Being a conscious parent doesn’t just mean parenting with love, patience and a deep understanding of who we are and how we are all connected together; it also means standing up for what is best for our children, even if it causes them emotional pain. We can’t always be worried about what our children think of us when it comes to helping them to make good choices.
I learned this lesson recently when one of my six-year-old twins, Maggie, went through a period of not wanting to go to bed at her proper bedtime. It started innocently enough, with an occasional nightmare which caused her to not want to go to sleep. We worked through ways of combating that fear with empowering self-affirmations and prayers before bedtime. However, the problem worsened as Maggie soon found herself unable to go to sleep unless someone was sitting at her bedside. The problem became very pronounced one night before there was to be a Valentine’s Day party at school.
We had gone through all of the exercises, made several trips to tuck her in and reassure her that she could fall asleep on her own and still she refused to let us leave. She began to throw a very big temper tantrum and begged us to not leave her alone. I had a realization that we were only making things worse by giving in and sitting on her bedside while she fell asleep. We realized that by doing that, we were actually confirming her newly formed belief that she needed us to fall asleep.
In that moment, it became clear to me that I had to stop doing what would make her feel better and do something that would allow her to find her own power and to stop the fear on her own. Of course she didn’t like this and began to ask, “why are you being so mean?” and “don’t you love me?” and soon this turned into a tirade about running away from home. I was shocked and really had to grasp hold of my higher self in this moment and made a simple observation. This was Maggie’s Ego. So I took a deep breath and I told myself that I would not allow Maggie to go to her Valentine’s Day school party the next day if she continued with this behavior. I explained that she needed to learn that she could do it on her own, if she only tried.
Conscious parenting can be very difficult when it comes to reinforcing the boundaries that you set up for your children. While limiting them is not really in alignment with who we are (explorers of the universe), it is safe to set rules which will ultimately lead to optimal health and well-being of your child. Of course, when you are an empathic parent, it is even more difficult to reinforce your boundaries as you are painfully aware of your child’s own pain, which in their reality at the moment, is being caused by the you, the parent.
I wish I could say that Maggie saw reason, but she didn’t and eventually we took away the school party and had to move her bed completely out of her room so that her sister could get some sleep. Maggie struggled until almost 11pm when exhaustion finally won. She slept through the night without incident.
The next morning it was the usual routine, only of course Maggie was very tired. She was cranky and needed lots of patience. I took the opportunity to make her aware of how she felt. I asked her to pay attention to how her body and mind felt and whether she thought it was the best it could be.
I explained to her that our bodies need rest in order to feel the best they can be and if we choose not to do that, then we have a hard time moving through our day.
We went to the store that morning and picked out milk for her class party since we had volunteered to bring that. When we selected the milk, Maggie said that she couldn’t wait to go to the party. The moment had come to make good on my threat. I said very softly, “Maggie, I’m sorry but you are far too tired from being up late to go to a party and I’m going to be picking you up from school and bringing you home.”
She was in shock of course. I’m not sure if she had forgotten that we had taken away her party the night before, or if she had just not considered that this could actually happen. She cried the rest of the way to school, but stopped when we walked into the classroom. I handed the milk to her teacher and explained that I would have to get Maggie again before the party started and I explained why. The teacher seemed to understand and later that day Maggie grudgingly said goodbye to her friends as I collected her and took her home.
That was a very hard day for me as a parent. I didn’t want my children to ever see me as I sometimes saw my own Mom. I didn’t want to be the “mean mommy” and I felt like a villain. Of course now I realize that my Mom wasn’t mean, but this is little comfort when it could be years down the road before Maggie could make the same realizations about me.
Several weeks passed and recently I was on the playground and started chatting with another Mom from Maggie’s class. She said to me that Maggie’s teacher and another parent had told her about what I had done with Maggie on that day and said that the teacher was actually very proud of me for my decision. I went ahead and explained in detail what had happened and realized that I was feeling rather embarrassed that it was being brought up.
When I finished telling the story she just simply said to me that if it had been her, she hoped that she would have had the courage to do what I did.
I felt something then, a release in my chest, because I had been holding on to guilt over the whole episode. My own Ego was beating me up over what I had done to Maggie’s Ego! I had a “not-so-conscious” conscious moment. I had been secretly harboring some resentment over my actions and was focusing on the pain I had inflicted rather than the overall outcome, which was actually very good. Because now Maggie can go to sleep without any help at all. Now Maggie knows that she is safe and has the power to protect herself from negative thoughts as she is falling to sleep.
Conscious parenting really means that you, the parent, are willing to learn also. You, the parent, are open to the possibilities that everything is perfect. That you, the parent, are perfect because your love for your child is just that… perfect.