PARENTING WITH PRINCIPLE FOUR — BE YOURSELF

Using this principle in your everyday parenting comes naturally when you have worked to discover who you truly are. Tai Chi teacher Chungliang Al Huang summed up nicely the message we want to get across to our kids:

“What you need is an acceptance of yourself as you are. You are like a seed. You don’t know what you’re going to be when spring comes — maybe a chrysanthemum, or an orchid, or maybe just a plain dandelion. . . Be with the process and enjoy it.”

When we look at the analogy of flowering, we remember that flowers don’t bloom until near the end of the plant’s life cycle. This is especially pertinent these days, when we live so much longer than our ancestors did, when people have several careers and maybe even several families. Blooming, going dormant, and blooming again is a realistic paradigm for how our children’s lives and our lives are likely to be. It is our job to assure our children that they have many choices and that they never have to settle on just the one thing forever. Rather than pushing them into what we want for them, we help and support them as they try out many things and go with what brings them joy.

Principle Four in Pregnancy

Pregnancy, birth, and infancy are periods when you are required to make many decisions; sometimes it can be overwhelming. You get so much advice and input from relatives, friends, books, blogs, and experts that you can lose track of what your inner guidance is trying to tell you. Using Principles One and Two (Relax and Slow Down) can help you and firmly rooting yourself in Principle Three (Empower) can help you have the “sinking power” you need to communicate with others. Be Yourself requires that you act in accordance with your own deeply held values.

Only you can decide, according to what feels best to you, whether you give birth at home or in a hospital or birthing center, choose to immunize or not, breastfeed or not, whether your children wear natural fibers or not, whether or not you choose day care, how to discipline and communicate with a toddler, and so on. After doing your own research about the issues, make your decisions from a deep inner place that makes you feel like a good parent, instead of simply going with what your parents tell you or with the current cultural flow.

Over and over again, it has been shown that the current cultural flow is often wrong. At one time it was common and accepted to give babies opium to keep them quiet. At one time, mothers were told to wear masks and not to breathe on their babies or breastfeed them for fear of “contaminating” them. At one time,parents were told not to respond to an infant’s cry for fear of “spoiling” them. At one time, it was widely believed that babies didn’t feel pain and that they could not see or hear in the womb or for the first weeks of life. Take the experts with a grain of salt, and listen to your own heart about what is right for you and your family. Refrain from judging other parents and their decisions for the same reasons; you are not in their shoes.

Be Yourself with Your Baby

Before you birth your baby, you may envision yourself calmly and blissfully being a parent; or, you may be terrified that you don’t know what to do with this new human depending on you for its very existence. It is fairly easy now, with the internet, to read a lot about infants — what they need, what they don’t need, how to provide the best environment for them, how to respond to their cries and fusses and so on.

Scientific research has blossomed over the past decades, and many parenting styles of our parents’ day have been proven to be almost barbaric. Figure out how to both be yourself and provide your infant with the love, attention, and healthy environment that s/he desperately needs. Those who say, “Well, I turned out all right! The way my parents did it will work for me,” don’t recognize the many problems, physical, mental, and emotional health risks they faced or will face because of how they were raised.

If you can be firmly rooted in who you are, you will find that you can intuit the right decisions as you live with your baby. You will make mistakes, but as you relax, slow down, empower yourself with good information, and have confidence in who you are, you can correct your course as you go along. In this way, no permanent damage is done. Your child responds to you “being yourself.” Trying to parent in some way that isn’t coming from your deepest principles is confusing for your child, and damaging long-term.

© 2015 Vimala McClure

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A Helpful Guide to Becoming Unbusy

A Helpful Guide to Becoming Unbusy.

. . .  is the state of busy really improving our lives? Certainly not. Statistics indicate 75% of parents are too busy to read to their children at night. There is a rising number of children being placed in day cares and after-school activities. Americans are having a hard time finding opportunity for vacations these days. 33% of Americans are living with extreme stress daily. And nearly 50% of Americans say they regularly lie awake at night because of stress. This is a problem. We have become too busy.

PARENTING WITH PRINCIPLE TWO: SLOW DOWN Part Four

SLOWING DOWN FOR YOUR CHILDREN

Unfortunately, it often seems that just about the time life is going smoothly, we find some way to get caught up, once again, in our unhealthy thinking— speeded up, worrying about a bill, concerned about the future, regretting the past, resenting something that happened at work, or simply consumed in our to-do list for tomorrow. There are an infinite number of ways to get off track. However, they all have one thing in common: They are the result of our own thinking. When we recognize that we are thinking, however— when we remember that we are the thinker responsible for the feelings we are experiencing—we then have the capacity to wake up and bring ourselves gently back to the moment.

As the mind slows down, we are able to see life much more clearly. We have many of the same issues to contend with, but they look different. Rather than appearing to be emergencies that are smothering us, they look like issues that need resolving or opportunities in disguise. Feelings are a mechanism to let us know when our minds are operating too quickly and when it’s time to slow down. Just as a timer goes off to signal that dinner is ready, an internal buzzer goes off when you are thinking in an unhealthy way. If you listen to these feelings and trust what they are trying to tell you, you will begin to experience the peace and joy of your mental health. Never again will life seem like such an emergency!

As the mind slows down, we are able to see life much more clearly. We have many of the same issues to contend with, but they look different. Rather than appearing to be emergencies that are smothering us, they look like issues that need resolving or opportunities in disguise. Feelings are a mechanism to let us know when our minds are operating too quickly and when it’s time to slow down. Just as a timer goes off to signal that dinner is ready, an internal buzzer goes off when you are thinking in an unhealthy way. If you listen to these feelings and trust what they are trying to tell you, you will begin to experience the peace and joy of your mental health. Never again will life seem like such an emergency!

Carlson, Richard; Bailey, Joseph (2009-10-13). Slowing Down to the Speed of Life: How To Create a Peaceful, Simpler Life  (pp. 53-54). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Slow Down While Getting Dressed

Often, getting everyone up and out in the morning means the day begins with stress, chaos, and hurry. Wouldn’t you rather start your day with connection, joy, and relaxation? Try making the morning ritual as easy on yourself as possible. You can minimize the struggle with preschoolers, either the night before or when they get up, by offering them choices so they feel in control. Often power struggles over food and dressing come from the conflicting needs of the parents who have time constraints and the child who is beginning to try out her autonomy by saying “no” at every opportunity. Offering choices usually helps to head off a conflict: “Do you want to wear this outfit, or this one?” It does sometimes require some grounded parental power (which we’ll talk about as we go along) so the child knows you mean what you say and that there are no other choices.

With breakfast, again, choices can be offered such as juice or milk, this cereal or that, hot or cold, and so on. Choosing is fun for kids, so often it can keep them preoccupied and their minds off the need to control their environment by saying, “No!”

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Having a morning ritual that is the same every day can help, too. Make it a slow, easy ritual, perhaps accompanied by music. By the time my daughter was in high school, we had to part ways on this one — when needed “Pump-up” music, I needed meditative, harmonious tunes. So we agreed she could have her rap music in the car if I could have my morning New Age melodies at home. Maintaining a morning ritual may mean getting up earlier, so everyone can feel the support and enjoyment of family before going their separate ways. Again, making some of these choices the night before can be part of the bedtime ritual, and make mornings easier.

Slow Down in the Car

One of the things I dreaded most was driving with my children in the car. Even with car seats, they sat in the back and fought incessantly. Once, we even hit a parked car because the loud fighting and crying in the back was so distracting. I discovered this was my problem. No amount of yelling, cajoling, bargaining, understanding, or pleading changed the situation. I even regretfully, resorted to spanking my son after one such ride; it made no difference at all. I am horrified to this day that I lost my cool.

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One day I was on my way to teach a class, kids in tow. The fighting started. I pulled to the side of the road and sat. Slowly the children became silent and the oldest asked, “Mom, what are we doing?” I said (without anger, with an understanding demeanor), “It’s hard for you to be quiet in the car. But when you two fight it distracts me. I can’t drive safely so I am putting us and other people on the road in danger. I will not drive under those conditions. We will sit here until you are quiet.” So, they were quiet. We started out again. The fighting started again. I pulled over again. I repeated my speech, neither adding nor subtracting a word, but adding a minute to our five-minute break. We began again. Now it was time to test Mom. Many parents, at this point, knowing they are going to be terribly late, might give up just to meet their objective. I stopped at a phone (no cell phones back then), called the place to which I was going, explained I was having some “kid trouble” and said please forgive me but I would be late. If necessary I would cancel the class. Then I called a fellow teacher to see if she could fill in if necessary — but she couldn’t. Talk about stress!

Each time they began to fight, I pulled over and added time. No radio, no air conditioning (it was dead summer), just total silence. My feet were planted, and you can bet I was practicing controlled belly breathing. After a while, the kids began to get bored with this game. It was hot. Being confined in their car seats was not fun. But I had at least one boundary tester, so I knew we were in for an ordeal. I called and canceled my class with great regret. I told the kids this was what I was doing, and that it really felt bad to me and would reduce my income so that treats would be out of the question, and stopping at the toy store would be impossible. We spent around two or three hours at this. Eventually, it definitely was no fun anymore.

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The kids could feel my resolve, and from then on there was no hitting or yelling. They knew I would sit in that car, bored and sweating, all day if I had to. They also knew, though it hurt me, I was willing to give up my objective to teach them something. Not only did they see this type of parenting clearly modeled for them, they also, deeply, unconsciously, got the message that they were my number one priority. I was willing to slow down and sacrifice in order to keep them safe and teach them right from wrong. The next week, I explained this to my class, and apologized to all of them for the inconvenience. But they benefitted, too. As parents, they could see that I walked my talk, and they respected me for it.

When, the next time we were in the car and the kids didn’t yell or fight, I thanked them sincerely.

From THE TAO OF MOTHERHOOD:

Like the eternal Tao, a wise mother

gives birth but does not posses. She

meets the child’s needs yet requires

no gratitude.

Observe how great masters raise

up their dearest disciples. Observe

how nature raises up the plants

and animals.

Great teachers take no credit for

their students’ growth, yet they

will go to any length to teach

them what they need to know.

Nature requires no praise,

yet it provides for the needs

of earth’s inhabitants.

Mother is the reflective principle,

the balancing agent for the child.

Like a guru, she allows the child to

make mistakes and loves the child

without condition. Like nature,

she allows consequences to unfold

and balance to be restored when

it is lost.

She intervenes only when the right use

of power is required.

© 2015 Vimala McClure

Purchase THE TAO OF MOTHERHOOD:

http://www.amazon.com/Tao-Motherhood-Vimala-McClure/dp/1608680134?ref_=pe_584750_33951330

Link

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting: A Year of Baby Steps to a Happier Family | Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources.

It’s been said that it takes twenty-one days to make or break a habit and that change comes easiest and lasts longest when it’s undertaken in small, bite-sized chunks.

PARENTING WITH PRINCIPLE TWO: SLOW DOWN

Slowing down seems contradictory to family life in Western cultures, particularly in the U.S., and especially if we have more than one child. But if you can learn to consciously slow the pace when you feel it going out of bounds, your family life will be easier, more fun, relaxed, and happy.

“As young children we were full of life, always playing or running around with our friends. We would turn from one activity to another with endless enthusiasm. Games of hide-and-seek were an opportunity for unlimited imagination, exploration, and curiosity. It seemed we never got bored or tired of whatever we were doing in the moment. For the most part, our childhoods were an endless series of positive feelings — joy, laughter, curiosity, surprise, confidence, and adventure. We had not learned yet to worry, to hold grudges, or to have regrets about the past. Most young children, in fact, are generally unstressed, full of awe and curiosity, and rarely bored. Most have enormous amounts of energy, are unconditionally loving, and seem to have boundless energy that make adults envy their innocent approach to life. These uncontaminated children live from a state of mind that we practitioners of Psychology of Mind like to call mental health. They live naturally in the moment.”
From: Carlson, Richard; Bailey, Joseph (2009-10-13). Slowing Down to the Speed of Life: How To Create a Peaceful, Simpler Life F (p. 4). HarperCollins.
As adults we still have the capacity for mental health, but we have been socialized into the busy ways of Western culture, and many of us have grown serious, analytical, stressed, depressed, and unimaginative. Beginning when we reach age five or six, and steadily progressing into adulthood, our experience of mental health declines. This decline seems to correspond with our propensity to use memory and analytical thinking more often as we get older and our creative, in-the-moment thinking less often.

When we slow down, we tap into a peaceful feeling that permeates our entire being and way of life. Rather than constantly feeling rushed, hurried, and frustrated, we feel calm, joyful, and curious. Bad things still happen when we slow down, but they never look as bad as when we’re speeded up.
As the mind slows down, we are able to see life much more clearly. We have many of the same issues to contend with, but they look different. Rather than appearing to be emergencies that are smothering us, they look like issues that need resolving or opportunities in disguise.
Feelings are a mechanism to let us know when our minds are operating too quickly and when it’s time to slow down. Just as a timer goes off to signal that dinner is ready, an internal buzzer goes off when you are thinking in an unhealthy way. If you listen to these feelings and trust what they are trying to tell you, you will begin to experience the peace and joy of your mental health. Never again will life seem like such an emergency!

The 12 Slow Habits to Help You Create a Slower Family Life

Wake Up. Practice waking up every single day to see the beauty in your life.
Release. Embrace the idea of letting go of what is not working for you any longer to create more time for what you love.
Reframe. Accept that your busy life is your beautiful life and start telling yourself a different story about how you are living.
Focus. Aim for a distraction-free life where you always try to do one thing or nothing at all.
Go Slowly. Forget rushing through and start lingering more in all areas of your day.
Do Less. Understand that the only way to have more time for the good stuff is to do less of the other stuff.
Plug-in. Reject the notion that you need to unplug and start intentionally plugging in to be more efficient with your time and life.
Unstructured. Create more free time in your family’s day to allow the wow moments to evolve and multiply.
Go Quiet. Quiet your mind and feel time expand in the process.
Savor. Take time to appreciate every little detail around you.
Abundance. Start seeing time for what it is — something to be thankful for in your life.
Make Space. Carve out physical, mental and emotional space in your life for the things you want more of in your day.

You Will Learn:

  1. To slow down and enjoy each moment.
  2. That slowing down doesn’t involve major changes in your lifestyle.
  3. That contrary to conventional wisdom, your productivity will actually increase when you slow down.
  4. That other people’s habits, attitudes, behaviors, and moods don’t have to affect the quality of your day or the speed of your life.
  5. That even though people around you or your work setting may be rushed and stressed, you can maintain a calm in the midst of their storm.
  6. That by slowing down, you will be far more prepared for the unexpected.
  7. That ordinary moments can become extraordinary.
  8. That even life’s most serious circumstances and events don’t have to be taken so seriously.
  9. That the best preparation for the future is to live your life fully in the present.
  10. That you can finally get the satisfaction you’ve been striving for.
  11. That, finally, you can be happy!

Principle Two in Pregnancy

For a woman, from the beginning of pregnancy, slowing down is a must; the energy you produce within your body is going directly through your baby’s body via the placenta. What I mean by “energy” is the life force, which the Chinese call chi and the Indians call prana, that circulates throughout your body — body your physical body and your more subtle psychic or mental body. The energy flowing through your body helps to regulate your glandular system, which produces hormones through your endocrine system. the more rapid, harried, or frenzied your energy, the more stress hormones you send through your body. If that type of energy is chronic, you are likely to chronically stress your baby, to the point where the baby’s body recognizes this type of energy as normal, and will continue producing it after birth.

PREGNANT BELLY_m

Noted physicist Dr. Bruce Lipton says,

“It is important to note that individual events of parental anger and fear do not necessarily distort the physiology of the developing child. It is specifically chronic, or continuously held emotions that prove to be detrimental during pregnancy. For example, women who sustain physical and emotional abuse during their pregnancy represent situations where adverse environmental cues surrounding the birth of the child can be passed on to the offspring. These are cases of repeated, or patterned, abuses which is entirely distinct from parents that express a transient occasional spat or emotional peak.”
Dr. Lipton’s work has focused on how a mother’s emotional experiences affect an unborn baby’s development via biochemical “signal” molecules that are released into the blood (which passes through the placenta) and activate specific receptor proteins on the surfaces of cells in tissues and organs. These serve as molecular “switches” that adjust the metabolic system and behavior of the infant. So it is important that prospective parents realize they are programming their baby, even before birth, through the chronic emotional states they experience.
Stress hormones such as cortisol chronically circulating throughout the body eventually have devastating effects on physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. As women, we must understand the importance of how our energy affects our infants. To stay in what may be our own addiction to stress and drama is to deny this connection. As Dr. Lipton says, “Sustained parental anger and fear compromise the child’s development and health, as the emotional stresses chemically impact on the fetus.”
If there truly are circumstances we cannot control that put us in emotional situations, such as grief over the loss of a loved one, the key is to be sensitive to the fact that both you and your infant are going through this process together. Both of you need care, attention, and the awareness, not denial, that this stress affects both of you, and measures should be taken to slow it down and bring healing energy to it as much as possible. As Dr. Lipton says, “It should be noted that behavioral consequences of children exposed to negative or destructive attitudes during their prenatal development can be psychologically reversed, once the issues are recognized.”
The job of the baby’s father is to help you slow down and relax. This requires a lot of communication about what these concepts mean to each of you, and what is helpful and what is not. For example, criticizing a woman for not slowing down is usually not helpful. Asking if he can do tasks she usually does to help lighten her load is helpful. In addiction, learning to slow down is very helpful for the baby’s father if he is to be an integral part of his child’s life. In order to truly be with children of any age, we all must have the ability to slow ourselves down and relax into the present moment, because that is where our children live.
Practicing Controlled Belly Breathing every day during your pregnancy will help (see Principle Two, Part One). A childbirth education class should also help you, provided your teacher is aware of the more spiritual aspects of your new journey and your “coach” is a willing participant who is capable of helping to both calm and empower you. If your partner has a hard time doing this, consider getting a birthing coach. If you choose to do this, take care not to disempower the baby’s father, and be sure to include him as a member of the team so that all the bases are covered. Dad could take the role of family communicator and picture taker; getting ice chips, holding the mother’s hand, and so on. Dad and the birth coach could take turns. Make the decisions together, so everyone feels good about them.

PARENTS PREGNANT_m

If you are a soon-to-be father, be sure to slow down and relax yourself so you can help your partner get through the birth more smoothly. If you can remain unruffled, and not take your partner’s expressions of fear or anger personally, you can be her rock — and believe me, she will be very grateful for it later.

Slowing Down Your Body

To slow down your body during pregnancy, do stretching exercises and squats, deep breathing, meditation, or prayer. Maintain a diet of fresh, life-enhancing foods, and practice deep relaxation to help slow down the body and mind. There are many CDs that are expressly for this purpose and can guide you through a total deep relaxation. These are all part of your job as a “grower nursery” for this new being, and will also help prepare you for the experience of giving birth. You will learn to nurture yourself and to take care of your body, mind, and spirit in a better way than before — in other words, you will have incorporated Principle Two into your life.

Pregnancy can also help you learn how to deal with day-to-day change. Your body changes, your relationships change, what you think about and are interested in changes. Tai Chi teacher Chungliang Al Huang, in his book Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain, says,

“Part of our everyday conflict is how to cope with change and how to be happy with the constant. We are usually bored with the constant and frightened by change. Moving slowly, breathing slowly, turning everything into slow motion for a while each day helps us remember the balance of these two seeming opposites.”

© 2015 Vimala McClure

PRINCIPLE TWO: SLOW DOWN — Part One

“Slow down” is more similar in meaning in the East and in the West than “relax” and “yield,” but a Taoist view deepens its significance. In the Taoist way of thinking, slowing down brings us the ability to perceive the more subtle, or unseen, aspects of a situation. It brings awareness to those things we may forget or ignore when rushing to get something done, settled, over-with, or achieved. Many people link busyness to productivity, and they are shocked when, as a new parent, that busyness inhibits good parenting.

Slowing down helps us immensely to remember and practice Principle One (Relax)  because it is difficult, if not impossible, to relax in a hurry. When you have mastered the art of living in a relaxed way, you know how to move quickly in a way that does not tighten and harden your energy. That type of mastery takes conscious, everyday practice, yet it is possible for parents to achieve at least enough of this quality of slowing down in the midst of hurry to reap its benefits.

As you begin to slow down, your life begins to change. Your ability to focus on one thing at a time increases as you learn to dismiss distractions. You begin to enjoy the very process of living. Aspects of life that you had taken for granted become sources of interest and joy.

W QUOTE25

Superficial changes don’t work. If you move to the countryside, you still take your thinking with you. You need to slow down from the inside out. After you learn to live in a calmer state of mind, you may decide to make some lifestyle changes. You will enjoy them because they aren’t another gimmick to help you cope — like that relaxation CD you never listen to, the yoga mat in your closet. Especially with a new baby, the world will not accommodate you by making fewer demands. Your experience of stress results not from the circumstances of your harried life but from your habitual way of perceiving life.

In Slowing Down to the Speed of Life by Richard Carlson and Joseph Bailey, they give us eight principles you will learn by slowing down:

  1. to slow down and enjoy each moment
  2. that slowing down doesn’t involve major changes in your lifestyle
  3. that your productivity will actually increase
  4. that other people’s attitudes, behaviors and moods don’t have to affect the quality of your day or the speed of your life
  5. that even though your work setting may be rushed or stressed, you can maintain calm
  6. that by slowing down you will be more prepared for the unexpected
  7. that even life’s serious circumstances and events don’t have to be taken so seriously
  8. that you can be happy
“Slowing down is a qualitative experience that comes from the inside out.”

Surrender Your Limitations

In the martial art Tai Chi, slowing down helps to create an awareness of all that is going on in the moment. One is able to step into a place that is purely present time, in which the past and future do not exist. A passage I interpreted from Lao Tzu’s Tao te Ching in my book, The Tao of Motherhood, captures the moment I understood this principle in my life as a parent:

Everything that endures can
only do so because Eternal
Consciousness gives it sentience.
A mother who gives herself
completely to her infant meets
herself in the dark and finds
fulfillment.
In the hours between midnight
and dawn, she crossed the
threshold of self-concern and
discovers a Self that has no limits.
A wise mother meets this
Presence with humility and steps
through time into selflessness.
Infants know when their mothers
have done this, and they
become peaceful.
Who, then, is the doer? Is it the
infant who brings its mother
through the veil of self-concern
into limitlessness? Is it the
mother, who chooses to hold
sacred her infant’s needs and
surrender herself? Or is it the
One, which weaves them both
through a spiraling path
toward wholeness?
You can sit and meditate while
your baby cries himself to sleep.
Or you can go to him and share
his tears, and find your Self.

MOM HUG BABY 1_ml

The ability to do this — not all the time, but at appropriate times — increases the energy you have to give to your children. Why? Because the present is, literally, the heart of God or the Tao. We find a second wind when we slow down enough to really be present, even for a few moments.

Tai Chi teacher Douglas Lee talks about kinesthetic perception in relation to the benefits of slowing down. Especially during the period of time from the beginning of pregnancy until your child is fully able to communicate with words, this ability to perceive on a subtle level is valuable to every parent. It enables you to tune in to your baby’s body language and respond accordingly. It also allows you to learn how to listen to your own body and your own intuition or inner sense of what is best for you and for your child. You pick up the signs of stress before they have turned into full scale alarms, and you have the opportunity to de-escalate, to take care of your needs appropriately, at the appropriate time.

QUOTE 14

Many health professionals these days talk about “cues” — sensory signals babies give that mean they are experiencing on thing or another. It is very good that the medical profession finally acknowledges the need to respond to babies as more than just unfeeling objects. (When I had my first baby, scientists were still saying babies don’t feel pain!) As a parent, you are the one best equipped to learn your child’s cues or body language, not only because you’ve carried the baby around for over nine months and are intimately, cellularly connected, but because you live with your baby twenty-four hours a day and can translate all those signals much better than a strangers (We’ll talk more about this in Priniciple Five). To access this knowledge you need to slow down, observe, and receive what your baby wants to communicate.

In a society like ours (and increasingly around the world) slowing down is perceived as being tantamount to growing old, being depressed, dying, or inviting failure. We are afraid of falling behind; we have lost respect for the slow wisdom of our elders and the natural ebb and flow of the life force. So we literally wear ourselves out, and in the meantime we miss so many of the most valuable treasures of our lives.

Remember the American cartoon character Roadrunner? We admire the roadrunner figure; he is always faster, way ahead of the crafty coyote. But if you think about it, that style of life, while bringing certain kinds of success, eliminates any possibility of being. As a parent, this style is disastrous, because the things we miss in our frantic race to beat the odds, or the next person, or to reach a goal, are the things of which life is made. We rush toward hardness and death having never enjoyed the very thing we are rushing to secure — the soft, juicy stuff — our children, our families, our lives.

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Perseverance Furthers

Like the fable of the tortoise and the hare, we ultimately find that, as the Taoists say, “perseverance furthers.” Rather than bringing into being all the things we fear, when we slow down we’re given the tortoises’s endurance to outlast the speeding rabbit, the endurance to face our fears courageously and master our challenges.

While a rushing stream may push obstacles out of its way, a lazy river will flow over, around, and through all things in its path. There is harmony and serenity outwardly, and great power underneath, where the current is very strong. All rushing streams end up in lazy rivers that follow their nature to merge with the great ocean. Similarly, when we slow down, we find the great internal strength available to us, and we begin to both communicate with and follow that deep tug of the”ocean” — the Oneness of all things, the Tao, the natural order of things. Outwardly, we appear calm, relaxed, and we seem to be doing little. Ambitious strivers rush past us with a look of disdain.

Perseverance is definitely a quality of Principle Two. In 365 Tao Daily Meditations, Deng Ming-Dao says,

“When it seems as if nothing encouraging is happening to us, it is important to remember such perseverance. Work may be drudgery, maintaining a home may be routine, and we may find our goals quite distant. But we must persevere toward our goals, and buoy our faith in rough and threatening times.”

In the anthology, Vitality, Energy, Spirit: a Taoist Sourcebook, Taoist master Huai-Nan-Tzu said: 

“How could the vital spirit be forever rushing around without becoming exhausted? . . . When the vitality, spirit, will, and energy are calm and slow, they fill you day by day and make you strong.”

©2015 Vimala McClure

Craft a Parenting Mission Statement — Part Two

Longer Version

To complete a more in-depth Parenting Mission Statement, you and/or your partner can set aside some time, perhaps a Sunday morning, when you can answer the following questions and then blend them into a mission statement that feels right to you. Nothing is carved in stone. You can add, delete, and modify your statement as time progresses. I personally take some time on January first each year to go over my mission statements and change them appropriately. When you finish, you will have a paragraph or phrase that represents your most deeply held principles.

Answer the questions as honestly as you can, and follow the directions to complete a Parenting Mission Statement that will guide you through the coming years.

1. Were there times in your childhood or adolescence when you thought, “I will never treat my children that way?” If so, write about these experiences. What aspects of your mother’s and/or father’s parenting style do you think were counterproductive?

Example:

My mother worked very hard as a nurse and a single mother of five children. Her day off was spent cleaning the house and doing laundry. She was always very grouchy that day, and she often yelled at me and sometimes hit me with a belt when I didn’t do what she told me to in the right way. I felt unfairly persecuted and vowed never to be like her. Now I understand how much stress she was dealing with, and why she sometimes “snapped.”

It was counterproductive for her to hold all that stress inside until it exploded on her children. Hitting may have relieved her immediate stress but ultimately it created deep resentment in me, and she must have felt guilty, which stressed her even more. It would have been more productive for her to sit down with me and tell me how she was feeling, why she needed my help, and request the kind of cooperation she needed. It also would have helped me feel more responsible and closer to her if she apologized after losing her temper instead of blaming me.

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2. Think of the times you felt close to your parent(s), or when you felt admiration for them and write about these experiences.

Example:

I admired my mother for her sense of responsibility and her ability to sacrifice for her children. She always made sure that holidays were celebrated with all the magic she could muster, regardless of how little money we had. I felt close to her when she spent time one-on-one with me, during our annual shopping day for school clothes. She took me out to lunch at a fancy restaurant, and I felt very special. I also felt good when she gave me good feedback about myself, noticed when I did something well, and attended functions that were important to me.

Now try to distill these experiences into several words or phrases:

Example:

responsibility

sacrifice

unconditional love

encouragement

quality time one-on-one

3. Now sit with your list for a while. Is anything missing? Think of other people you admire as parents. What do you admire most about them? If, as a child, you had been able to have anything you wanted from your parents, what would that be? Write down your answers to these questions. If you come up with tangibles such as more physical affection or a room of your own or a pet, think about what these things represent to you (love, respect, trust).

Example:

I wish I’d had more one-on one time with my mother. I wish she had helped me more, especially when I was a teenager, to learn how to be an adult. For example, I wish she had helped learn how to balance a checkbook and take care of a car. I wish she had been more open about her own experiences growing up and that we could have had conversations about issues like sexuality and politics, rather than one-way lectures. I wish she had shown me more physical affection. I wish my mother had been able to request and elicit cooperation rather than demand obedience. The families I admire most talk a lot with each other, and they joke and tease a lot; there is laughter in the house and a feeling of warmth and welcome. My house growing up, because of our financial situation and other problems, was pretty tense. I wouldn’t want that for my children.

4. Go back to your list of words or phrases from questions 1 and 2 that represent your values and the qualities you want to have as parents. Add the concepts you came up with from question 3. If a word or phrase from question 3 is basically the same as one of the original words, or if you feel deeply about something, underline it.

Example:

honesty

responsibility

respect

humility

sacrifice

help with learning how to be an adult

cooperation

encouragement

unconditional love

quality time

Another example:

Some people like to make an anagram from their list of positive attributes, such as SMILE:

Support

Mentor

Integrity

Love

Empowerment

5. Now write a statement in first-person present tense, incorporating the values you defined into a Parenting Mission Statement

Example:

I love my children unconditionally and I demonstrate that love to them every day in words and actions. I allow them to discover and learn by themselves and through play. I tell them I love them every day, and let them know I love them even when I am angry or disappointed or disagree with them. I respect my children and demonstrate respect in my words and actions. I allow them freedom of choice and respect their choices even when they are different from what I would choose. I am honest and open with my children, appropriately sharing with them my struggles and requesting their understanding and help when I need it. I continually seek out information about good parenting skills and improve myself as a parent every day. I admit my errors and make amends, and I allow my children to make mistakes and learn how to apologize and correct themselves. I find peaceable ways to discipline my children, never resorting to physical or verbal violence. I listen carefully to them and treat their concerns with the same respect I want for myself. I spend time with each child and encourage each child appropriately according to his or her needs. I take care of myself and my own needs so that I have positive energy to give to my children. I demonstrate the values I teach, knowing that my children learn primarily by my example and that the combination of my words and actions are what teaches them how to be a person of integrity. I create activities that help my children learn about positive sacrifice, serving their community and the world. As they grow into adulthood, I teach them the important skills required of an adult. I provide my children with deep roots in home and family, and wings to fly away into new experiences, knowing that love will always bring them home again.

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The Value of a Mission Statement

A mission statement isn’t just a collection of idealistic phrases. It is a compass, a way to keep yourself on course as you handle all the variables of daily life. When you read your mission statement, it should make you smile and feel energized and inspired about the future.

Some people develop lengthy mission statements such as the previous example; others need only an anagram or a sentence or two. Take time with this project, if it catches your imagination, and dig as deeply as you can into your soul to find your true purpose as a parent. You may want to revise and rewrite portions of your mission statement as you learn more about parenting.

I wish you joy on this incredible journey. It began with an act of love. With consciousness and some deep internal work, you can create a beautiful family whose love continues in forever-expanding circles, touching our communities and even healing the world.

© 2014 Vimala McClure