While all the classic tales end in ‘happily ever after’ there is no mention of what anyone did when the children came along. Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty…how did they give their children a better start than they had? Did their sons and daughters have to clean windows and mop the kitchen floors? Or, did servants and all the material riches of the world replace the deeper values of truth, peace and love?
All the fairy tale princesses are portrayed as loving women. All the princes seem noble as well. Loving people with strong values generally make loving parents. So, loving parents should produce kind, loving, compassionate children. Right?
A father of twin boys commented that he wanted to raise his “kids to be tough.” He said, “If they fall, I want them to get right back up. I want them to respect other people, but stand up for themselves. I want them to dream big and work hard.” In other words, he wants his children to become resilient, respectful, self-assured, and creative young men with a strong work ethic.
It seems that most loving parents want the same things for their children. We want them to have better opportunities and healthier options than we did; to build strong relationships without losing themselves in the process; to have a healthy sense of self-worth, express all their gifts and actualize their fullest potential; to experience inner fulfillment, independent of whatever “highs” or “lows” life might bring their way. How do we create an outline for all this? No matter what we say or do, is there any guarantee of how they will turn out?
Raising our children is much like gardening, art and a spiritual journey all wrapped into one. We might tenderly prepare the soil and plant the seeds as indicated for optimal growth. We may provide all that is essential in order for them to flourish. But when we have done all we can to promote strong roots and sturdy shoots, we still have to wait in faith to see the fruits of our love. As with any form of art, at times the finished product may not be exactly as we initially envisioned.
How do we raise bright, loving, compassionate, thoughtful, creative and engaged children? How do we give them everything they need without creating a sense of entitlement? How do we teach them to nourish their bodies, minds and their souls? How do we equip them to thrive in a changing world with much uncertainty? How do we motivate them without living our lives through them? These are not questions that we can just answer in our minds. We have to find the truth within our hearts.
We have to recognize that there is no simple equation, system, or set of rules for raising an open-hearted child. We will have to let go of the “should haves” and what we are “supposed” to do. We cannot simply have a talk when things have gone drastically wrong. There are no “once and done” lectures to be given, but rather a line of communication that remains open with plenty of opportunities to share thoughts and feelings each day. There is no perfectly, prescribed program to follow; we have to each determine our own unique way.
Children learn through our example, our actions, our words and our beliefs. It is through our gaze that they come to see themselves. Through our embrace, they find comfort and know how much they are loved and valued. Through our thoughtful words, they become equipped to be creative thinkers and know what is essential in them. Through our mindfulness, they become aware of the presence of goodness in others and develop a respect for all forms of life. When we are living the truth of all that we are, we invite our children to live connected to the heart of who they are.