June 3, 2014

My Child, All I Can Offer Is My Best. ~ Ruth Lera

kids with kites

I am not the first to say it and I won’t be the last, but being a parent is both the best and the worst.

The best is the experience of a deep, untouchable love and the worst is that knowing that we’re hurting someone we love that much.

In Jack Kornfield’s book, The Wise Heart: Buddhist Psychology for the West, Kornfield tells an amazing story about a concrete Buddha statue in Thailand. One day, the monks living near this Buddha statue noticed golden light coming though the concrete. The monks scraped off the concrete and found a golden Buddha underneath.

Kornfield uses this story to illustrate that we are all pure gold, but, like the Buddha statue, in times of war or bad weather, we get covered in mud and concrete to protect the gold underneath.

When we were children, there were stresses and fears that we needed to protect ourselves from, so we put up layers of coping mechanisms and belief systems over our gold, and for that we can be thankful; we were too young and vulnerable to handle what was being thrown at us and the coping mechanisms were necessary to protect us.

But now we are adults and on a daily basis it becomes more clear that these layers are needed less and less. The world is safer than we once imagined and those coping mechanisms are preventing us from shining. But the irony as parents is that while we’re taking off our childhood layers, we’re putting new ones on our kids.

And we hate this.

We want it to be different. Please, we beg, please don’t make my child have the same issues I have had to deal with?

And they won’t. They’ll have their own. Because all we can offer is our best.

We can offer our children our best love and our best parenting. But not all the time. Because children are challenging. They’re annoying and they’re demanding. If they weren’t so cute who knows if some of them would survive. We love them fiercely and they drive us crazy. And as we are in the process of becoming 30, 40 and 50, an age where we strip off our layers and find our gold underneath, they are two and five and fourteen, the ages where the layers are going on.

As a parent I have struggles with how to handle this. Becoming a martyr and giving them my everything just burns me out and I end up yelling louder and stronger and meaner when I crash. So, instead I have settled on honesty. Honesty about where I’m flawed and honesty in my love and frustration at their flaws.

And willingness. Willingness to hear where it hurts for them, even if it hurts me to hear it. Willingness to be told that my behavior isn’t appreciated and willingness to say I’ll try my best to change it. Willingness not to pretend everything is perfect and a willingness to show gratitude for what is great.

And even with all this honesty and willingness, my kids will have layers. It’s inevitable. Their gold will be protected and most likely protected from me. There is no doubt that at times I am the war and the bad weather. But my own layers have taught me so much, and many times the experience of removing them have been some of the most exhilarating, greatest highs of my life.

So my children will have their own layers and these layers in turn will be their journey, and who knows what great things they will do in their efforts to remove them.

Why would I take that away from them, or the world?

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Apprentice Editor: Andrea Charpentier/Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photos: Pixoto

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