Every parent I know loves their children. Every parent I know wants to protect their children. Every parent I know disregards their children. (Including me.)
We are born with a trustworthy intuition and a wise nervous system. They are our gift, at birth, given to us to keep us safe and to ensure our needs are met. They tell us when someone or something doesn’t feel safe. They help us know when we are hungry and when we are full. They tell us when we need connection, when we need rest, when we need to run and jump and stand on our head. They are our inner-guides and they are brilliant.
Until recently, until the development of neuroscience and the furthering of psychology and biology, we did not understand this. We thought children were born with no wisdom at all and that it was our job to train them in all ways, in all things.
We have had good intentions and bad applications. We are waking up to this reality. We are witnessing a whole lot of unhealthy, traumatized adults. We are learning there are better ways of guiding our children into and through the world.
If we want to love and protect our children, we must allow our children to have a voice in their own homes. We must allow them to have a say in what they do and do not do. We must encourage them to speak up. We must make space for their emotions. We must respect their boundaries. We must not silence them.
So what does this look like day to day? And how do we do this when we are human too, with our own needs, our own emotions, our own limits?
First and foremost, we must process our own emotions, meet our own needs, and set and protect our own boundaries. On a macro level this may mean big changes to our home environment, work environment and daily schedule. This may mean releasing some relationships and nurturing new relationships. This probably means finding a good therapist and financially doing whatever it takes to afford at least a few months of meeting with that therapist. Children do as they see, not as we say. Our only option for creating space for them to thrive is learning how to thrive ourselves.
Secondly, we must change our mindset. Humans thrive when they are seen, heard, valued and validated. Identity (Do I exist? Do I matter?) really is the most important human need. We must slooow down, follow their energy, validate their experience (even when we don’t want to or can’t honestly relate). We give them Identity when we do this. It is their most important need.
And lastly, we must find other parents who get this and will support our journey. The mainstream cultural narrative is still that kids need to be controlled, punished and silenced. We are many centuries into that narrative and it is not an easy one to change. If we can find one other parent that gets this, that can be enough support to keep moving forward, even on the days we doubt ourselves.
Who was someone who gave you Identity in your childhood? Who followed your energy, validated your experience, allowed you to have a voice?
What is one intentional thing you can do this week to meet your own needs?
Parenthood is not for the faint of heart. Wholehearted living is not either.
If you are doing the hard work of living and parenting wholeheartedly, I see you. You are not alone.