My pen and paper beckoned as my mind continued a familiar route to a conversation laced in curiosity and built on fragility. A recent conversation with a dedicated and compassionate mother began spontaneously, but her courage to be open and vulnerable quickly offered permission for this interaction to become a moment of shared ideas, which hinted at the true purpose of parenting.
Could I be so bold as to suggest this mother and I may have touched on the true purpose of parenting? What if I offered an idea that while food, shelter, clothing, love and experiences are duties of parenting, they are not the purpose? Would you be in agreement? As we conversed, we became curious if our purpose as parents may be less about our children’s needs and more about our own emotional capacity, development and regulation?
Purpose when used as a noun refers to the reason for which something exists, is done or created. When applied as a verb, purpose can be used to describe one’s intention or objective.
These statements inspire me to consider, is the true purpose of parenting one of personal growth which urges us to step out of our ‘human-thinking’ where we believe we know what is best for our children, to a place of trust that everything is exactly as it is meant to be. Even the heartbreak.
The mother I was conversing with was fragile. She was weeks into the height of her daughter’s anxiety and had spent years supporting a son with varying needs. She was tired, worried and without a light to draw her forward. Tears were imminent as she bravely continued. Grateful for her trust and moved by her desperation, I searched for a response to ease the pounding of her mind.
As is often the case for many mothers, fear lay as the foundation of this mother’s angst. Previously able to reign in her moments of anxiety and concern, this episode was making it harder to prove otherwise. The desire to control was becoming stronger and her lack of options appeared minimal. The ability to think broadly and with purpose was being over-ruled by fear’s silent, yet relentless screaming. “What if something happens to me? How would my children survive without me?”
Logic was not going to work. A mother’s love for a child will surely outweigh the most scientific of logic.
‘Not thinking about it’ wasn’t an option either. Her anxiety made sure of that.
Seeing a counsellor? This was definitely an option, but what about right now, in this moment, standing in front of me, what would be my response?
This is when the unplanned and unpredictable nature of our conversation suddenly lent itself to our deeper level of curiosity; trust.
We had acknowledged our children are inevitably going to feel sadness, hurt, sorrow, loss, desperation and a million more emotions which will cause us as their parent, just as much pain as it does to them. More importantly, we agreed we will not be able to fix these problems. We may not even know they exist. These feelings are not limited to a certain age range of children, but rather, will appear throughout their life. This fact is not reassuring to a mother in a state of desperation, however is true none-the-less. If we fall into a state of anxiety, despair, worry, fear or anger each time our child experiences a painful episode, we one, will not be in a state to support them, and two, will be modelling unproductive responses. I think I can speak on behalf of most mothers when I state they want their children to be resourceful, independent and resilient. We had to find a way to assist this mother so she may return to leading her family as the mother she desired to be.
In addition to being in a state of overwhelming worry, she remained committed. Just like you, this mother remained committed to being the best she could be to her children, and in doing so, bravely challenged herself to make meaning of this situation, to ensure she would bring herself out of her state of anxiety. Her goal was to find mental and emotional peace. This was impossible while remaining in fear of what her children’s lives would become, in the unlikely event she should no longer be with them. If she could remove the fear from this thought, she could replace the anxiety in her mind. We became curious about individuals, particularly who as children, had overcome tragedy to lead happy and fulfilling lives. This then, was a possibility for her children….
“What would happen if we truly believed each event, experience and interaction was for the highest good of our child? What if, in every fibre of our being, we trusted our child’s soul knew what they needed from this world, in order to become the most authentic version of themselves?” As the hours passed by, the conversation with this mother (and no less, the look in her eyes) continued to pass in, out, around and through my mind. I could not leave this topic alone, so I share these thoughts with you.
If you believed in a power and plan far greater than what your human brain could conceive, that served a greater purpose of which you may never know, how would you hold your body? Would your shoulders soften and your breathing slow? Would your mind replace fear with peace, and most significantly, would your children feel your energy of competency and capability, embracing them in unseen comfort and love? How then would this support your child?
I leave you with a further query: when feeling emotions which disrupt you from being the best version of yourself, what is the alternative? Either you allow the emotions to negatively impact your thinking, therefore your body and therefore your actions, or you change the meaning of the event. This is not an easy request, but I believe it is the essential and most true role of parenting. To train ourselves to choose trust over fear, so we may share our child’s lives in congruency, curiosity and calm.