I have always been passionate about the subject of Parenting and recently it appeared in interesting ways in my coaching conversation with some clients and inspired me to put these together. Keeping the privacy of my clients, I am sharing the situation in anonymous way focusing on the insights it brought to me. And I am grateful for their trust and openness to share their experience, which I hope would enlighten many more.
First story belongs to person “A” who is happy and satisfied in life, is able to focus his energies towards his chosen direction and be present for his goals, task at hand. He enjoys everything he does. The only area where he hasn’t found the same success is in relationships. To be precise in intimate relationships despite that he finds himself attracted to opposite gender. When he reflected a bit more on what attracts him and who is he striving to be with the subject of his attraction, he could identify that he always looks for specific characteristics like soft, gentle voice; nurturing, caring and somebody who could take charge. And to my surprise and curiosity, he said in his own words that he looks for somebody like his mom.
Further exploration led us to identify that as a child he could never enjoy or learn to make relationship with his peers. Instead, his precious relationship has been with his mom. Also, he has always been in the company of people elder than him and grew up under the protected shadow of mom and the friends double his age. While this person grew up with lot of safety, trust and a childlike innocence, his natural inclination in relationship is towards more mature women. His need to be nurtured and cared for like a child still remains. And this might be a challenge in his relationships because this very need or pattern would come in his way of creating an equal or balanced relationship, especially if the partner doesn’t understand.
He said that his mother was so protective of him that she would not let him move away. And I wondered how a mother’s protective vibe end up creating a pattern in the child that is not healthy for his adult life.
In another instance, where I was coaching an elderly woman, I experienced a different spectrum. I coached this lovely person who in her old age, after loosing her husband (few years back) finds herself amidst her own mental agony. She goes through panic, anxiety and a nagging worry that she might get a critical illness and her children might suffer because of that (though her tests suggest that she is physically healthy). When we explored her emotional state she shared her experience with her husband’s illness and demise. I sensed grief still held back inside her. When I asked her if she gave herself a chance to grieve her loss and pain, she said she stayed strong. She was the elder and the mother so she couldn’t breakdown. As a result, she is still holding on to the pain and grief which shows up as anxiety and fear which is apparently baseless in the given situation.
Both these stories stayed with me because both have these protective mothers and I can relate resonate with both of these and many more mothers or even fathers I have seen, met and observed. We have a natural protective instinct towards our children and we would like to keep them safe while we also want to see them flourish. Despite the best intensions, the children suffer. Even the parents suffer. The paradox is that the very instinct and act of protection is creating the situations for future pain.
So, what should the parents do? How do they be? Where does the balance lie? Is there a guide to correct parenting?
My honest answer is, “I don’t know.”
I have parents and I am a parent too. And I would say both have made mistakes. Sometimes, when we are coming from loyalty for our parents, we will end up picking their ways in parenting our children. And if we are coming from a rebel space, we will end up picking absolute opposite from how our parents have been. We can still make mistake from either of the schools because we are choosing to parent our children from the perspective of past whereas they are the future and are leading into a future that might be nothing like we imagine.
While I do not have a guide for the right parenting, I can definitely share what I have come to understand and what works for me as a parent. While I learnt a few things from my parents, I have learnt greater deal from my children. And that is my first guide point in helping me through the paradox of parenting.
Parenting in not a one way road.
It helps when parents are open to observe and learn from their children as much as they want children to learn. In my openness to learn through my children, I found that parenting is an intuitive and creative process. It is challenging and difficult and therefore, can be transformative if you allow yourself to be transformed.
My second guide point comes from the space of our protective instinct. No matter how painless we would like the life for our children, they will have pains. By being overprotective, we might just accumulate the pains for their future. But can we deliberately let the children be hurt to facilitate their growth?
I have come to believe that hurt and pain is not a problem if we know how to heal. We do not need to be scared of the pain or hurt that may come to our children or ourselves with the actions we take or choices we make. More important is to be present in the time with a kind smile, a warm hug, nurture and care to heal the hurt, to sooth the pain. Like its said, a stich in time saves nine. Timely care and presence shows them what healing means. Share your pains and hurts with them and show them how to be open with the pain. You will not be around them always when life is difficult for them. But they will always remember to heal themselves and still connect with the world.
Hence, don’t hold them back, be present instead.
My third guiding point comes from the awareness that the children do not need as much from parents as we might like to think at times and are tempted to wrap ourselves around them. They are the intelligent, resilient force of nature if we do not come in their way. Though it is equally important that we support them physically, emotionally, socially, financially so they can make a life. Where they do not need us is in their heads. No matter how tempting it might be, don’t tell them. Instead let them.
Observe, Listen, Ask, Show, Share and if you really must at last tell.
I would reiterate that these are my experiences that I am sharing with you and is again not a guide for you to follow. I would rather invite you to reflect and observe if these resonate with you. More important is for you to be clear about what does parenting mean to you and what relationship you intend to create with your children. And then whatever you may choose to do, just always…