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Spiritual Parenting

By Mary Francell
Alpharetta GA USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 17 No. 5, September-October 2000, pg. 177

When I decided to become a parent, I had no idea that I was embarking on the most profound spiritual journey of my life. How could I have known that I would grow more as a person in the last six years than I had in the previous thirty? Regardless of a person's religious beliefs, it is hard to imagine remaining untouched by the deeply moving experience of bearing and nurturing a child. In The Tao of Motherhood, Vimala McClure writes about keeping to "the Way," and about finding your center as a mother. Yet, when I read a passage each morning before I meditate, I often wonder exactly what she means. I sometimes feel as I did when I was a new mother: unsure, confused by conflicting advice, afraid to trust my own instincts. What exactly is "the Way?" How can I stay centered in the midst of daily conflicts and general busyness?

So I decided to close my eyes and really listen to my heart. Without analyzing or even thinking about anything, I let peace flow through me and waited for the answers. What I heard was not surprising. I know all these things. What's difficult is staying focused and putting them into effect. Fortunately, as long as I keep striving toward these ideals, my children seem to forgive me when I fall short.

I need to simplify my life. It's much easier to stay relaxed and loving with fewer deadlines and less rushing around. I feel torn between all the things I want or have to do and the limited time I have available. I know this will take time and that I will never have a truly simple life. But I would like to slowly simplify down to the level of manageable rather than overwhelming stress. I need the wisdom to know when to be firm and when to be flexible. This is probably the hardest of all. Setting some limits is easy: no playing with knives, no running into the street, no hurting other people. Other things we can let go of, like letting children choose their own clothes or decide what they want for breakfast. It's what's in between that gets tricky. How close to dinner can they eat a snack and still be hungry for what you are serving? Is it worth nagging children to pick up after themselves? I need to untangle my emotions from theirs. It's easy for me to become caught in a spiral of negative feelings, especially when I'm tired or feeling pressured. Yet if I can stay detached and listen with an open heart, everything usually works out better. Even just remembering to walk away and cool down before answering helps calm the seas.

I need to stay positive. A positive atmosphere seems to make everything easier. When I can remember to compliment my children for being loving or gentle or kind, I don't have to correct the opposite behavior as often. They see themselves as loving, gentle, kind people and act accordingly. When I have confidence in myself as a loving, competent parent, I do better too.

I need to cultivate joy in our lives. I want my children to have memories of a happy childhood full of warmth and love. I want to enjoy my children at every stage of their development so that my memories of them are rich and full. Yet I also need to let them have their pain and to help them heal it. I need to love my children completely. That's all they want, really. It's what we all want.

Keeping that feeling glowing within our hearts lets our children know how precious they are to us. Kisses and hugs, smiles and pet names nourish their souls and remind them of their goodness.

Parenting is a spiritual journey, but it's not an easy one. Growing and changing is never easy. My children have a way of holding up a mirror that reveals my most glaring imperfections. This mirror can also reflect my best qualities. My children provide a beacon of pure, unshakable love to guide me through my struggles as well as my triumphs. I hope I do the same for them.

Reprinted from the Spring/Summer 1998 issue of Dogwood Blossoms, the Area Leaders' Letter for LLL of Georgia.

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