Parenting as Sacred Work
Sep 01, 2014 04:04AM
By Judith Barr
Parenting is sacred work, calling us to hold in our hearts and hands the precious life, well-being, nourishment and development of a tiny baby. It calls us to really see who that baby is, to attune to our baby, and take seriously all the signals baby sends us. It calls us to do whatever is necessary to become the best parent possible, giving our child what s/he needs in the journey to self at each age.
What if we dona’t think of parenting as sacred work? What if we think of our child as our possession and are driven by agendas we don’t even realize? What if we don’t know how to parent as sacred work or think we know but really don’t?
Parenting is a tall order and isn’t just a job. It’s sacred work. How do we discover this sacred work when there are no “parenting schools”? How do we learn when there are only parenting fads, like PET and RIE, and parenting gurus, like Dr. John B. Watson and Dr. Phil? Trends or crazes supposedly teach us how, but each is teaching what’s normalized in society at that time or what somebody wants to sell to a hungry population – parents. The charismatic gurus who influence parents may produce behavioral goals, but often in harmful ways, leaving a painful, perhaps hidden, aftermath for the child. No technique or fad can truly help us be good parents or parent the way children need. No guru is going to teach us how to be parents from the inside out – the way our souls are truly calling us to parent.
We learn the deepest truth about being wonderful parents for our children from doing our own inner healing work – healing our childhood wounds. Beneath our awareness, our unhealed wounds interfere with our natural healthy instincts for parenting and our attuning to our unique child. Think about it. Feel into it. A child may not being doing something wrong or being difficult but the mother may be triggered by her child, as we all are at times. His actions or words may evoke an experience, memory or feelings from the mother’s past, even without her realizing it. She needs to find a way to tease her childhood experience away from the current experience in order to give him what he needs. At the very least, she’ll need to identify what’s happening – that past and present are colliding.
Let’s say Sam asks his three-year-old daughter, Julie, to get a drink of water, go to the bathroom, and climb into bed. Julie screams, “No, no, no!” Sam finds himself triggered, wanting to scream “Stop it!” at Julie. But what’s being triggered is Sam’s own childhood experience of asking his mother for a drink of water before bed, and her screaming, “No! No! No!” until Sam wanted to scream at her, “Stop it!”.
Sam is not even seeing or hearing his daughter. He’s back in his own childhood with his mother. So this isn’t the time to start screaming at Julie. It’s a time to breathe, count to ten, put his hand on his heart, realize he’s triggered, and commit to find out later how to dissolve that trigger.
What’s most important is that Sam doesn’t act on the trigger with Julie now. He needs to find some way to make sure Julie’s safe, to make sure he’s truly kind and loving with her as he puts her to bed. Then he can do his own thinking and feeling work with the emotions that were triggered. He can discern if he needs a therapist’s help to work on ways he’s triggered by his child or children or to work with directly on his experiences in childhood that are impacting his children and calling to be healed.
This is fulfilling the sacred task of parenting.
Sometimes we as parents can identify the trigger and what our child did that we were evoked by. Sometimes we can identify the trigger opened in us particular experiences from our childhood. Often we need a good therapist to help us dissolve the trigger and heal it to the root. Even if we are trained therapists ourselves, we all have blind spots we need help with.
There’s no failure in needing that help, in revealing we need help or what’s been triggered. Both parent and child need and deserve that help. Both parent and child are worth it. Both parent and child are sacred. Parenting is sacred work.
In private practice as a depth psychotherapist in Brookfield, Judith Barr has been working with individuals, couples, groups and healing professionals for over 30 years. Her next workshop for parents will be October 11 in Brookfield. For more information or to register, call 203-775-5006 or email [email protected]. See ad, page 14.