Friday, June 25, 2010

PTTC Part 16: Empty Yourself Of Worries

"To survive as a parent
you must empty yourself
of your constant thinking,
planning, and worrying."

There was a webcomic I read once (Sinfest) which stated that "fear trumps hope." They demonstrated this by turning on the T.V. to the news, spreading rumors, doing research on natural disasters, the oil disaster, global warming, talking to Christians about Armageddon, showing military footage, etc...

As a parent, the information age is loaded with fearmongering. Parents are informed that you can't trust any stranger, that laypeople will try to abduct your children. There are crib recalls, toy recalls, food recalls... parents need to worry about BPA in plastic, lead paint, allergy-triggering foods, non-organic foods, organic foods, vaccine-preventable diseases, reactions to vaccines, chemicals, etc... Parents are worried about having toys in the baby's crib, choking hazards, making sure car seats are safe, and preventing SIDS.

Is it practical, useful, and beneficial to inform yourself? Of course! However as parents our fear, worry, and guilt can easily take over our lives. A mother's and father's protective instinct can easily go into overdrive, tempting them to never allow their child to play outside, eat foods with red dye, or be left alone with relatives.

I'm not advocating for perfect trust in the world. The world is an essentially untrustworthy place. However, parents need to overcome their compulsions to shelter their kids, otherwise we run the risk of an early death of heart attacks and high blood pressure, and taking all the joy out of life for our children. A child needs to be able to run barefoot through the grass, climb trees (at the risk of a broken limb), and enjoy a cool watermelon on a hot summer's day without his/her parents trying to comb through the fruit to remove all choking-hazard seeds.

The world can be a scary place, but it's also a very beautiful place. Show your child the beauty of it. And while you're at it, show yourself.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Is the Universe Friendly?

Just a little ramble...

It's said that Einstein once declared, "I think the most important question facing humanity is, 'is the universe a friendly place?' "

Some people describe the Universe as "friendly". In most religions, there is a God or spiritual force looking out for humanity as a whole, or certain individuals. Many people trust that "God has a plan," even when things don't turn out so well for us. Even many non-religious people believe in governing forces... "karma" or "destiny" are terms they use to describe the Divine, even when they don't believe in a conscious being called God or Goddess.

Some people describe the Universe as "unfriendly". They point to Darwin, and the idea that it's a "dog eat dog" world and that only the strong (or lucky, or resourceful) survive. Statistically, most living things that are born into this world die relatively young, and we all die sometime. The chances of our dying a "peaceful" death, of old age in our sleep, is a small one.

Of course, "friendly" and "unfriendly" are anthropomorphic terms. They describe how people see the Universe, not how the Universe actually operates. Of course there are both friendly and hostile elements to the Universe, but people generally choose one worldview over another and base their opinions and life on that. However, it's my understanding that in order to achieve a more balanced perspective, both viewpoints need to be considered as correct.

The Universe operates on natural selection. As an example: out of 10 kittens born last year to our fertile barn cat, only 2 survived their first year. 5 died of being smashed under a hay bale when they were only a couple weeks old. One kitten was snatched by a predator. One kitten suffered and died of pneumonia during the winter. Another disappeared unexpectedly one day. You can't explain the suffering and death of innocents- babies- if you believe that the Universe is entirely benevolent. I mean, you can, but you end up with illogical arguments or a twisted view of "God".

However, you can't also discount the tremendous amounts of good things that happen everyday. People find love and form families, baby animals play in the grass, dust and death are washed away in cooling, cleansing rains. Cats nap in the sun with a smile on their face. To some people, the world seems wholly useless and evil, but those people aren't looking at reality, either. Even pain and suffering sometimes brings about a strength of character or a heightened sense of compassion. There are some horrible atrocities that will never be explained or justified, so you can't say with all certainty that "the Universe is friendly." However you can't say "the Universe is unfriendly" either, because then you discount many wonderful aspects of life.

I think the idea that the Universe is either friendly or hostile arises when we blame or credit "God" or "Goddess" or "gods" or "forces" with the good/bad things that happen every day. Don't get me wrong, I'm not discounting belief in the Spiritual. I'm just saying that belief can easily delude people into thinking that everything that happens to you is because your life revolves around you. What is "bad" to one person is often "good" to another person. The kitten who died of predation at least made one other animal happy. The rest of them might seem like senseless deaths, but maybe that's because human beings look for a reason for everything. Even though we tend to agree that the earth revolves around the sun, and that the moon revolves around the earth, we still tend to think that everything that happens is either to our benefit or detriment. It may not be that way. Just because an event happens to us doesn't me it's about us. And yet that's how our perspective makes us see things. From that point of view, the Universe is both friendly and hostile, because our lives are made up of both beneficial and detrimental events.

However, looking at the grand scheme of things might not provide us with an answer. We might not find an overarching purpose for our lives, but we can at least understand that often what we do, or what is done to us, is not hostile, nor friendly. It simply is. For whatever reason, IF there is a reason. Sometimes there is a reason, and sometimes there isn't. I think if we can look at life from that perspective more often, we would ask "why is this happening to me?" less often, and take more responsibility for the impact of our own actions. I don't think anyone in the Universe is "looking out for me, specifically." I think it's up to me to look after myself and my loved ones, which is scary considering the amount of control I DON'T have over my own life.

And that's why this post is a ramble, not a sermon. I don't have any clear cut answers. I don't think my beliefs can give you hope, or make you despair. I don't think that anyone can know the answers, and if they think they do, I think they are just discounting aspects of reality. I don't know if Einstein had an opinion one way or another, but I do know that he asks a very good question.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

PTTC Part 15: Be Alert and Mindful

"Be ready in a moment
to let go of one plan
and embark on another
if your inner voice so urges."

I am part of a forum community online for mothers, and while we were pregnant, we discussed everything from how we were going to buy baby stuff to how we were going to handle crying babies to how we were going to discipline our children when they were older.

Then, when our babies got here, we were thrust into a different reality. Parents who said they would never let their babies cry in the crib tried every technique to try and get their babies to sleep. Then they just "gave up" and let the babies cry, and were surprised to learn that their babies would cry for a little while and then fall asleep on their own.

Parents who thought they would impose a strict schedule from day one soon found out that babies are immune to schedules and it worked better to work their schedules around the baby instead.

Personally, I would have loved to wear my baby in a sling, carrying him close to me while i walked or did housework, but my son HATED it! he would rather be set down while i did dishes nearby.

Parenthood is a job that requires constant flexibility, in fact that's one of the reasons I like it so much! :) Every day is a new day, what works for one child may not work for another, and something that worked one day might not work tomorrow. The best parents are adaptable, willing to try different strategies if their preferred strategy isn't working.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

PTTC Part 14: Their Mysterious Origin

"Did your children really begin
with the union of your bodies?
Or is their origin more mysterious?

means no time,
no beginning,
no end.
Do your children,
who visit you in time,
really reside in eternity?

If you try to grasp them,
they slip away.
They are more than what you see and hear and feel.
They belong somewhere else
and only visit here.
So why do you worry?"

This is a very poetic verse to me. Personally, I believe that there is no beginning or end to life, that it is a continuum of lives, all lived differently. For now, my son has been given to me to care for, but I always have to remember that he doesn't exist in this time and place alone, he is an eternal being just passing through. If you are a Christian, you probably believe that "we are not of this world." I believe that we are, definitely, part of this world, but that we are also part of something larger, something that we are constantly trying to understand through our interactions here.

Children will not appreciate your trying to hold them here, static, in this moment in time. Children are even more fluid than adults, and their life is one constant transition. Parents need to be even more flexible because their children need your relationship with them to change over time. They can't be treated like an adult when they are just a child, they can't be treated like a child when they are just a baby, they can't be treated like a baby when they are a child, and they can't be treated like a child when they are an adult. A parent who tries to stop time is doing their child a disservice, because they refuse to acknowledge that time, and their child, need fluidity to thrive.