Help me understand. You and I need to earn a license to drive our cars, right? We need a license to marry. You need a license to operate a restaurant, run a daycare facility, or provide healthcare and other professional services, yes? Then, I ask you, why is it that the most important role in our world requires no licensing at all, that of caring for our children? In a week where we see hellacious events, a "winner" in the heart-wrenching department, involves just such a need.
Here, in our midst, a seven-year-old little boy was "sent packing" back to the Russian orphanage from whence he came, a note attached to his clothing. While the full story is not yet in, it is compelling enough to take note. Apparently, his single mother, a nurse, struggled for some months with her adopted child, gave up, "cried uncle," and marked him "return to sender." Apparently, what she believed parenting would be, met with disappointment.
Now, what parent out there doesn't know disappointment? What partner, or pet owner, for that matter, hasn't been discouraged at times? Some days are harder than others, this is true. That said, with this latest story, "methinks" we need to revisit our care and feeding of children. Regardless whether you are a parent or not, let us remember that the children of this world are "ours." They are the seedbed of the future. The degree to which we tend them well, or fail, is a game-changer for human kind.
So, I ask you: isn't it odd that those who take on parenting roles have neither preparation nor evaluation required? Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying parenting is easy! Hardly. As a mother of biological, adopted, and stepchildren, I can attest to the fact that nothing tests us more than taking on the role of parent. As a bereaved mom, I can also say that what we do today, or fail to do as parents, is etched into our minds and hearts forever, and sometimes, it is too late for a do-over. As a "shrink," who's worked with many, many children and parents over the years with all sorts of relationships, including foreign adoptions, which can have many challenges, one thing is certain.
Our children are not returnable. Even if a child is "sent back," i.e. sent away, there is always, always a price-tag. Our children are not soda cans that can be tossed into recycling, nor are they lamps that can be returned if we don't like how they shine. Part of the problem, however, may be, in part, that we, in America, live in a "fast food" lane far too much of the time. We expect results in nanoseconds, and view what isn't working, as exchangeable.
In the interest, then, of "informed consent," perhaps we might consider a "Parenting Licensing Bureau." For openers, they could run a campaign which paints a more accurate parenting picture than many hold. It might include the following:
What Potential Parents need to Know:
1. Parenting is a lot like gardening. Some conditions support a better harvest than others! Get informed. When we lived in Boulder, Colorado, for instance, I decided to create a garden. Great idea, I thought. Envisioning magnificent roses, dahlias, sweet peas, and lilies, to name but a few, I went off to the nursery, bought the seeds, bulbs and paraphernalia, and began. Trouble is, the soil was clay. Now, I don't know if you've ever dug your shovel into clay, but, let me tell you, you won't get far. Undaunted, I returned to the nursery, got additional bags of what I thought was needed, mixed it into the clay, and voila! No change, whatsoever. What I needed, you see, was an education. Not unlike parenting. Far too many parents, adopted, and otherwise, think that you can just 'dive in' without information or help. Bad idea.
Antidote: Parents deserve to give themselves a break, and know that the first step is admitting "I know nothing." This opens the door to a more rewarding experience.
2. Parenting requires forgiveness. Just as gardening brings the unexpected, so does parenting. The gardener may discover unknown plants that have blown into the dirt, where they were not planted, maybe poison oak, or, a Lily of the Valley. You don't know what you're going to get.
Antidote: Work with what comes. Remember Tip #3:
3. Parenting is not personal. You get what you get. Whatever comes will be a teaching. "Of what," you say? Love, my friend, love. There's simply not a single solitary thing that can teach us about the heart like parenting. Whether you 'parent' a child or a puppy, there are simply times when what happens is not what you might feel prepared to handle just now.
4. Parenting brings its own dry patches, but must always be focused on love, not power. If you are in a power struggle with your child, consider that this is a growing time for each of you.
Antidote: Step back, take a break, and remember love is a process, not an endpoint, "water" what's grown dry in your own heart, as Rumi put
"Let yourself be silently drawn by what your heart loves..."
Oprah's got her new campaign that asks for "no cell while driving" signatures. What if we gathered signatures for something just as vital: a parenting permit!
Taking the Parenting Permit Pledge (regardless how long you've been at it'):
1. Are you prepared to feel ignorant some of the time?
2. Are you willing to accept that, on "bad hair days," you might want to "throw in the towel?"
3. Are you willing to get help, as needed, knowing your challenge is not about personal failure, be you a newborn mom or an aging mom?
4. Are you willing to open your heart to more joy, even if this joy is preceded by growing pains for you and your child?
5. Are you willing to open your mind, and let this child teach you?
6. Are you willing to discover who this child is, support their blooming, letting go of who you'd prefer them to be to meet your standards?
7. Are you willing to cultivate a bigger sense of humor? (You'll need it!)
8. Are you prepared to give up taking things personally, even if it's inconvenient?
9. Do you accept that this child is not YOUR child, but a person on loan, from a mysterious Source called Love, who you are to raise, cherish,
and support their transition into a world needing their gifts?
10. Are you willing to "light up," when your child comes into the room, letting them know, in good times and bad, that you are behind them 100 percent, even if you don't always understand, or don't know how to best express this love?
What requirements do you believe should be in the Parent's Licensing Exam to Love? I'm listening and learning from you!
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Coming Soon! Life Long Learning Materials: "Coming Home to Yourself," "The Next Step," and others.
Special announcement: Portland, Oregon: April 16th, 7:30pm a presentation by Sonu Shamdasani, Ph.D., editor and lead translator of Carl Jung's famous Red Book, with intro by Daniel Baumann, President of the Zurich C.G. Jung Institute and great-grandson of C.G. Jung. (contact: www.brownpapertickets.com/ or 800-838-3006)