Thursday, January 06, 2011

Fostering the Greatness

In my work I was recently presented with the opportunity to watch a video of a woman discussing how to raise a happy, spiritually strong family. It's no matter to my story here who this woman was or the particular details of the video at large. But just one revelation she shared about children in particular struck a cord with me.

I'll be paraphrasing here. But what she said, in a nutshell, was that it is her great belief and spiritual understanding that children are brought into this world "complete." All the love and goodness that every human is meant to hold is already them. Parenting, therefore, is not a mission of putting things into a child - add a little kindness, respect, confidence, intelligence, etc., etc. - but an act of uncovering and developing what already lies within.


To me, that sounds just about right. And it's probably the way I've always thought of children, even though I didn't have the words to express it as such. A child is pure light, pure love, pure innocence. Parents just act as the fosterers of all this goodness, doing what we can to make sure the best of our children is brought to light.

Does this mean that a child left entirely on his or her own will automatically become good? Indeed, the very image of all that is perfectly perfect? After all, if a child comes into this world already complete, as this speaker suggested, then by the very nature of this child, he or she should be nothing but light, happiness and goodness if left to his or her own devices. Yes?

Absolutely not. We've all seen and read those terrible stories of feral children tragically abandoned, living on their own and doing whatever it takes just to get through each day. Animalistic impulses take over. Basic survival mode kicks in. Such children "live" a life that looks nowhere near anything like what we imagine a wholly complete child to look like.

Not to say such children are not themselves innately complete, as my speaker insists. They just have not had the human interaction and the parental loving guidance to have all of their greatness brought out to the surface of their being. 

Or what about those children who live in absolutely wonderful (by the generally accepted definition) family environments, but yet tend to display their "bad" streak? A "terror" on the playground and in play groups. Always getting in trouble at school. Always with the bad attitude, back talking behavior and bullying spirit.

Or maybe not even that bad! Let's say the most loving, giving parents you could imagine simply have a rambunctious child who never seems to listen and takes pleasure in pulling silly pranks and engaging in general "spirited" play.

Well, remember. If we accept the idea that all children are born complete, well then... that would have to include some of the not-so-great behaviors and attitudes as well, wouldn't it? Yes, this is where I may very well distance myself from the speaker's ideas. Perhaps she only believes that children are born with complete goodness. (full disclosure: I did not have the time to watch her entire 30+ minute talk, so I cannot say where exactly she would have taken this idea further along in her speech. But, to me, I am thrilled enough that her initial words gave me such cause to think on this subject for myself and take it where I personally wish.) But I'd have to say, if we're truly talking complete here, then you'd have to include the lesser traits as well. Even the downright evil traits. Complete means complete in my book.

As such, perhaps these children with the impish behaviors - or worse! - even those who come from goodhearted families offering wonderful guidance and love every day, well... maybe these kids need just a bit more guidance to get past their naturally strong-willed "trying" sides before breaking through to the goodness. I mean, we all know some very strong-willed people, am I right? Babies, children, teens, adults. Every person in the world is their own unique self. Some with a stronger pull toward the good, some with a hankering to test out the not-so-good as far as they can take it. 

It's not to say that complete goodness is not in these children as well. They just may need a few more life lessons under to their belts before they finally appreciate it.

And, sadly, some never do. Even after a childhood raised with the best of love and the best of intentions. 

At any rate. I am certainly no expert on this at all. Of course. And, as I said, I wasn't able to listen to this speaker's entire lecture. A lecture where I could have heard her views on this flip side of the coin. Who knows. As I've said, it's simply her initial words that made me stop in my tracks and take a new look at parenthood. I cannot, do not, intend to provide all the answers for every situation here. All I can do is take her words for myself and see how they apply to my life and my experiences as a parent. 

Perhaps her words touched me so much because of how often I look at Sweetie and wonder, "how is it that we are blessed with such a bright, caring, sweet, confident, multi-faceted, self-proclaimed great little girl?" And then I think to myself, "surely I am completely biased and no one else sees Sweetie as I see her. I know there are millions of wonderful little spit-fire kids out there just like her who are ready to take on the world toward success, all while displaying a loving, kind spirit respectful of themselves and others. It's just not Sweetie. Sure, she is pretty darn great. But no need to get carried away either. Just remember her stubbornness, eye-rolling, non-ability to listen well, etc., etc., etc..."

Sure. others have told me what a unique child she is. Others have complemented her smarts, recognized her imagination, been impressed by her deep understanding of various subjects. But, again, I am her mom. Of course I am impressed by her. And I love to see when others are impressed by her as well. But, you know... she's not all that amazing. And I certainly do not want to put that kind of label or pressure on her. After all, she's just a kid, trying to understand her world, test her limits, experience her effect on others, and make the most of each day.

Aren't we all.

At any rate... even though I've been doing this whole mom thing for 8 years now, I still cannot get over how in awe I am of Sweetie on a daily basis. And, again, wondering how in the world it is that she's turned into this multi-faceted "great!" human being we are priveledged to know. Priveledged to help foster into a greater understanding of her complete self. From 2 parents who feel anything but completely whole - how is it that Sweetie has such grace, confidence, curiousity and enthusiasm for life at only 8 years old?

Or do we feel whole?

If I'd allow myself to do it, I could easily jot down a whole laundry list of reasons why I do not feel whole. I can give you a few examples. No defined career and no real financial stability seem like obvious check marks to make in the "incomplete" list.  But then again...

If we're talking about personal traits, the love and support of family and friends, and life lessons learned and appreciated... well, then. I say my cup runneth over!

And while I cannot speak for Hubby, my educated opinion is that he feels rather the same way about his life.

And the two of us together? Well, that's just the best! Where I am weak, he is strong and vice versa. We bolster each other up, we comfort each other in sadness, and we try to live a life that's full of life.

And when it comes to Sweetie, we rarely if ever disagree with how we are raising her.

We agree with how to discipline her and on what issues she needs to be disciplined. We agree on homework rules and household chores. We agree with the types of games, activities and general playtime fun we're happy for her to engage in. And we know better than to go against each other's decision when Sweetie has asked one or the other of us if she can do something or another.

And Sweetie knows this too.

She wanted to have a piece of gum the other morning at 8:30 a.m. Hubby and I both said no, it was too early for gum because gum is a type of candy and she hadn't even had breakfast yet.

Later, at about 10:30, I heard her ask Daddy again for a piece of gum. I was upstairs while they were down. Hubby decided this time that, yes, it was okay to have a piece.

I was impressed, though, when Sweetie came right upstairs to ask me the same question. "Didn't Daddy just tell you you could?"


"Well, then. It's okay with me."

"Okay. I just wanted to make sure."

Yes. when it comes to parenting, Hubby and I are definitely a team.

So while I can't point to anything particularly "great" I've done to foster a self-declared "great" personal outlook in Sweetie, I will say that I believe it's Hubby and I working together, along with the influence of close family members and friends, that helps cultivate in Sweetie all the wonderful greatness that she already possesses inside.

I love that we allow her to express her ideas and, when possible, we help to make her ideas reality (can anyone say butter costume?!)

I love that she appreciates intelligence, enjoys having interesting family discussions at dinner, and does not shy away from her smarts in the classroom or with friends.

I love how Hubby and I have been able to stress the importance of self confidence and expressing an outgoing nature, even though he and I both lack in these departments. From our shortcomings, Sweetie has learned a great lesson and been able to flourish for not only herself but for others as well.

Even though it is sometimes maddening to me, I appreciate for Sweetie's sake how her Daddy is so interested in so many different areas of life. He's an artist, a scientist, a woodworker, a hiker, a cook and baker, and in charge of his health. Despite how crazy it can drive a wife, I have to admit that Sweetie is learning great lessons about exploring interests and not settling into any one compartment.

It's hard for me to look from the inside out to say anything about what I've alone brought to Sweetie's development. Since Hubby seems to do it all, I at times feel much the lesser parent. But then again... I do know Sweetie has learned from me, quietly, in many different ways. How not to judge others who are seemingly "different," for instance. Her understanding that a person can do anything they wish as long as they try hard and adapt to the best plan possible for them. And maybe, yes, even some of her personal strength of character may have come directly from having little ol' me as a Mama.

I know I gush on and on about Sweetie here. You may think that after 8 years, the wonder that is Sweetie would have settled a little for me. But you'd be wrong. Of course, she can drive me absolutely batty with her snappy tones, eye rolls, and other nit picks only a parent can pick on. Certainly she's nowhere near the "perfect" child my writing sometimes expresses her to be! But through it all, she's just as amazing to me today as she was when she was born. Before she was born! And you may be tired of reading all my ramblings. That's completely fair. Slightly different variation on the same theme and all that.  But at the same time, I suppose you wouldn't have made it to the end of this post if that's how you feel. Thank you for letting me explode with my typical love rants.

I am grateful for having listened to even a portion of the above mentioned speaker's lecture. and to begin to truly understand what my role in raising my daughter is.

Here's to seeing her grow in the years to come and doing what I can, along with Hubby, to make sure we bring out the very best in our Sweet girl.

1 comment:

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