May 19, 2010

Parenting: the Greatest Teacher.

Fantastic Little Mirrors

I am a mother to two amazing, strong-willed, active and tremendously ornery little boys. I am a Buddhist.

I have to laugh when I write those sentences next to each other, as sometimes they seem contradictory. I struggle in merging these two aspects of my life together: to be the mindful, peaceful Dharma mother I aspire to become.

Those of us who know the daily challenges of parenthood also know that even the calmest Buddhist parent can be tested to the outer realms of their patience and wisdom. This can happen 60 times in an hour. Combine these stressful and trying circumstances with the unconditional love and compassion we feel towards these little people, and we have a perfectly created Dharma training center conveniently located within our own home!

We all know that our everyday life presents a multitude of obstacles that offer opportunities to strengthen our compassion and loving-kindness practice, and deepen our patience and equanimity; however, I have to say that parenting provides us aspiring Buddhists some wonderful teaching tools and practices available to the lay practitioner.

My biggest struggles as a mother are the very same struggles of all parents, Buddhist or not. As we attempt the cutting away of our normal human ‘neurosis’, our struggles can seem amplified and exaggerated. This sometimes makes it even harder to concentrate on the task at hand. Children are masters at not only bringing out our rawest emotions, both beautiful and unfavorable, but they also innately know how to strike our chords like no other beings. They are fantastic little mirrors that have the ability to illuminate aspects of our minds that might otherwise go unnoticed.

The theme behind most of difficult interactions I have with my children is the power struggle. Power struggles are, of course, prevalent throughout normal day-to-day situations, whether acknowledged or not. I decided long ago not to participate in these kinds of exchanges. In order to play the power game, two players are required; still, you can’t just opt-out of these encounters. These ever-present situations and teachable-moment gems serve as invaluable learning experiences for parent and child. As long as we are mindful of the underlying issue, we can take our emotion and ego out of the equation.

I take these all too frequent opportunities to teach my boys, and vehemently remind myself, of the power of the Middle Way. The Middle Way demonstrates that you can find an unbiased route for both parties to benefit in a better way than a mere compromise.

My job as a parent is not to dictate, rule or to enforce my denser, deeper-rooted ego upon my children. My job is to guide them. I simply remind myself that we are not in combat, they are not purposely trying to drive me crazy, and we all want to be happy with the outcome of the situation. My boys are merely learning their place by testing the extremes. How else would I expect them to learn? Sometimes, this means they bounce off the rails on both sides of the road in order to find their most effective and efficient way down the middle. We as parents serve as those guard rails, not as the driver. Overpowering them, or anyone for that matter, with our egos does nothing but cause confusion, suffering, and an inability to guide themselves in the future.

So, after the thorough and exhausting constant daily practice of guiding my strong-minded children without losing my patience or my sanity, encountering difficult people outside of our homes seems like…child’s play.

Jennifer Hunt is a self proclaimed ‘dream chaser’. She spent her childhood collecting rocks, creating art, writing poetry and tapping into the magic within. Following her passions into adulthood, Jennifer is a jewelry designer, writer, yoga enthusiast and Buddhist. Feel free to contact her http://www.jenniferhuntdesigns.com/or through Facebook.

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