Conscious Parenting is a phrase I am happy to say we hear more and more often these days. For me Conscious Parenting is ‘being aware’ of how I parent. Being mindful of my words, actions, reactions and the level of interaction I have with my children as often as I can throughout the day. It is similar in many ways I suppose to Holistic Parenting, which I believe also encompasses considering the long term impact of the decisions I make for my children and the long term physical and emotional impact these choices will have on their health.
Define them as you wish but both Conscious and Holistic parenting call me to action. They call me back to the present moment throughout my day. Some days if I’m distracted or tired I will react to my children in a “trance-like” state with self limiting habits such as “this is how I would normally react or respond in this situation” and unconsciously I reinvent a poor parenting habit, only to then later regret that choice. More often though, I find that there are many moments in my day when I feel extremely proud of how I consciously parent and these patterns or habits tend to balance out the odd irrational, impatient or hasty responses that may emerge.
Simon and I were shopping with the boys over the holidays and we were able to witness and share an experience with the boys of conscious (or ‘not so conscious’) parenting. An experience that they witnessed and independent to our thoughts, wanted to discuss.
Two of our boys were having a turn on a “jumping castle” and I remember hearing a small child call out occasionally from a distance for his mother. As the boys finished and we put on socks and shoes, we noticed the little boy wandering around not far from us still calling out for his Mum every few minutes. At this point he must have been calling out for at least 10 minutes.
We walked towards him and I asked him if he needed some help finding his Mum. Trying to comfort him, the boys and I assured him that he needn’t worry, together we would find her. With a quivering lip he simply nodded, wide eyed searching for his mother and her friend.
We walked around a little, never far from where we had found the little fellow in case his distressed mother raced back to this initial spot. As the boys and I consoled him, I found myself imaging the heightened sense of anxiety his mother must surely now be experiencing. Most parents have at some point experienced the nauseous feeling of loosing a child temporarily and I desperately wanted this small child and his mother to find each other.
Another 10 minutes had passed and just as I was considered taking him to the central management office, two women stood some distance away beckoning to the boy. One yelled out his name and with an irritated glare motioned for him to come towards her, all the while talking on her mobile phone. The boy walked towards her and latched his arms around her legs.
Now I was confused and lost in deep sadness for the boy, who had been visibly frightened and scared, and feelings of irritation towards his mother as she was not as desperately anxious as I’d imagined she should have been. Yes, at times “I should” on myself and other people as well, however I caught myself judging her so I walked towards her smiling, telling myself she must be distracted (like we are all guilty of being at times) by something equally as important and not aware that her little man had been so distressed.
Sensing all was not well, I smiled again at the mother, perceiving she may secretly feel embarrassed. As a defense mechanism when parents are embarrassed sometimes they unintentionally place blame on the child and the last thing I wanted to do was aggravate the situation. She looked at me and then her son and said to him in a tone that I perceived as scolding, “What’s the matter with you?” (she then continued talking to someone on the phone). Ashamed, the small boy hung his head lower again.
With this, any feelings of empathy or understanding I had tried to muster for this woman were gone and I found myself explaining to her (while she continued half heartedly chatting to someone on her mobile phone) that her small child had been really frightened. She responded by saying, “I thought he’d just stay on the jumping castle.” Rather than lecturing or consoling her, I forced myself to focus on the boy and I knelt beside him and asked him if was now okay. He simply nodded. One of my boys (all of whom were standing beside me) put their arm on his shoulder and said. “You’ll be okay now buddy!” With that we looked at each other and moved away.
I looked back a moment later and they too had moved off. My fantasy was the mother would soon be off the phone and would kneel down with her boy and embrace him heart to heart until he felt safe to let go. Or perhaps she would get off the phone, sit on a bench, pull him onto her lap and look him in the eyes and say she was sorry she had lost him and that he had felt so frightened.
Maybe neither eventuated.
Later the boys and I were talking and Wilem said to me,” Mum I feel really sad for that boy, why was his Mum cross at him and not happy that she’d found him?”
“I’m not sure sweetheart, I feel really sad for him too.” After a few moments of silence I said ” It’s good for us though, to see how sometimes we forget to tune in to how other people are feeling isn’t it?, How we might not see when others are scared or hurting”
My prayer is that each day as parents we learn and grow.
This was another great reminder that we have no idea what is going on in someone else’s life, so who are we to hang onto judgements. Another fantasy I have is that we are all doing the best we can. Which brings me back to a frequent thought I have, that of all my privileges , my children are my greatest.
Love to you and yours,
Bach. Chiropractic, Bach. App Clinical Science
Registered internationally, no longer practicing as a chiropractor in Australia.