This morning in my gratitude practice, I shared that I am grateful for Birch and how he is a teacher to me. Babies and toddlers are like little Zen Masters. It is all so simple and they live completely “in the moment”. In each magical moment.
Eventually they find a stage in development, where they act based on their memories of past experiences. Birch, for example, decided during one of his first times on a swing, jumped off mid-swing because he was “all done”. That did not work out well for him. He landed flat on his back and he was very upset. When he went back to the same swing set, he had to choose whether or not he wanted to get back on. He looked timid. I spoke, “You can get back on, but maybe don’t jump off while it’s moving this time?” He got back on and had a blast. This aspect of young ones is one of the most inspiring. They remember past pains, but do not let the past wounds rule their future choices, though they do consider the past in their choices.
I was parented with a lot of fear. “Do not climb that tree, you will break your arm.” “Do not pee outside, your private parts will get stung by a bee.” “Don’t pick up that feather from the ground, you will get a disease.” The theme and message here is that nature is to be feared. This message disconnects us from our source, and we spend the rest of our lives trying to reconnect, through a variety of methods, some healthy, some pathological, some conscious, most subconscious. Our sexual expressions and connections are one of the most poignant places we engage to bring healing, balance and reconnection to source, again, some healthy and conscious, and others not so much. Bringing this back to the Baby Zen Masters, instilling a fear of nature, in addition to disconnecting us from source, also disconnects us from our own intuition, our ability to listen deeply to ourselves and others. It ultimately squashes the innocence from which the deep wisdom and insight of children arises.
In the realm of The Continuum Concept, a powerful novel by Jean Liedloff that was formative of my own parenting experience of my son, Liedloff says that instilling fears, also instills expectations. If we instill a fear of our child falling out of a tree and breaking an arm, we are actually setting an expectation for that very thing to happen. It is subconscious, but our children’s highest desire is to meet our expectations, whether positive or negative. The message here is to set positive expectations and to trust in our children’s abilities. Also to acknowledge that any place that we do not trust another, is really a mirror for where we do not trust ourselves. The invitation here is to look within and compassionately observe the places where we desire more trust and grace within.
Our Zen Master children’s greatest desire and motivation is to learn about the world through experience and through witnessing the grownups around them. They see us wash dishes, and they want to participate. So instead of responding by saying, “Do not climb on that chair, you will fall off and break your arm. Besides, you are not old enough to wash dishes,” invite them to find a safe way to climb on up and find them a task they can participate in, even if you have to wash the same dish again and the process takes longer than it would if you did it yourself. This small action cultivates a child’s feeling of autonomy and self confidence. The value of this is immeasurable, and certainly worth far more than the few extra minutes it cost you in the moment.