Thursday, July 26, 2012

Walk Beside Me

It's really quite simple this mothering gig. Why do we complicate it so?

Things have been, shall we say, a little dicey around here lately. I have had many an, "Am I doing ANYTHING right as a mom?" moment. Much pondering has been devoted to this burning question.

As I was walking through the kitchen yesterday, Malachi and I happened to be on the same path and we spent several steps in sync. About two steps in, he looked up at me and we locked eyes. He got the biggest grin on his face and giggled with glee. He spent the next little while staying in step with me and giving me that same smile. At one point I reached down to take his hand. He didn't want it. He told me no and gave me an even bigger smile. I recognized something that I have never really "gotten" before. Our children just want to know we are there, with them. They want to know we are in step with them on their journey. They don't need us to hold their hand as though they don't know where they are going. They want to explore their path with us by their side.

This beautiful moment was made possible through eye contact alone. Had I not looked down and caught his gaze, it would have been just another walk through the kitchen. I saw him and he saw me seeing him. What a marvelous thing to be seen and acknowledged in wholesome and pure ways. I realized something in that moment, I spend much more time in pursuit of trying to "give" my children the necessary ingredients for success, than I do in seeing them and understanding what success means to them.

The trap of needing to mold and shape children into what we think they should be is so dangerous. Most times we don't even realize we are doing it. We mean well when we try to pattern their life after the neighbor kids, the cousins, the super successful child of the amazing family, their friend at school. We even mean well when we either make sure they have what we did growing up, or make sure they don't.

It's difficult these days to actually let our children build their own identity. They are born with it. It's not difficult for them, but we train it out of them pretty quickly if we aren't careful. We tell them, in many ways, what they like and don't like, what they are interested in and not. We "see" the genius and make sure they are the next prodigy. We schedule their time and lives so they will be busy and have many accomplishments. Children don't need us to live their lives for them. It is possible to teach and train them in the best things without labeling them and putting them in such tight tiny boxes. What about the accomplishment of knowing who they are and being secure and comfortable in that alone?

Even more importantly, we surround them with images through television, movies, video games, and even social and cultural pressures at school and church and other organized places. We hold celebrities and sports stars up and say be this, do this, look how cool, they are. We don't say it in words so much as we say it in example and actions. These images crowd out their own image of individuality and identity. They are stuck in a sea of trying to be someone else because that's what is in front of them. I am not saying we stay home and seclude ourselves. I am saying that unless we are aware of the images being inputted and how seriously tipped the scale is in comparison to the true identity of self, unless we recognize it, we can't do a thing about it.

Perhaps what I am saying is, when did mom and dad stop being the heroes? When did a simple life full of hard work and enjoyment get shoved into a corner? When did the pursuit of fame and fortune, prestige and titles, become more important than taking care of your family and loving every minute of it? Take even a small peek into any type of media and you'll see, if you want to.

There are now so many studies concerning media and the mind. The mind is a powerful thing. It can tell us to act and compel us to do things without the sound reasoning of the heart. A balance of mind and spirit is necessary for healthy growth. The mind is being altered, at astounding rates and in ways that are not healthy for our individual identities.

Most sad to me is that we are starting with babies. Babies! Do they even have a chance? I see a clear difference in my children that started watching "screens" at an earlier age than the older ones. A clear difference. I love all my children and it saddens me that I have let things go so far before recognizing the damage. It was just circumstance I told myself. Naturally, the younger ones will be exposed earlier to screens, sugar, junk food, "entertainment" vs creativity, and so on. Naturally, I can't help it. Oh yes I can. Oh yes I will. It's never too late.

I don't want to raise my children in that kind of "naturally". I don't care a bit if they can't have a conversation about the latest movie or video game. I don't care if they are the only ones in the neighborhood outside making mudpies. I care that they are able to be individuals with solid identities that aren't tossed about in the sea of addictions looming incessantly at their fingertips. Addictions are only possible when a lack of self realization and identity is present. I want to raise my children naturally in the purest and truest sense of the word. Since when did electronics and processed junk become "natural". I'll tell you when, when mothers began seeking time outside the home and wanting to "achieve" greatness by worldly standards. I say, "How great would it be if every single one of my children believed they were already exactly who they need to be." That would be truly great!

Children just want to be themselves and figure it all out. From the time they are born we tell them "hurry up". We put them in ridiculous outfits that say "look how stylish I am", inside they are screaming, "boy I wish I could move around freely". We push things on them so we can prove to others how smart they are, how accomplished and "ahead" they are. We have charts that compare their growth and tell them where they are on the scale and if they are better or worse than their bestie Billy Bob. It never stops.

They don't need us to tell them who they are, they already know. Really, all they want is for us to walk beside them, each step of their way. We are the ones that need to open our eyes and see them. We need to be wiling to be mothers rather than accomplishment spouters. We need to find our identity and stop trying to get one through our children's lives. Since when did being a mother mean sitting around doing nothing but catering to demanding children all day, running around to this and that activity so you could prove you were doing something. Our children will learn how to live because they see us doing it, not because we busy ourselves with trying to get them an identity suitable for society.

I need to see my children more and live my life more fully. That is the solution to the dicey around here of late. Simple, and very fulfilling. Oh yeah, and I need to be willing to keep usurpers of the mind out. How can one live and see, if bombarded, even in small doses, by messages so clearly designed to encourage confusion and self doubt.

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