The word “conscious” is bandied about quite a bit these days.
As a culture, it seems many of us are reaching toward greater awareness, trying to “wake up” and, if not transform, at least be aware of where we are in relation to where we want to be.
I Googled “conscious parenting” just for the fun of it, and aside from the giddiness of finding our site second on the list (thanks, Colin!), I was interested to see so many people using the phrase.
I thought of how so many of my friends are, or have been in therapy. The main issues I hear people dealing with are their pasts, especially their relationships with their parents, and how those past events impact the present: People say things to me like, “My dad never really listened to me;” or “My mom imposed her will on me so much, I never learned who I was;” “No one ever asked me how I was doing;” “My parents divorced, and I never found out what really happened;” “One of my parents drank, the other tried to cover it up;” Or in extreme cases, “I was hit/neglected/abandoned/sexually abused.”
Whether mild or extreme, we probably all know someone who had things happen to them in the past that they don’t want to repeat in the present. One of my favorite quotes is from Pam Leo, who said, “Let’s raise children who won’t have to recover from their childhood[s].” But aside from managing not to repeat some our parents’ biggest mistakes, how do we know we’re getting where we want to go?
Here are what I see as some of the keys of Conscious Parenting, things we can keep in mind when we wonder if we’re on the right track:
1. A sense of overall forward motion. I may not be better at this today than yesterday, but six months from now, you’ll see a general upward trend in the graph of my parenting skill. Sometimes I might need to step back from the moment to see this.2. The occasional pause to reflect. Rather than just keep moving, I actually stop and reflect, with compassion, on what’s happening.
3. An open mind and heart. I may have said or done thirty-seven things today I wish would have been different, and, I will listen to how this has affected others, and acknowledge those messages. I am human; I am doing my best; I am open to hearing how I have impacted those around me.
4. Doing what we can, ceasing to stress about what’s beyond our control. This insight is at the heart of much stress management thinking, and is also the message of the serenity prayer that is the credo of Alcoholics Anonymous. If we focus on what’s possible, and let go of what’s out of our reach, suddenly everything seems more manageable, more peaceful and less stressful. Try it!
5. Appreciate ourselves, our children, and everyone who contributed in any way to making us who we are. I appreciate myself as a parent, recognize no one can do this job perfectly, and choose to hold myself in a positive light, just as I strive to do with my children. Gratitude, when we remember and choose to feel it, has a way of putting everything else into a more calm and manageable perspective.
Full disclosure: This post may really be a message to myself. Four days ago, my son’s dad moved out. Because I had so much time to prepare, and because we lived together for a year and half after we ended our marriage, the transition has been just about as smooth as it can be. I feel surprisingly light. The family I made didn’t turn out as I planned, and I still feel some sadness about that. I also feel grateful for how we’re arranging ourselves in the aftermath. Yes, there were many things I couldn’t control.
But I am no longer “going through a divorce.” I am on the other side. I am embracing a new phase. And so is Cainan—he’s beside himself with joy that his new brother is finally in the same city. Like so many children (consciously or not) he wants to bring everyone together—and he does! When I stay focused on appreciating everyone, including myself, in this new phase, life looks pretty darn bright. It took a lot to get here, and I embrace that, too. Today, anyway.
How about you, what helps stay conscious about being the kind of parent you want to be?
Please share your thoughts below.