Child-Raising—Trust In Nature
"Your children are not your children," wrote the Lebanese poet Kahil Gibran, "They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself...You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth." It is a quote I like, not only because—having raised four children by four different men on my own—I believe it to be just about the most accurate description of parenthood I have ever come across, but also because it emphasizes the 'lightness' which develops when you give up trying to be perfect and come to trust the processes of Nature—in feeding, in healing, in guiding you and your child towards what is best for his or her development at any moment in time.
SEEDPOWER HAS WISDOM
Like the seed of a plant that has encoded within its genetic material the characteristics that will in time produce the full-grown flower, every baby comes into this world carrying a package of as yet unrealized, but incredibly rich, potential. Within each child is nestled his or her very own brand of unique seedpower, encompassing far greater physical, creative and spiritual potential than he or she could realize in ten lifetimes. Your child is like the brush stroke the zen painter uses to represent one leaf on a shaft of bamboo. The leaf he paints is totally singular—like no leaf that has ever existed. Yet within this uniqueness is encompassed universal beauty and life energy of the highest order.
Just as I tried to do with my first son, most conscientious parents try their best to mould their children from the outside by imposing upon them their own ideas about what they should act like, think like, look like and all the rest. Not only does it work a lot better the other way round—listening to the individual echoes of a child's own seedpower coming from within, and responding to it by offering whatever at any moment is most appropriate, in the form of food, health, guidance, education, toys and so forth—it is also infinitely easier.
CONTRACTS HOLD A KEY
Taking on the job of guardian for a child from birth to adulthood also involves making 'contractual agreements'—agreements which need to be re-negotiated from time to time. Like every contract, the parent/child relationship is always a two-way deal. It has to be fair on both sides and nurture both people involved. How well your own contracts develop and how much joy there is for both of you in living them will depend to a great extent on how clearly the agreements between you are understood. Let me show you what I mean.
In establishing 'contracts' with my own children, I decided I wanted to supply them with wholesome food and clean surroundings, as well as physical warmth, safety, and the right to their own needs and opinions even if they differed from mine. In return I expected them to accept the home and food and care I provided even though it would never be perfect, and to be as honest, respectful of my decisions and as reasonable with me as their age would allow. What I would never ask of a child—and where so many parents, in my opinion, go wrong—is to ask that the child love me. Get into that contract and you automatically create trouble. For whether or not your child loves you is ultimately beside the point. Your responsibility is simply to use the best of your wisdom and physical resources to help that child grow.
I decided long ago that I would do my best for my children always, but that they were stuck with me as a parent for better or for worse—complete with all my warts. I also decided that, while I didn't expect them to love me, I did expect them to know that whatever I did, I did because I believed it to be right. When some decision I made or action I took turned out to be wrong, I owned up and, where appropriate, asked for their forgiveness, just as I forgave them their mistakes.
I discovered quite by accident that there is a certain magic to all this. For when you genuinely give up all claim to being a 'good parent' or to having your child love you, you create a remarkable expanse of freedom for you both. In the end, not only do your children end up loving you of their own accord, they also respect you (even when they don't agree with you). Most important of all, they feel safe because they know that although at times you may seem unreasonable and unbending, your strength—on which they rely for security—remains uncorrupted by flattery or emotional blackmail (which even very young children can be very good at). They learn that your strength is there to serve them.