This is one of the most important posts I’ve written in a while—at least, it feels like it. It’s about children and is specifically for the parents of children. I believe children are our most precious and vulnerable members of society; they simply cannot exist alone. They are also the most truthful witnesses of society.
As parents, who we are for our children directly affects their trajectories. To speak to parents about their children is the most sacred thing I do; I feel the pressure to be honest yet never diminish the efforts of parents or children and their unique, sacred connection.
At the moment, I am a parent of two seniors: one in high school and one in college. As I’ve consciously awakened, I’ve become acutely aware of the unspoken burden I’ve unconsciously placed on them. I believe that it is a behavioral epidemic among us truly caring, engaged parents, and it prevents our children from living authentically if it is not addressed. So, what is it?
The unspoken burden, which you may not even be aware of yet, can be found by completing this sentence: “I wish my child would be ______ when he (or she) grows up.”
Did you add the phrase happy? Successful? A dentist? Out of my house? Whatever you filled in the blank with (your wish for them), is the basis of every power struggle you have with your children because this sentence denies the reality of who they are.
Let me ask you: How did living with unspoken wishes for you work for you and your parents? Did you feel pressured about not doing it right? Like your parents don’t get you? Never quite the bundle of joy they thought you would be?
Let me be clear. The unspoken wishes we have for other people are rarely articulated—even to oneself. Yet they lurk in sentences like, “You need to get an A in that class; you’re so good at science,” or maybe, “I can help you practice baseball after school. You can do this!” Sneaky, right?
Lurking beneath any wish for another person, articulated or not, is the sneakiest form of ego, the “well-meaning ego,” which is highly destructive because there is no such thing. The unspoken agenda of wishing anyone anything is not our job.
An “I wish” for someone else will quickly create a power struggle between you both. It is also a reflection of a spiritual block in your own self-understanding.
Wishing for your children to be anything can promote self-denial in them, as they may try to please you. It’s like saying to your child, “I’m not sure where you are now or who you’d like to be, but here are my desires for you. Please be these.”
To wish an emotion, state of being, career, or certain life choice is understandable, but it actually says more about you—mainly that your ego is in charge at the moment. For our egos, a wish is a secret agenda that goes something like this: “I need you to be happy so that I can be okay, because I do not know how to cope with any other reality for you.”
We behave this way, of course, because there is probably no worse pain for any of us than witnessing children in pain. Whether it’s with regard to our own child or those of others, seeing hurt children is universally the most challenging thing we do. We allow them to be angry, but their sadness is devastating.
What makes our roles as parents even trickier to figure out is that we are given an effortless connection to our children. This is why you feel comfortable guiding and helping them. At some (deep) level, we know everything for them.
We are designed to know what our children are thinking, what they are struggling with, and, yes, even what their destiny is. “Wishing” for your children begins the moment you disconnect from true, effortless knowing. When we have spiritual blocks within ourselves, the knowledge of how to support our children stops, and life quickly gets hard.
I use the following example to show people how easily the universe has designed things for us. However, our own egos (our spiritual blocks) often get in the way of this place’s elegant design.
One of the first things I noticed as a new mom learning to breastfeed was that, when my breasts began to be very full, the baby seemed to be getting fussy and hungry. This usually was between three to four hours and perfectly timed for both of us.
My hunger and thirst somehow adjusted to suit the demand of feeding as well. With very little effort, I was a baby food-making machine. I got to eat like crazy and not gain weight, and the baby got fed and was gaining weight and sleeping well. This was awesome.
Even though my doctor reassured me the baby was fine, in fits of sleep deprivation I would get emotionally triggered by comments of other new moms or a parenting manual and question myself. Okay, it was more like a death-spiral of anxiety and self-doubt. Were the diapers wet enough? Was there enough poo? Was the poo the right color? Holy cow. Maybe I should supplement? Yet, through it all, even I saw how easy it was supposed to be. This was so cool.
When we cannot see the universe’s design, or when we get disconnected from the ease of life, we worry and doubt ourselves. Maybe like me back then, you do not have the tools for managing your ego; so, instead of calming down and rebalancing yourself, you feed the worry. Voilà! It’s that easy to disconnect! Disconnection happens when the body-mind begins acting on the ego’s discomfort because it does not know how to regain a balance state.
The next thing you know, you’re at the big-box store in the middle of the night, worried about which fancy formula you need to feed the baby. Now that you’re supplementing, your breasts are too full, and you are out of sync with the baby’s feeding schedule; you have to buy a machine that sucks the milk out or give up breastfeeding.
Guilty, ashamed, and terrified that the baby will die without the immune protection from Mother’s milk, you opt for the breast pump. Your husband now has to step in and feed the baby milk pumped from your breasts (totally ironic), because you always seem to find yourself connected to a machine when the baby needs to eat.
You are also now sterilizing everything in what was once the kitchen, but is now the new “keep baby alive experimental laboratory” where the expensive equipment including binkies, bottles, and special nipples are stored in a sterile field.
As you can see, our own spiritual connections to ourselves and to our mental health and wellness determine our abilities to synchronize with our children. When we proceed through life without addressing our egos, life gets hard—quickly.
And although there is nothing wrong with pumping breast milk and having the father feed the baby with a bottle of breast milk or formula, the point I’m making is that the effortlessness of the universe’s design is hard to deny.
As we all take our children back to school in a few weeks (for me, it’s the last time, sniff), know that the number-one thing we can do to support our children’s journeys into happy, healthy, and powerful adulthoods is keep ourselves happy, healthy, and powerful. We have to be the person who shows them how to do this.
We simply cannot expect them to magically be mentally healthy adults if we are not. We cannot wish or give something to our children that we do not understand ourselves. If your child is struggling, and you do not know why, you can help him or her best by getting help—for yourself!
This is the beautiful win-win of connection. Your ability to help your child is based on the effortless knowing found in the parental connection. So when you work to heal the spiritual blocks within, your wisdom returns and it will be reflected in this relationship.
Children are the most conscious of us all. They have incredible truth detectors that are tuned to adults, especially their parents. They are your constant observers. Your mindset for your life is how they are very likely going to live as adults or have to heal as adults once they leave you.
If you think being unsettled, sad, or anxious is only affecting you and that your child is “fine,” I implore you to rethink the situation. The universe is not designed that way. All relationships are reflections of ourselves. When you are troubled, they know. Depending on their age and gender (and your situation) it will manifest as uniquely as their own DNA and may not be obvious.
What’s important to note is that we all get troubled. The only thing that separates us from each other is the way we handle ourselves when we are troubled. I’ve found myself personally not wanting to talk to my own children about my issues because I didn’t want to upset them. I didn’t want to “damage” them further.
So I took myself and got help from a professional. To this day, it was the best money I ever spent. If this is you, then I promise there is some great help out there for you and your partner and your children.
The most important thing we can do for our children is get help for ourselves from qualified experts. They will happily help you with a plan for talking to your kids about what’s going on and, if necessary, for getting support for them.
Next week I will post some healthy rules of engagement for ego-less conversations!