Raising kids is both challenging and beautiful all at once. It can be a little like surfing rainbows. At times, kids push our limits, not to mention pushing all the buttons we didn’t know we had. But there's an unexpected silver lining hidden within the joys and challenges of parenting: our own personal growth. The process of raising a child helps us face our own limitations and unhealed wounds, equipping us, if we dare, to move beyond the known to the unknown, all thanks to the little ones we love.
You may want to print this out and put it up on your fridge as a timely reminder for when you need it the most.
1. Patience. Patience is not born into us but is a trait we can cultivate. As parents, we get a crash course in how to be patient not only with our children but with ourselves. Children don't respond well to knee-jerk reactions or hot-headedness, nor is it good for their or our mental health. So, by taking a slow, deep breath when a favourite vase is broken, or by patiently talking them out of a toddler tantrum, we can begin to respond to life from a more compassionate and caring They are learning, after all, and so are we.
2. Presence. Watch children while they play and you'll notice they're completely engaged and naturally present in the moment. They don't have to meditate to find that sweet spot: they just live it. Children are masters of presence and remind us that we too can be present, simply by playing. We can learn so much from our children by stepping back from the constant need to be busy, to label or to judge, and just be present by observing and witnessing.
3. Acceptance & Trust. Children don’t know what they need – they only know what they want. And when they don't get it, they may kick and scream. As adults, we have our own version of kicking and screaming when we don’t get what we want. Children remind us that not getting what we want may ultimately be a good thing. There’s usually a bigger reason and purpose at play that is not always immediately obvious and a bigger reason for why we may be denied something in life. We can't always see the big picture of what we need for our highest good or the consequences of getting what we want. We need to trust that we are being guided to what is best for us, just as we are guiding our children to what is best for them.
4. Self-Expression. Children are naturally emotionally free and expressive. But as we grow, limited belief systems, self-judgment, and social norms are imposed upon us that unbridle our spirit. A different self develops, one that's often stunted and shaped by expectation. Parenting a child is ultimately about giving them the tools to develop into emotionally intelligent adults, so they can go out into the world and explore their potential with the strength and courage to become all they are meant to. The more we appreciate the emotional freedom of a child, the more we remember who we are before all the programming started.
5. Pushing past comfort zones. As parents, we're always telling our children to be careful of edges, whether literal or figurative. "Don't play near the road." "Don't touch that or you'll get hurt." But we also must encourage children (and ourselves) to push past certain boundaries. "Go ahead, you can jump in the pool – I'm right here!" "Audition for the school play – you'll be great as the lead!" Our children will always take our cue when it comes to courage. Noticing how we encourage or discourage children to get outside their comfort zone and push past their boundaries shines a light on our willingness to move past our own.
6. How to fall gracefully. Parenting is a constant pull between letting go and being supportive. When a child falls they usually look toward their parent for a reaction and it's your reaction that shapes their reaction. Our job as parents isn't to stop falls from happening but to gently guide our children to see potential dangers and navigate through them. It's natural to fall. Children remind us that, as humans, falling is an inevitable part of life and growth. We get hurt sometimes. And that's okay! We brush ourselves off and get back in the race again. And just like a child in a playground, if we aren’t falling every now and then it’s a sure sign we’re playing it a little too safe in life.
7. Non-attachment. It's hard watching our children go through any kind of emotional turmoil or upset. We want to save them, wave a wand and make it go away. But it's not always possible. Sometimes detachment from their experience is needed so they can process it in their own time. Likewise, as adults, we can get repeatedly stuck and energetically wrapped around an issue – albeit a person, an event, an attitude – and until we can detach from this we will be frustrated and confused about why we can’t move forward in life. Children show us how important non-attachment is for living a happy and fulfilled life.
8. Gratitude. No matter how much, love, attention, toys or treats you give your child, they may still grumble and complain for no good reason. We think to ourselves, "What have you got to complain about? You have everything you asked for and more!" But how often do we ask ourselves that very same question? The universe gives us so many reasons to be grateful, yet our human tendency is to focus on the failings, the shortfalls, and what we don’t have. Children learn from us: when we're more grateful for all that we have, they just might be too.
9. Life Transitions. Teaching a baby to sleep in their own bed can be a difficult life transition. They’re used to us nursing them, holding them until they stop crying, and being there until they fall asleep. When it’s time to learn a little independence and to soothe themselves to sleep, they may feel abandoned and scream that life is not fair. As adults, when we're ready to transition in life and make progress, it can also appear that life has abandoned us. In our confusion about what is really happening, we kick, scream and complain that life is not fair when we feel there is no support. Just as we know that we have not abandoned our child because we are just helping them to grow up, likewise life never abandons us.
10. Creation and Destruction. Kids build and destroy. Just watch them create an elaborate Lego creation only to pull it all apart shortly after. Though occasionally, as adults, we need to stomp on our sandcastles after they've served their purpose, maturity affords us the wisdom to learn how to create and sustain and not continually.
11. Letting go of our "toys". Watching how babies respond when we take an object away from them is an incredible lesson in non-attachment. To us, we see that object as just a thing, yet to them, the entire world is being yanked from their grip. As adults, how often do we attach to material things believing they are our world? We can feel devastated when things are removed from our lives – but they're just things and we can't take them with us. Their value is small when we look at those objects through the lens of love and connectivity with others.
Raising children challenges and changes every aspect of us. There is the "you" before children and the "you" after children. With a little reflection, and observation, we can watch ourselves grow and evolve into something near to our potential, just as we watch our children grow into something beautiful.
Our Dailygreatness Parents Journal is the perfect guide for parenting consciously and making the moments count. You can check it out here.