Our Children...Our Egos
“Your children are not your children. They are 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. You may give them your love but not your thoughts, For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. The archer sees the make upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness. For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He also loves the bow that is stable.” ― Kahlil Gibran
Being a parent is, without question, one of life's greatest blessings. It is an adventure filled to the brim with ups and downs, with successes, with struggles, with joy, and with tears. And hopefully with a boatload of humor, because raising another human being, in my opinion, is frequently one of the most hysterical experiences we can have. It is an honor and a privilege to be placed in charge of the loving and guiding of another tender soul. At our best we understand on a fundamental level that our only significant job as parents is to love our children unconditionally. Period. We understand that each precious soul comes into this world on their own journey and that our job is to cheer them on, and to comfort them when life gets real. We may offer our own wisdom earned through years of living, but are we meant to change them, mold them, dictate or deny them their journey if it does not align with our own idea of how their journey is meant to go? What happens when we become, subconsciously at least, unable to recognize where we end and they begin?
Seeing our children (and our partners by the way) as extensions of our egos happens to all of us. Every single one of us. If you don't believe me check out a local football/soccer/baseball game next weekend and really listen to the parents. The challenge for us all, if we truly wish to serve our children, our partners, and ultimately ourselves, is to become aware of this basic truth; that we frequently view our children as extensions of ourselves. Our thoughts and feelings, left unchecked, can create a wedge between us and the most important people in our lives. It can leave those we love dearest feeling judged, misunderstood and devalued.
When we pay attention to the language we tend to use when describing our children, as well as other people's children we get a clearer look at the underlying issue. Beginning with the seemingly innocuous "he/she is a total mini-you!" It's sweet, and yet. Full disclosure, I've personally used that one a ton. Or "oh my gosh you were JUST like that at her age!" DNA and familiarity are fascinating and fun and yet if taken too seriously we lose sight of just how brilliant, profoundly unique and separate from us our children are.
My husband and I have two adult sons, ages 28 and 26. Our older son is in many ways very much like his dad, while our younger son is much more like his mom in personality. And yet, there exists a critical difference...our 28 year old is not his dad anymore than our 26 year old is his mom. Aside from some similar personality traits what makes both my husband and I who we are is born of our life experiences and our own emotional and spiritual journeys. Our sons have had their own highly unique life experiences and are on their own personal journeys. They are each beautifully individual. Do we share family values? Without question. The importance of family, loyalty, being of service to others, kindness, empathy and hard work matter to us. However, in order for our children to grow into healthy, confident, loving adults, they must find their own set of values, their own moral compass. And oh yeah, their own politics and opinions about the world at large. Breathe. It is exactly as it is meant to be. My children do not need to be me. I got that job and, while I find myself fairly dazzling, one of me is more than enough. As our primary form of connection to others can only be gained through the lens of our own experiences it is only natural that we project our own realities onto others, especially those most precious to us....our children. The danger lies in a lack of awareness. Do we believe our children living our reality or theirs?
I tell parents all the time "absolutely drive around with that 'My Kid Is An Honor Student', enjoy it, but also be ready to slap a "My Kid Was Arrested Last Weekend" bumper sticker on there if the time comes, because they are two sides of the exact same coin. Why are our children, when they become old enough to understand, naturally uncomfortable with those bumper stickers? Why did they dread the moment we joined Facebook or Instagram? Because they get that what we're often doing is exploiting their lives, boasting, and that it is no longer about them at all, because if we are honest, what those bumper stickers would really say is "Look At What An Awesome Mom/Dad I Am" Just look at what I've created...You're welcome world
Does this mean we should not be proud of our children and their accomplishments? Of course not. We should be proud, and we should let them know often that we are proud of them and that we love and cherish the person they are. However, far more important to the emotional and spiritual evolution of our children, of any age, is reinforcing how very proud of themselves they should be. Being told others are proud of me feels amazing, but only, and only, if I'm proud of me.
How can we tell if our children, or partner, are an extension of our ego? We must pay attention to our reactions to their thoughts, beliefs and actions. Do we take them personally? As a reflection of us?
Here are some red flags that we are not honoring each family members individuality...
1) Having the thought "you embarrassed me." Really allow that one to sink in. How can anyone outside of us embarrass us by their behavior? Unless, of course, we believe they are reflections of us and of our self-worth.
2) Our child/spouse just accomplished something truly amazing...and we want to post it on Facebook so badly we think we may not be able to sleep that night...
3) One of our kids firmly announces during a somewhat heated exchange"mom I can't be me and you at the same time" For those precious moments when our child is brighter and more intuitive than we may ever become. Theoretically speaking of course...
4) We find ourselves boasting about our child's accomplishments and silent about their struggles to our closest confidants...
5) And finally the "we have a winner"... When we find ourself thinking about our children:"your thoughts, behaviors, successes, struggles and actions are a reflection of me, of my value as a parent, of my self worth and self-confidence as a person" Because at the end of the day when we are judging others we are kept from loving them and sincerely seeing them. Judgment negates love. Always.
My greatest hope is that we all become able to see our children, and our partner, as not an extension of ourself, but rather as their own perfect, beautiful self. A gift. A blessing sent to us to enjoy, to celebrate and cherish. Our greatest spiritual teachers.
So go ask your child how they feel about something, anything, and then really, truly...listen.
And be grateful, because the world only needed one of you, and it equally needs one of them.
Peace & Love Always