stand in their own experience close to their spiritual self, we are loving them in the best way we can. No matter how much we’d like to, we do not have the right to protect them from their own pain.
“I think, in a weird way, if I try to take care of all their difficulties for them it sends the message that I think they aren’t able to handle it and I can do it better. That’s not what I want them to think about themselves,” Megan says.
What we can do then, is to be with them in their pain. To allow the emotions to come. To make room for them. We can teach them, through example, to behave compassionately through their pain and remind them that while uncertainty is sometimes a part of life, struggle doesn’t have to be. We can show them grace – even when we don’t feel like it. And throughout, we can remind our children just who they are — divine, loving energy — so that they can transcend the heartache and know their essential self.