What would it mean to raise a child soulfully? I am reminded of my daughter, when she was young. She had a little toy baby carriage and a cat. One of her favorite pastimes was to dress the cat in a doll’s dress complete with matching bonnet, place the cat in the carriage, and push it around the house. Only one of the cats was patient enough to put up with this charade. It was the one who was most bonded to my daughter, and most wanted her attention. She was a pleaser-cat, I suppose.
Each child enters our world as pure potential. After watching my children grow, and re-reading my anecdotal records of their early years, I am convinced that they are born with some distinctive personality characteristics that are unique and enduring. No doubt, they are also born with inherent “soul characteristics” which are much more subtle. Soulful parenting would be that which fostered the blossoming of that pure potential, the expression of personality, and the provision of an emotional environment that supported the emergence of the individual’s soul qualities. Too often, however, children are treated like my daughter’s cat; dressed up as their parents want them to “look”, so they fulfill the parent’s needs, as opposed to being who they really are. They assume the identity that is imposed upon them, for that brings approval, acceptance and sometimes even love.
Cats are notoriously self-centered, persistent, uncooperative and stubborn. They will not conform to another’s agenda for long. It does not really affect their self-esteem if we do not approve of their behaviors. Nor do they care what other cats think of them. Humans are quite different. Especially human children. Children do not have the independence or the ability to meet all of their own physical and emotional needs. They need us. Consequently, to an extent, when they are young, their safety and survival depends on being in the reasonably good graces of their caregivers. Selling the soul begins at a very early age, unless the child’s guardians have a reverence for the uniqueness that wants to emerge.
Soulful parenting means standing back often, allowing the child his or her own space to explore not only his world, but also his own being. It also requires, from very early on, a willingness to believe the child knows some things we do not, even if she is not yet able to verbalize it. Not all information carried within our cells or psyches is communicable via language. Language may be the most narrow of all vehicles of communication. There is a time when children have enough language to communicate something of their soul’s knowing, while young enough to still ‘remember’.
For my daughter, it was around age five. When asked big questions relating to why we were here on this planet, or where we were before we were born, she answered clearly and with confidence. Her answers were astounding. These were questions for which there are no ‘right’ answers, and she knew we were genuinely interested in her thoughts. They were questions she had never been asked before, nor heard discussed. I believe she was speaking from her soul. She knew she had wisdom. Sadly, that knowing took a back seat when she began school, where every question had a right answer. She was surrounded by people who talked about what they “knew” rather than what they thought or intuited. Her soul knowing did not disappear, but it went underground. There is often a re-emergence of soulfulness during adolescence, expressed in art, music, dance or poetry. Since often adults do not seem to understand what this is, or even reject it, it soon goes underground once again. Upon entering institutions of higher learning and/or the workplace young people sense that soulful expression is something you do at home, or with select friends, but not in public. Consequently it is viewed as a less valid aspect of our being – a luxury of sorts.
Soulful parenting involves encouraging children of all ages to share their perceptions. When we ask them to tell us how they see things, or what they think, and we honor those expressions without correction or debate, they learn to value their own perceptions. Honoring their own perceptions is the first step towards finding their own truth. Living their truth brings them into alignment with their souls. Unfortunately too many people are living someone else’s truth: parent’s, society’s, the corporation’s, the peer group’s or the partner’s. This results in a sense of alienation, perhaps even anxiety, depression, despair, or illness.
It is a hard thing to realize, as Gibran says, that “your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.” Our task is to support them in being who they want to be, not who we want them to be. It is an honor to be blessed with the opportunity to be a guardian to a new being. Our job is to nurture the body, challenge the mind, and open the heart, so that the soul may emerge in its own unique expression. The depth of that soul’s expression may not be for us to see: having done our part well, we must release it to it’s own journey. In Gibran’s words, we “may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow.” However, if we are loving them from that place that is our own soul, and we honor that place in them that is soul, we may certainly touch their souls. These soul connections are timeless, eternal, and mostly, wordless.
We must allow our children to be who they are, and the freedom to choose their own path. When we do this, sometimes it seems as though we might lose them. However, in those moments of soul connection, we realize that we have always been together, and will always be together. There is nothing to lose.
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