I want my children to experience this adventure of life as a first-hand, awakened adventure rather than a habitual, hand-me-down version. Therefore, I am becoming increasingly aware of my own imprints and generational shadows. Diving back to the past has helped me to grow on and up and untie me from unhealthy patterns and emotional knots.
I am what I choose to become.
I dive back so that my children don’t get stuck in patterns that will not serve them. This means that I have to ask myself questions such as: from my own childhood, what do I choose to leave behind? What gems from my past would I like to embrace? What might I bring along with me but choose to transform or breathe new life into?
This week, my husband, Kevin and I were exploring what values we notice in one another that we might have picked up from our parents and grandparents. My grandmothers taught me about kindness towards others – without exception or expectation – I carry this forward with deep gratitude for practicing kindness from such a young age that it became a way of life.
I remember the beautiful contrast between the softness in my mum’s mothering alongside her fierce protectiveness. I find myself stepping into both of these: softness in my interactions with Noah and River and fierce protection, standing up for my children and being their voice.
Kevin highlighted that my constant (and often irritating) cheerful singing as well as my deep appreciation for the simple things in life, is something that I picked up from my dad. I love that I have been able to carry with me this sense of embodied joy, knowing that joy is a way of life, experienced through our daily thoughts, feelings and actions.
Being able to dive back to the past has allowed me to resurface in the present with more capacity to love and appreciate, as well as remaining curious as to who my children are and how they want to co-create the future with Kevin and I.
When I dive back to the past, I bring forward the gems of my own childhood that I want to carry into life with my own precious children. I used to have nightmares when I was younger and I remember my dad used to comfort me by inviting me to think of my Granny. When I did, my heart filled with love and warmth.
Now, as I begin to experience from a parental perspective how hard it is to see your own child suffer, especially with Noah experiencing night terrors recently, then I am able to recognise and appreciate this gem that my dad offered to me and I know, in my own being how tender it feels to be invited out of terror and into love.
Our actions are telling of our current context. As part of my own parenting practice, I now take time to pause and reflect, noticing how I show up on a daily basis as a mother.
The photo above shows one night where I was having to dig really deep. Noah was having really big feels and Kevin had dropped us off home but had to go back to work. Suddenly Noah was overcome with emotions, he was wanting his Daddy and not wanting dinner. He was overtired, hungry and in an emotional storm. After having tried to run away (to get Daddy from work) I had locked the door and he was now throwing toilet roll (a very soft throwing object thankfully) at me and becoming hysterical.
In the gap from impulse to reaction, I decided to breathe, when I did I began to see more clearly; I chose an expanded context and practiced once again lifting out of a habitual context, recognising his stage appropriate behaviour.
I was tired, exhausted in fact and I really just wanted a peaceful dinner together (which is often the way) however I could see that I was going to need to devise a new plan, co-created with Noah.
I focussed on the overarching sky, the bigger, larger frame. The wind was strong. We took dinner outside, with a kite to play with. I suggested that we go barefeet in the grass outside and Noah thought this was entertaining with how cold it was. I grounded myself. I centered myself. I was then more able to respond with love.
When we are able to put this expanded context into practice, we are able to make more conscious choices about how we live our lives and how we give energy to the things that really matter – love, kindness and compassion.
In this moment, I chose to notice, pause, look deeper, reprioritise and make new choices from an expanded context, from a place of love. In doing so, my child and I remained connected, supported and the possibility of magic unfolding was available yet again.
I actively look for the everyday magic and seek to find this magic in the seemingly mundane; to find these sacred opportunities to be fully alive even when exhaustion is clouding my mind and body. When I am able to dig deep, to center myself and find the resources to expand beyond my immediate self and move from reaction to response, from mind to heart, I hear the question ‘what would love do?’
Approaching parenting as a spiritual practice pushes through the limitations to understanding and embodying that there is no end to growth. Right now I am responsible for journeying alongside, guiding and accompanying two beautiful children at very different stages of their development.
Noah is currently developing his ego and trying out what feels right for him. He is sculpting and defining his self, busy becoming somebody and trying to understand who that somebody is. I often notice him at my mirror, trying out who he might like to be in that moment, what new words or facial expressions he might choose to adopt. This ego-development comes with challenges too.
How is it that we support children to know that they are seen, heard, related to and loved, especially when we are watching in on them searching for this in relationship with others?
For example, this week I watched Noah in our local castle where he enjoys going to play on a Sunday. He was with one of his friends who is several years older than him and at school. This friend had some school buddies who arrived and suddenly the pace of the engagement changed; they were running fast, talking fast and I could see Noah was trying to find his place but he simply couldn’t keep up.
I watched as he became quiet, retreat into himself and eventually find a new physical space to be in before asking for us to leave completely. My heart was breaking for him. I had watched him put his hands on his friend’s shoulders, trying desperately to make eye-contact with him, watching to feel that friendship and playfulness he had just been experiencing minutes beforehand, before something more exciting arrived.
There was no malice or even conscious disengagement from his friend, but as his mother, I was so aware of Noah’s struggle in that moment and of my own feelings, we were experiencing feelings that were new for him and for us both together. The uncertainty of how to support him in that moment was daunting.
“Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!” Dr Seuss
What I know is that I can hold space for Noah’s true nature by dropping into my own authentic self. I could be there for him by listening to what he needed in that moment and later, to help him make more sense of what he was feeling. Usually this opportunity for soul-to-soul connection happens during quiet playtime together or in bed at night, where we have these reflective conversations, integrating experiences and lessons and reminding him that the only job he has is to be himself, and for me to reiterate just how magic he is, how I see, hear, relate to and love him.
Parenting as a spiritual practice is an ongoing commitment to walk the talk.
At 9 weeks old, River is currently locked in the present moment. He has a soul and a spirit as much as a mind and body. Right now I am delighting in connecting with his soul; witnessing and connecting to the presence and receptivity that he arrives with. I feel more mindful in my delighting of parenthood with a newborn baby this time round. I feel more silent and centered within myself and I am able to recognise River’s authentic presence (and also my own) when we are simply resting in love, simply being.
I can see how people delight in being around him; how he offers the world this unmediated core self, which invites us to connect with this within ourselves. When we can see and be present with the soul of another, it feels more possible to see and be present with our own.
If I am able to keep growing up and showing up for my children, if I am willing to stand on the edge of the unknown and surrender to this eternal growth, to this eternal journeying, to keep asking ‘what if?’ and ‘why not?’ then I invite my children alongside me to do the same.
In lifting this bar of parenting and aspiring to be more conscious, I feel more committed to bringing this consciousness to every other relationship in my life. I am evolving in my appreciation and care of others as a whole, beyond my own family. I keep taking steps up that mountain path, where the path of parenting and the path of spirituality weave beautifully together into the path of awakening. I have many more steps to take but I know that the magic lies in the journey, the discovery, the unfolding.
I got asked last week how have I noticed myself showing up differently in other relationships, outside of my children and husband, since beginning parenting as a spiritual practice. This was a beautiful inquiry and a question that I wanted to sit with throughout this week. I feel grateful that I did as my experience answered the question.
Last week I experienced a rupture in my relationship with a very close friend. In a moment where it would have been easy to be reactive, I noticed that I stayed grounded. I paused, took a deeper breath and kept my heart open. I was mindful of my own emotions and present to hers; I was accepting, understanding and holding space with the question ‘what would love do?’ in my heart.
I honoured that she needed some space and some time and I invited her to reconnect in a face-to-face dialogue when she felt ready, in order to explore and integrate our experience together, through love. I suggested to my friend that we might have this difficult conversation outside, with our barefeet in the sand, allowing the earth to hold us and expanding our context beyond ourselves.
In her reflection of what unfolded she thanked me for my mindfulness and for teaching her. We mindfully ate a delicious chocolate together – a peace offering from me – as I invited her to taste into the sweetness of life, the sweetness of our friendship.
Now without this unfolding, I wouldn’t have taken the time to appreciate what stage I have reached in my relationships outside my personal context. I now feel clearer about where I am up that mountain path, what level of awareness, skill and capacity I have to hold space, speak my truth, focus on love, and even when things get difficult to keep expanding beyond myself and inviting love to guide me.
Despite being conscious of how far I have yet to go, I feel proud of noticing and knowing how much I’ve grown over these last four years. Of course I have though, because I have tasted the possibility of lifting this glass ceiling.
It feels like an exciting challenge, asking myself, just how present could I become? Just how patient could I be? Just how much love could I embody?