“The Golden Rule of Parenting is do unto your children as you wish your parents had done unto you!”~Louise Hart
“The best inheritance a parent can give his children is a few minutes of his time each day.”O. A. Battista
A Psychology of Parenting
If we have had parents, we have direct exposure to the theory of Good Enough Parenting. Even if our parents weren’t our own, we inherently experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly of the sacred mystery we call life. Even the stories of myth, fairy tales, and the holy books of our world’s religions are chock-full of less-than-desirable people who assumed the role of mother or father.
Why is this?
As I stare at the baby above, I remember the miracle of my children’s birth experiences. I see ten toes, the hands of a loving mother and father, welcoming the blessing that is the life of the infant into this world. Months of waiting, dreaming, planning, and hopefully taking care of what needs to be done to welcome new life into the world culminate into a painful yet beautiful childbirth experience. The first test is passed, hopefully with a healthy newborn present where the miracle of life can shine through.
But the tests don’t end there. Some babies may not be physically healthy. They may need help or reassurance. You see, maturation tests are not one-sided to infancy and childhood bliss. Parents go along on a developmental journey of their own. We now understand that the adult path to individuation occurs on a parallel trajectory with the responsibilities we assume as adults. I cannot help but believe that the greatest responsibility one will ever undertake is to become a father or a mother and raise the next generation despite the hardships of the mutual tests present.
Some babies are perfectly healthy. Amen! Even healthy babies undertake psychological and physiological tests. But the story of infancy and childhood is only the beginning. When our children develop, we must also evolve and operate in tandem with them to create inroads of meaning for our own psychological and physiological development. Birthdays, rites of passage, initiation rituals, family get-togethers, holidays, marriages, conflicts, divorces, letdowns, and even funerals are present. As I write this, I recall just how beautifully complex the miracle of life is for everyone.
Just as a mirror fragments, it also mends. When we let go of past harm, the harming from parents, and even the harm we do to ourselves, we make room for the pieces of the psyche to repair themselves for evolution. The room present is the awaiting vessel capable of growth, the alchemical athanor, where the anima mundi, that inner potential inherent in all of us, can allow the soul to flourish.
My son Billy gave me one of these tests the other day. I had to tell him that he had lost his goldfish. A lot of preparation went into it, and the news broke. Waterworks and tears flowed; a young boy faced a substantial loss he had to grieve. My 46-year-old brain, well groomed around the concept of death and trained in the art and science of psychology, where tragedy is a daily occurrence, had difficulties understanding the brevity of the loss at hand. However, the father side of me knew the genuine hurt associated with a loss of this nature and prepared me to help him grieve in any way his little body and soul needed at the time.
I was surprised by his reaction. He wanted to see Rainbow, his pet goldfish, all ten inches of him. I was shocked, but there was some genuine psychological gold to excavate at that moment. He remembered how that fish would always overgrow the tank we placed him within. Laughter began to fill the air, combined with moments of sadness, as my son experientially learned about the complexities of grief.
A toilet funeral would not suffice. No, we had to take Rainbow to a place in the river, where he would receive a proper fish memorial, as his body could “go to the Golden Pond.” These words were a 9-year-old’s, not mine. From where it came, his body would return to the ocean. He would reclaim his “Golden Pond” to swim in as he found his way back to the Anima Mundi, our Mother Earth.
I know it was a developmental lesson for him. But I cannot help but think how much of a developmental journey it was for me. What blessings exist when you solely make time for taking time to treat children with the dignity and love they deserve?
What do you need to let go of right now? What will you do with the room you make from the simple act of saying I may remember you, but you don’t get to dictate my today or tomorrow?
With gratitude, my friends. May blessings find you on your journey to advance confidently in the direction of your dreams.