“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”
(Gibran, 1998, p.17)
My childless friends aren’t aware that parenting is the single greatest spiritual training that we as mothers and fathers are undergoing. Honestly, most of them don’t understand what it is like to be a mother, by a long shot. On the surface, it looks completely unglamorous, and it is. We are constantly at work for our child and physical freedom is at its all-time low. We’re often disheveled and unpretty, wiping up all sorts of bodily excretions, eating questionable droppings from the floor, listening to our children’s nursery songs on repeat and wherever we go, there they are. The sleepless nights, the tantrums, the sick days, we deal with them all. Did I mention there’s no break? For like 10 years? Per child? It’s no wonder they look upon my position without envy, and some even harbor the secret feeling that I may be wasting my ambition away, unstimulated and resigned to the menial tasks of child-rearing.
Let’s go back, though, because my perspective of Motherhood is essentially spiritual. In every spiritual tradition, there is an emphasis on Oneness, and that everything else that we label as the Other is simply an illusion. Separation (the idea of a Me and a You) is the ultimate illusion. If this is the case, what is the purpose of the illusion, when the “goal” is to return to wholeness? Why is this Grand Design so flawed? Perhaps, I simply misunderstand. Maybe the destination (return to Oneness) isn’t as important as the journey. I find part of the answer in another ancient teaching: every relationship is a mirror. In separation, we are able to know ourselves more deeply, more fully. How would I ever know what I look like if I never encountered a reflection or a mirror? On a deeper layer, maybe this is why we have seemingly outward relationships in the first place, with friends, with parents, with daughters and sons and lovers — Other People are the mirrors to ourselves. We could never know ourselves as fully in isolation as we would when we relate. Pure Consciousness yearns to know itself so deeply that it creates the illusion of separation in order to learn about itself. It created the Observer to look upon itself. It’s almost like the Universe taking a selfie. Yeah, I just went there with that analogy.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
In the words of Dr. Shefali Tsabary, “Every relationship in our lives is called for the higher, more sacred purpose of evolving.” The child is pure consciousness, expressing itself, through you. Yet, you as the parent has called forth this being to learn from them. They have arrived as our teachers, and likewise, they chose us because we have some lesson to offer them. This is why the parent-child relationship is so utterly profound.
“This is the spiritual test… you now get this unremitting love that you’ve never received before, this child looks at you with adoring gaze, it’s a trip for the parent. It’s a huge ego trip… If you can… know that your child is a sovereign being, and you’ve participated in that and they’ve helped you become a more sovereign being, and [you are both] just guiding each other… then you’ve released your Ego in most everything else. So in this way the parent-child relationship becomes the spiritually regenerative relationship of your life, the one where you awaken.” (Tsabary)
At least, that’s how it should be. The tragedy is that a child comes into the world deeply innocent and authentically themselves, and over time, they lose touch with their own voices because they become so identified with their parents’. Their spirits are smothered by the heavy blanket of social conditioning, superstitious beliefs, and in the bygone eras, attitudes of subservience and conformity, and nowadays, attitudes of entitlement and superiority. The first seven years of a child’s life is so transformative, mutable and impressionable that they will often live the rest of their lives in the same learnt patterns and behaviors of their childhood that they’ve come to expect.
The work is every day, every minute of every day. There is no break until they are sleeping (and guess what, some children don’t sleep!) It’s not ever easy nor perfect. It is the hardest thing not to cover your children up with the masks of your own pain and Ego and allow them the freedom to be their authentic selves. The paradox is that your children need and depend on you in their early years, which causes them to look to you for support, guidance, courage, security — but this also causes them to exalt you undeservingly, crave your love even in those moments where it is absent, and feel the sharpest pain when it is not given. Then come the teenage years, whereby children undergo a process of rebellion of all the years they’ve spent following the rules and ideas you’ve imposed upon them, resenting you for all the times you never saw them for who they are.
I deeply believe in the karmic realities of individual people as well as of their families. What I mean by that is we all carry within us generational trauma, emotional pain, destructive patterns and false perceptions that come directly from events and people that came before our time, which then gets carried on through us unconsciously, and given like a rotting gift to your child who never asked for it. We all have it. We must recognize it. Then we must end it.
I am not a perfectly loving or present mother all the time — far from it. What I am is reflective and humble. My children will experience pain and I cannot prevent that, nor would I want to. I wish that pain wouldn’t come from me, but I know this is also an impossible desire. When I think about my purpose as a mother, I find that the best approach is to keep things simple and actionable amidst all of the complications of this relationship.
I hope to keep my children’s curiosity alive.
That’s it. In my deduction, this is where all knowledge of Life and of Self comes from. It’s a tool that will keep them afloat when things get rough. If they continue to love the process of discovery, then they can uncover many things for themselves rather than rely on what they’ve learned from me. What I teach them about love, life, God, fear, pain — maybe these lessons do not apply to them. But if they keep questioning for themselves, with their own God-given minds and hearts, they will inevitably find the answers within. That’s all I can wish for as their mother.
Gibran, Kahlil. The Prophet. Alfred A Knopf, 1998.
Howes, Lewis. “Episode 526: Conscious Parenting with Dr. Shefali Tsabary.” Audio blog post. The School of Greatness. Lewishowes.com, 21 Aug 2017. Web. 28 Jan 2018.