Our Journey as Parents
There isn’t one parent I know, whose heart hasn't ached over wanting to be a more loving parent.
In the light of day, this aching heart often hides behind a face that gets on and copes with everyday life. The sleepless nights, frayed tempers and frustration of our days, hide great angst and anguish over very intimate, personal things we are experiencing, and trying to deal with in our relationships with our children. With our own truth this hard to bear, it’s even harder to share with someone else, so in our culture, we learn to keep it all to ourselves. By not allowing ourselves to be open and honest about how it really is, we prevent ourselves from creating change that our hearts ache for, and we uphold an old paradigm.
This old paradigm is the story we’ve inherited about parenting. It is one where we are either a ‘good parent’, or a ‘bad’ one. A ‘good parent’ gets things right. If we get things wrong, we must be a ‘bad parent’. By keeping our inner lives to ourselves, we end up nurturing this paradigm and the aspiration, ‘to be a good parent’.
This just does not sustain us. There is nothing worse for our self-esteem than being in the heartache and stress of something not working with a child and thinking we are failing or getting things wrong. What we need to carry us forward, is a story about realising our innate desire to be more loving parents.
As loving parents we are human beings who makes mistakes, are willing to learn from them and continue to strive as we reach for a more loving, caring way. Allowing this requires an inner shift. It calls us beyond our conditioning and what we think is possible. To do this we need to start in every moment where we don’t know what to do. This means we need to be willing more than anything else to let the raw and vulnerable parts of ourselves be exposed; the coarseness, the ugliness, the embarrassments, the mistakes, the shame and the pain. These moments make up the bulk of our lives as parents. They are the doorways to greater self-love, and it is self-love that enables us to fall deeper and reach higher as human beings and therefore parents. It has been through experiencing these things that I have come to know them and I feel strongly that this gives rise to a new paradigm for being with our children and therefore a different aspiration for our children to inherit.
My understanding of this was born of my relationship with TomCia. Initially I worked with her as a client interested in my own personal and spiritual growth, and later became one of a small number of women working in a closed teaching circle with her over a number of years. As the work we did deepened, so did the realisation that there was significant purpose to our relationship. TomCia became the guide, inspiration and mentor who helped walk me through my inner life on all levels and when I became a parent, this included traversing my inner life as a parent.
What became my reference point, was the quality of relationship I experienced with TomCia. It was unlike anything I’d encountered previously or since. I’d go so far as saying it has been radically different through the simplest of things, paying attention and care always, to the ordinary things in life. This very simple, practical and personal way of being with people, creates enormous beauty and allows for deep intimacy. Being embraced and included in this way of being, enabled me to look at myself in a very deep, honest way. This taught me not only the importance, but also the necessity of the vulnerability I’ve suggested above. The experience, insights and understandings I was privy to, dovetailed beautifully with my own natural path in life~one where I’d been committed to working with children for a long time as an inspired and passionate educator.
I see what came to light through my relationship with TomCia, as a blue print of understanding about the divine nature of relationship between mother and child. My experience has shown me, that this information holds the potential to change what is possible for parents with their children on levels of being. From within each one of us a new paradigm can emerge that will allow us to nurture and grow, together in greater love.
It took a profound capacity for love and care to enable the changes needed for this to come to light and this is what TomCia has shown me. As I learnt with her, each step along the way, we were dealing with my conditioning and my resistance to feeling this. I got to see in very specific ways, how I could not go beyond the limits of my own thinking about what was possible, no matter what I imagined. I often found myself in the split between how I thought I was and how I actually was.
It took very different capacities to my own to show me how to lift myself out of this split and these sensitivities and capacities were capabilities of TomCia’s. I have not experienced anyone with the level of awareness that she has for things interpersonal. She sees limitless possibility in any moment and is not constrained by a limited mindset. She holds a holographic worldview and lives in a state of connection with all things at all times. She has a capacity for full presence, deep connection and total honesty all the time and these abilities of hers, meant that I had a profound level of support whenever we were together. It was like being in a place where I was able to relate to both the highest vibration of Rebekkah and myself and also see everything that was preventing this from being so. As a consequence of being in this vibration for extended periods of time, and being supported to see what was actually going on in my relationship with Rebekkah, I developed an acute awareness of the mother/child dynamic moment by moment, through experience.
I began to see moment by moment when I did connect and moment by moment when I didn't. In the months and over the years that things unfolded, TomCia set about teaching me how to keep this connection alive. She literally held my hand while I said and did out loud many things that I believed I couldn't, because of my cultural, psychological and spiritual conditioning. She was able to get really specific and personal with me about when it was happening and why and she did the same to help me notice when it's not happening and how to do something about this. I’d say she woke me up to seeing things about myself that I was unaware of and immune to, yet very much living at the mercy of. She was always directly honest with me about how she saw me and the things I do as a parent. This took immense love and courage and I know through experiencing this, that I’ve been shown a profound level of care.
This experience challenged all I’d grown up knowing about how people relate and care for each other. As a consequence, my insight developed and over time I came to see I was being taught step by step how to navigate my inner landscape and how it affected the quality of my parenting. I was helped to see on all levels of being, the consequences of both allowing change and not allowing it. I know through experience what happens when you don’t have the courage and the will for change and learning. Things can get extreme, and I have been loved and supported through these times too.
I got to experience that a continuum of honest caring relationship, enables potential and learning to unfold in a child, more than anything else. Deep intimacy, honesty and love are the cornerstones here, the foundations of the blue print. Reaching for them goes against the grain of our conditioning, as we need to open up the wounded ness in our current life dynamics to do this. The effects of this ripple out and it does take courage and a will for truth to look openly at what is actually going on. Having personally travelled this road in a very thorough way, I now see the information that came to light as essential for all parents and know it is also very accessible.
I say these things as a person who is well experienced and highly informed about the nature of children and the process of learning. I am firstly a mother. I’ve also as I said, worked or been involved with children all my life. I’ve had many different roles and responsibilities as an educator and worked in community based, alternate and mainstream settings, with people from infant age to adult. I’ve researched extensively current thinking in many fields of human endeavour, including human potential, education, parenting and child development. Yet, I have not been able to draw parallel with the experience of the paradigm shift I’m talking about here, other than to affirm my experiences with TomCia through the research of others.
As a consequence, my worldview shifted. I’m convinced that what I’m talking about here is a new way through and forward for those of us wanting to love more and care more for our children. Not only for parents….for educators, care givers, performers and artists, the message is the same for all people, what needs attention, is our capacity for love, to show care and be ever more intimate. We need to nurture and grow this for the sake of our children.
To allow you a taste of what I’m talking about, I want to share with you something I experienced in the early days of my life as mother. This experience changed what I saw was possible through nurturing. As you read, what I say may sound simple. I urge you to read it over, notice how you feel and what you think, for it was through the experience that the insight was born.
As well informed as I thought I was, what I'd imagined giving birth and being a parent was about; and the experience of how it actually was were miles apart. Not one thing I'd imagined came to pass. I had imagined a natural and loving birth and in the end experienced one that was traumatic and intervened, pethidine, epidural, forceps, episiotomy, and touch and go caesarean. All the while in labour, I listened to Rebekkah’s heart, which was being monitored for stress.
Towards birth-time, it swung between slowing down so much that I held my breath thinking it would stop and swinging to the quickening frenzy of almost exploding. As I listened, I was quietly thinking that she just might not make it and was numb with the overwhelming anguish of this possibility and too frightened to feel it. I’d actually removed myself to a place of distant, dry cynicism. What would have changed this in an instant, was the faith in myself and courage to pour the anguish out. I was too scared to and at the time, I didn’t even realise this much.
When I went home, I needed to adjust to my newfound life as a mother. All the outward signs of coping and doing well were in place. My home was lovely, Rebekkah always looked beautiful and things were taken care of. Everyone in my life told me I was doing a great job. On the inside however I was a mess. How I felt and what people told me did not match up at all. I'd often looked at Rebekkah and it felt like there was a sheet of thick perspex between us. It was like I was looking through something at her and she was looking back through it at me. She also only slept for short spells, and wasn’t feeding properly it was as if she took breast milk half-heartedly. I look back now and think this was so unbearable; that I started convincing myself it was all ok, maybe part of her nature. After all people were telling me I was doing fine…and in a big busy world like ours, where people are doing important things, talking about a child’s sleep habits, or eating habits being out of whack and how distressing this really is, might seem a little neurotic or worse still show that I am a bad mother…having been through a birth trauma, I just wasn’t going any further down that road.
When Rebekkah was three weeks old and life was for me very much as I’ve said above, I went to visit TomCia. It was to be their first meeting. What happened on that day altered everything I knew and understood about being with children. Shortly after we arrived, TomCia got me to put Rebekkah down, sat with me watching her for only a few moments, and turned to me gently saying, "She wont look will she." It was like the stopper had been pulled on all of what I was feeling and could not get near. All the heartache, all the anguish and all the pain over not being able to connect with Rebekkah came pouring out in that one moment of deep honesty. I felt safe enough to let down and feel how I really felt. My inner life had been affirmed. That one moment of truth, as simple as it sounds, was the most loving thing anyone had done for me, since Rebekkah’s birth. Overtime, I came to see the sheet of Perspex was the energy of a dynamic where parent and child couldn’t connect. Finally some truth, and within it a greater truth that I have come to know well…
Every dysfunction and distortion we experience with our children is to do with not being able to connect and deal with what is really needed.
After this we spent the day together. It started with the affirmation of how painful not being able to connect with Rebekkah really was for me. At the time, I didn’t know intellectually this was happening, nor what to do about it. This didn’t matter. Something was being communicated through the experience of being together that was really powerful. I felt embraced for how things really were and immensely loved and cared about. This allowed immense relief to flow and settle and I was able to stay with myself in a way that only a short time before had been both terrifying and unbearable. As a consequence, the dynamic in me started to shift. By the end of the day, it would change between Rebekkah and I and between the world and myself profoundly. Through being with someone who was able to acknowledge and embrace me in a very painful reality, one that the rest of the world as I knew it were colluding with me to keep quiet about, I was experiencing the profound difference, being nurtured with truth could make. I would see over the following months and coming years just what a difference this could bring between parent and child.
A few hours later I sat with TomCia while she held Rebekkah. The feeling had deepened between us over the day and as we sat, I sensed something was going to happen. Later I realised, my feet had been off the ground, in anxiety and anticipation. TomCia said, "I think she's going to get angry," and within a moment of her having said this, I witnessed Rebekkah express full, intense rage. She did not cry, nor scream. She entered into a state of rage like nothing I’d seen before, in such a young child. There was an aura of incredible love and acceptance between her and TomCia, which to my eyes seemed to enable Rebekkah the satisfaction of freely being this. While I witnessed, I had to steady my legs, and breathe a lot, through feelings of immense guilt and responsibility for this rage in Rebekkah. I knew I was watching something I did not have the capacity to be present and receive in my adult life. I knew I could not have given this to Rebekkah. I was in an experience of witnessing the difference a deep capacity to connect through feeling, was making for Rebekkah. She was able to fully be in her feelings, without the interference of any projection or anxiety. I was also noticing the intensity of her feeling and expression, were something I didn’t think I could be and contain; yet here it was, given freely and fully by a baby. Another wave of intense anger came over Rebekkah and once complete, she fell asleep, instantly and deeply. TomCia then placed her in my arms and I noticed two things, she was noticeably heavier than before and her face had broken out into red spots and blotches, quite like the anger of acne.
At this point, I didn’t actually know what had happened, and was not prepared at all for what I was shortly to see and experience. What mattered was how I felt, which was immense relief once again and intense appreciation for the support for Rebekkah’s well being. After this we walked, and I found myself looking at Rebekkah and taking her in anew. I was looking directly at her when she woke up and for the first time she looked directly at me and connected fully, through her eyes. The impact of this was intense. It was like my heart kicked in with hers and in that moment I felt the intensity of my love for her for the first time. Blessed relief. I was elated and overwhelmed at what I was seeing for along with the pure heart connection; there was a total transformation to her physical appearance as well. Her eyes were bluer, clearer and more open, her whole lower face had changed shape, from a slightly receding chin, to a very open full mouth. Later I experienced more of this change in breast-feeding. She had barely been able to get her mouth around my nipple before this and now did it with ease. I actually felt my spirit soar in ecstasy through our first moment of connection and remember saying something like, "Look, look, she's here, she's looking,” Rebekkah had finally arrived in spirit.
I realised later that the intense pain I'd felt over not being able to connect was also the anguish of seeing that she wasn't really here, not knowing what to do and feeling quite crazy about this. All the voices around had re-assured me that how it was, was o.k. and normal. Instinctively I knew something different, and nearly eleven years of experience later, I’d say we’d been living in spiritual crisis together. I am convinced that crisis of this nature is part of the silent experience of parenting in our culture and that we’re largely immune to it. In each parent child dynamic, the circumstances may be different, but the nature of non-connection with our children is a cultural lie we all get caught in.
How many times have you heard, “Oh all kids do that”, about something that does not feel comfortable or right to you? I certainly have and I’ve come to understand the cultural trap I’m talking about here through seeing, feeling and experiencing the difference honesty and care makes in these moments. A large part of what I learnt in this way was born of my need to play the status quo too, and resist knowing myself in an honest deep way. It has enriched me immensely over time to look back and see my own inability to surrender and move through my own blocks. In the end it seems, it’s only ever pride that makes us immovable in the moments where our greatest need is to surrender. Through this, I now know we were dealing with the condition of being human and someone had to be shown the level of love, care and compassion I was for this to come to light as a pathway for others.
From this time on, I began to fall in love with Rebekkah and to feel more and more comfortable about love flowing between us. Everything that had been causing the angst changed; the way she slept, the way she ate, the way she sounded when she cried, how she responded to people and to life itself. She was more embodied and there was something about having experienced the total devastation of our disconnection at first, and having the support and guidance for this to come to light, that made the value of having our heart connection intact, more apparent. I know now, that above all else, through keeping feeling connection alive we actually keep spirit alive in a child and within a relationship.
Learning to embrace and maintain this has been both enlightening and at times intensely challenging. Out of my experience in relationship with Rebekkah and TomCia, I have come to know the things that make a difference in very personal, practical and specific ways. I’d now say, what lies under every moment of heartache and frustration we feel is the desire to love more….I want to love my child more than I feel right now. It takes courage and willingness to bring this to light, for we need to feel our way through the ‘not love’ and this can be confronting and painful. In the end we are only confronting our ideas about ourselves and letting them go makes way for something greater. Finding more love as a parent, means learning to be more personal, intimate and practical. It means finding courage and taking risks.
Take notice of what you do, as your actual outward expression always reveals the inner attitude, no matter what you may think.
Through seeing, feeling and knowing your inner attitude, you can change it. Change happens through holding a new attitude and doing something very practical and specific, to support its emergence and allow its influence in relationship. This shift enables a flow of love to re-establish between parent and child. Having experienced this in practical, physical everyday ways, and also subtle finer levels of being, I know it enables and encourages heightened sensitivity and deeper intimacy.
For the enlivened consciousness in children being born at this time, it creates what they need most, the safety and nourishment to be all of who they are. If you don’t think it’s possible, they can’t feel free to be it.
The only true measure we have of our success or otherwise as a parent, is whether or not there is peace in our hearts over our actions with our children. No one else can judge, no one else can know, for each child is unique and therefore each relationship with the parent too. I truly believe there is divine perfection in the nature of our relationships with our children. Our children are our teachers, in very ordinary everyday practical ways. The child who won't sleep at night, may just be a little being calling to their mother….’I need you to work this out mum, to make life better for both of us. I'm teaching you to find a better way, will you teach me how to go to sleep, I need to rest.’
We have to lift the lid on the secrecy surrounding our lives as parents as this is all we have to pave the way for change. We need to find the courage to look into the eyes of another with all of what we feel about having had no sleep for a week, or having screamed at our child in frustration, or waking up each day feeling resentful. We need to embrace each other as allies in need of support. There is no greater satisfaction, moment by moment, day by day, than to have overcome this hurdle and to be able to sit back knowing quietly on the inside that loving your child enough to want to open up to really finding a better way, has made you a better person.