Wednesday, March 31, 2010

PTTC part 8... Model Contentment

"To be a wise parent you must become like water.
It is content to nourish all it touches
without discrimination.
While people struggle to move up,
water flows joyfully down,
filling the low places."

Wow, how completely appropriate considering the past couple of days! It seems as if water, parenting, and blessings are a theme right now. :)

The second line, "it is content to nourish all it touches" brings to mind the various ways we become parents. We can give birth, bringing forth children from our own bodies and our own genetic material. These babies are born from a conscious desire to parent or from chance. Sometimes when you get pregnant, you get pregnant, only Life knows when it'll happen.

Some people become parents through circumstance. I have 2 great step-children that I never gave birth to, and who aren't part of my genetic makeup. They don't even live with us most of the year, but they are still family and I still love them.

Some people become parents through choice and deliberation. In my desire to learn more about fostering and adopting, I have made some friends who have adopted children, and these children are true products of a loving choice to bring a child into their family.

Some parents never have "children" but have nieces and nephews, students, other children who they care for temporarily or mentor, etc... Some give care to adults who are mentally "forever children." Some give care to elderly or animals! They are parents too, in a way.

The true meaning of motherhood and fatherhood is nurturing. Let's become better parents by striving to nurture all who come across us on our path!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mother of the Ocean

I had a very poignant dream last night.

I was not in the dream per se. I was simply observing. I saw this huge ocean at night-time, dark blue and gray and black, with huge house-sized waves. They gave the impression of being enormous and overwhelming, but not sinister in the least. In the water, small boats floated, and in each boat was a couple or sometimes a single person. They bobbed up and down on the water, waiting, but some of them were trying to paddle with their hands and essentially getting nowhere.

Suddenly, a swarm of small beings surged forward through the water, swimming through the waves at full speed and filling the ocean like a giant wave of fish. They were the tiny souls of babies. I watched as a few of them jumped out of the water into the loving arms of those who waited in the boats. Some of them swam on past the boats and some dived down into the depths of the ocean. There were so many children! It was a happy sight.

However some of the babies tried to go near the people who were trying to paddle in the boats, and they tried to jump in the boat but couldn't. The splashing made by their hands was drowning the babies! These couples were trying to grasp the babies and to maneuver the boat into a more favorable position but their efforts were drowning the very children that they were trying to grasp.

At that point I heard a voice, and I recognized it as the voice of the Mother of the Ocean. Unfortunately I can't remember the exact words of what She said, but it was something to the effect of, "Don't try to gain control, and wait patiently, lest you waste the blessings I am trying to give you."

Maferefun Yemaya!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Feelin' Good

I just came back from my Ifa/Orisha class, and it seems like every time I go there, I leave feeling good... like I'm ready to roll, like I have friends and people I can relate to spiritually, like the Spirits are lurking just around the corner or sitting patiently in a chair next to me sipping their coffee and telling their stories.

I feel connected to the world.

I feel impatient, like my heart is jumping out of my chest and wanting to be heard.

I can relate mentally to the Orisha. I can relate emotionally. I can relate spiritually.

I can see the Warrior, the Shaman, the Trickster, the Teacher, intertwining in a story I want to listen to and repeat. I see a vivid and intricate web that I want to paint, a smooth, graceful motion that I want to perform as a kata (martial art form). I see the vivid colors, the complex concepts, the beautiful dance that the Ifa call prayer.

Yes, I want to be a part of the dance. I feel I already am. However there is so much I still need to learn. This is such a complex religion. But for the first time I feel no inner conflict. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. But either way I think I'm finally getting somewhere. I have a destination, instead of just drifting. Maybe. I have trouble getting my hopes up too much. ;)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

PTTC part 7... Present for All

"You do not live your life
through your children.
Therefore they are free
to find their own true fulfillment."

Lately I'm finding the simple statements to be the most true. Instead of restricting your children to the life YOU want them to live, set them free to live their own lives.

Instead of driving them toward what YOU think would make them happy, let them find out for themselves whether certain things make them happy, or not. Ultimately, they need to learn how to live life according to their own unique needs and wants, not yours, or society's, or anyone else's.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

PTTC part 5... Seeing to the Heart

"Above all, do not attack your child's behavior
and attempt to change it
by endless talking and scolding.
Stay at your center and look beneath the behavior
to the heart of the child.
There you will find only good.
When you see the heart
you will know what to do."

In a lot of instances, parents don't know what to do about a child's behavior. There are countless strategies and parenting methods for correcting "bad" behavior... do this, say this, don't do this, don't give in, don't say this, etc... It can leave a parent overwhelmed by the conflicting advice!
This verse says something simple: don't look at the child's behavior, look at the child. Many strategies that deal with a child's behavior don't fix the real problem (if there is one!) beneath the behavior, they only treat the symptoms. According to this passage, the first thing we should do when we see a behavior we don't like is to re-evaluate our own perception of the behavior! Is it something that will harm the child or those around him? Or is it a mere convenience for us? Is the child acting out because s/he is testing limits and needs to be shown the limits? Or is s/he simply curious or acting out of good intention?

People are too quick to label kids as "good" kids and "bad" kids. The truth is that kids are just kids, and acting out is their way of testing the waters, so that in the future they can learn from their mistakes. Let them learn, let them make mistakes, show them the consequences of mistakes but let them make mistakes in the first place. That is how children learn.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

PTTC part 4... Infinite Possibilities

"At birth your children are filled with possibilities.
It is not your job to limit these possibilities."

How simple to state, how hard to do! I can't count how many times I've heard people say "I only want the best for my child." However, what you consider "the best" and what your child does may differ dramatically! This is especially true in adolescence. It's easy to name a ton of qualities you want your child to have, and equally easy to name a ton that you DON'T want your child to have.

However, if you want your child to enter a high-paying profession, and discourage a lower paying profession, you are limiting him. If you want your child to go to an ivy-league college and discourage going to a community college (or not going to college at all!), you are limiting her. If you want your child to get married and start a family, you are limiting him. If you want your child to be straight, observe a specific religion, control who they hang out with, etc... you are limiting her. I find it very sad when parents think less of their children for choosing to be a truck driver instead of a doctor, or choosing to live in a small town instead of travel.

One of the main reasons I wanted children in the first place is because a child is full of limitless possibilities. I like to ask myself "what if my son is artistic?" or "what if my son marries a black woman?" or "what if my son travels to Asia?" Some possibilities are hard to think about, such as "what if my child does hard drugs and gets addicted?" or "what if my son spends time in prison?" I will do my best to see that my son makes choices based on not only himself and what feels good in the now, but what will impact him or others in the future. However when it comes to arbitrary things like lifestyles or interests, I will support him and try my best not to limit him in his choices.

Monday, March 1, 2010


There are certain points in my life, emphasized usually with depression and anxiousness, where I really seem to lose myself.
I'm going through one of those times right now. I recognize the loneliness, even though I'm surrounded by family and friends. The alienation from things I normally identify with. I come back to the old truth that there really is nowhere where I truly belong, as wonderful as my situation is. Rationally, I realize that my life is wonderful. I have a son whom I would die for, who fills my life with meaning and happiness. I have a husband who loves me and stays by my side. I have a roomy house, surrounded by animals, work to do and a little time for myself. Yes there are stresses (money!) and frustration (livestock!) but my life is overall very good.

However I can't internalize that fact. No matter what my husband does I keep thinking he really doesn't love me or want to spend time with me. I keep thinking that the only reason my son loves me is because i feed him, and that any old person would do. I keep thinking my life would be so much better if.... (and here I fantasize about some romanticized version of another life in another situation.)
These are not rational thoughts, and I know this. It doesn't stop me from alienating myself though. From believing, deep down in my soul, that I'm doing some thing wrong. That I'm somehow not living my life.

And I change my life somehow. Quit my job. Move. Take up a new hobby. Some sort of change, to help me find myself. So that I can think "maybe THIS is what I should be doing with my life." But eventually I get disenchanted with that as well and go back to my perpetual existential crisis.

This leads me to wonder, can I ever truly be content with my life? Will this feeling of separation and loneliness ever go away? What do I need to do to change, really, change for good? Not just change my position or circumstance, but change the true core problem that keeps me from living my life, fully integrated.

Change, true change, come and ground me.

PTTC part 3... Happiness is Contageous

Encourage your children's deepest joys,
not their superficial desires.
Praise their patience,
not their ambition.
Do not value the distractions and diversions
that masquerade as success.
They will learn to hear their own voice
instead of the noise of the crowd.

Parents often wonder how to keep their children from giving in to peer pressures? You can't always, but there are certain kids who will give in and there are those who will not.
The difference is, in part, the way you raise kids to think about themselves. If you always praise sucesses, and encourage children to be ambitious, then they will look for validation from their parents and their peers and society. They might also see themselves as always falling short of your expectations and develop a low self esteem.
The trick is to raise children who are secure in themselves and who make their own expectations, not blindly follow yours, or are diverted by their peers'. Listening to our own voices instead of those of society is a very, very hard thing to do. However as parents we can encourage our children to solve their own problems, instead of relying on us to solve them. This will build a good foundation of critical thinking and common sense.
A child doesn't need to be drilled to "Never take drugs! They'll ruin your life! If I ever catch you taking them..." etc...
Instead, they need to be taught how to think about their own actions and be allowed to make small mistakes so that they have practice solving problems. Letting a child stay up late at night once and then having them deal with the consequences the next morning is actually a good teaching tool, because then later you can say, "Remember how bad you felt the next morning after you stayed up so late? Sometimes things feel good for a little while but make you feel bad for a LONG while."