Holding the Vision
Redford Township MI USA
Report from 2001 LLLI Conference
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 18 No. 5, September-October 2001, p. 177
When I was in college, nobody warned me about the inherent dangers of majoring in philosophy. Ever since, I have been plagued by life's big questions. The big questions that used to plague me, however, changed when I became a parent nine months ago. Instead of wondering about the nature of human consciousness, these days I find myself lying awake at night wondering about the ethics of spanking or whether or not I should nurse my son into toddlerhood.
Peggy O'Mara, editor and publisher of Mothering magazine, is intimately familiar with the questions that thinking parents ask themselves. She opened her session, "Holding the Vision: Learning to Be an Individual Parent," by posing several of these big questions.
- Is a child fundamentally good? Bad? A blank state?
- Is it our duty as parents to stop our child from doing something that is morally wrong? Illegal? Something that will harm him? What about something that just embarrasses us?
These and others of the questions she asked echoed some of my deepest thoughts since my son's birth. They are the kind of questions, like all big questions, that don't really have a single answer and any attempt to arrive at one just generates more questions.
O'Mara offered some thoughts of her own about the big questions. Her ideas were the kind that resonated as truth the moment I'd hear them.
"Stop watching the clock during the long and sleepless nights of parenting a young child and you'll be better able to put a bad night behind you and focus your energy on the new day ahead," she said in one practical tip.
On the subject of mothers who don't trust their own instincts about childrearing, she put a new perspective on trust. People trust the architects of buildings and the makers of roads they drive on - as well as other drivers they share the roads with. Every day, life forces people to put trust in others that they don't know, O'Mara said. Those same people who place trust in strangers for their lives don't always show enough trust in themselves or their children when it comes to parenting them.
On the topic of exercising control over every aspect of our children's lives, Peggy used a beautiful image to illustrate that control over everything isn't possible or ideal. There was a pendulum swinging its course in the sand when the 2001 Seattle earthquake hit, she explained. When the earthquake ended, people noticed that the pattern created by the pendulum in the sand was that of a perfect rose. I imagine this picture of order amid chaos when my attempts to get something done around the house are thwarted by my son's refusal to nap.
In O'Mara's Mothering magazine, the big questions parents ask are approached with wisdom and insight. Reading this magazine helps me realize that I don't have to parent the way my parents did or the way my friends do. Hearing Peggy O'Mara speak was much like reading her magazine, and it gave me plenty of food for thought.