Thursday, September 17, 2009

Parenting as Final Exam

I will preface this by stating what may be obvious: I am a bit of a nerd. But one thing I loved about college courses was the final exam. Okay, maybe love is a little strong of a sentiment, and I should qualify further by stating I enjoyed a well conceived final exam in a subject that excited me. Preparing for the final was a time to review all the material, taking hold of the various tools I had been given, and making it my own. It was a bringing together of everything I had learned and then seeing how well I could apply that knowledge. Light bulbs often would go off as my comprehension of things clicked into place.

I have found parenting is very much like taking an exam, only this one is in Life. So the stakes are higher. At a basic level, my child is always challenging my understanding of things, asking what words such as Consequence, Appreciation, or Expression (as in, that's just an expression of speak) mean. There is the usual follow-up to any explanation (what makes rain ?) with But why? I am constantly fine tuning explanations, delving deeper and deeper in topics hither-to considered.

Some questions and situations require a bit more soul-searching, and require me to take a position on a difficult topic. Are there bad people? is one recent example. As a parent, the reality of evil things in the world that threaten my child is very tangible, but do I ultimately believe someone is irredeemably bad? I explained to Cowgirl that there are people who have forgotten their goodness, and by believing themselves to be bad and they act in bad ways. And I do believe this; it helps to believe in karma and reincarnation as some acts are so heinous only a string of future lifetimes seems possible for redemption. But I felt that thought a little much for a four year old mind to take on.

In her three years with us, Cowgirl has seen her share of deaths. She was too young to grasp my father's passing when she had just turned two, but she knows Grandpa Art is died. She was very aware when we had to put to sleep the cat, and then 3 months later, the dog. In both cases I had her say goodbye and offer her love to both animals. It was an incredibly hard time, but more for me than her. I had to come to terms with what I truly believed about death as I wanted to share my beliefs with Cowgirl. As a parent, I feel it is my responsibility to model Truthfulness for my child. In Yoga this is the second of the Yamas (reflections of our true nature) and is called Satya or truthfulness & integrity in thought, word and deed.

This has always been a powerful practice for me as I tended to have a problem with the little lies. Like when someone would ask me to do something I didn't want to do, instead of saying so, I would make an excuse up. I came to understand that a compulsion to fib was masking a belief that my feelings or opinions or needs were not as valid as another person's. I did not feel I had the power or the right to say No which might entail putting myself first.

I also recognized the damage done to my self esteem by living in lies. Nischala Joy Devi writes: "The heart rests when it is in Satya." And I know my heart and spirit were not restful when I believed I could not express my truth and The Truth as I understood it.

It was a deeply healing experience to share the truth, as I understand it, about our animals passing with Cowgirl. I did not want to tell her they were going to a farm or a special park. We talked about the our bodies wearing out, and our souls out growing us and needing new forms to take on, much like we get new clothes when the old ones are worn or don't fit. And we talked about how when we love someone, they are never lost to us; we always know where they are because they are forever in our hearts. These ideas sit well in my soul; they feel right to me and I feel I am being truthful with my child.

So putting my practice, the lessons of my life, and the truths experienced in my heart all together as I teach and share with Cowgirl is like gathering all the concepts from a class and using them for the first time in the world outside the classroom. I stumble along at first, am a bit awkward, but then things fall into place and the power of living and parenting in Truth is exhilarating for all. I will never forget the moment I said I was missing our dog and Cowgirl sweetly explained "But mommy, Bandit is in our hearts ... he's not missing!"

Okay, so this is the parenting exam I aced. Don't worry, I have plenty of stories about the ones I've flunked. Not sure why this all came up today, but I wanted to share. And I couldn't resist starting with a sunflower. They are everywhere right now.

I would love to hear your stories.

1 comment:

  1. So much to say, so little time these days.
    I am very proud of you for doing the class and I wish I could have driven 8 hours to join you :)
    You liked the finals in college? How old were you in college? Because you don't sound like a lost, clueless, older adolescent like I was. You sound like a responsible adult actually realizing how your classes were benefiting you.
    Also, make sure the word "fairies" is included in every answer to those complex questions you give your daughter. I like your ideas about truthfulness and I've felt good lately about saying I don't know, or I wonder. Like when Ava asked if I was going to die before her. And then asked where I would go if I did. I do love the response that just came to me right when I needed it- I said, "My body will die, but my goodness will continue to live inside of you and everyone who I love." I have a hard time thinking about a soul, but maybe our souls are simply goodness and that is very easy to talk about.