Trusting Our Children, Trusting Life

I was out in the garden today. As those of you in California know, we've had a drought, and things haven't been looking so swell. I haven't had time to put the energy in, but I've been worrying about the garden nonetheless. It's looks a bit crap, frankly. I've been thinking I should be mulching, fertilizing and pruning. But, as I say, I was out watering early this morning (we have to water before 10 am), and I noticed that even without my attentions, many of the plants seem to be thriving--looking healthy, looking good! Some had new flowers, or were standing quite tall, exuding their handsome greenness, or shiny new leaves and graceful symmetry. They were doing it all on their own.

" ... I remembered that Life thrives with or without our attention, and there is room to relax. Room to allow. Room to trust Life."

And I remembered that Life thrives with or without our attention, and there is room to relax. Room to allow. Room to trust Life.

When our children begin to seem "out of sorts," or issues arise around school, friends, or siblings, I know as a mother and parent that our first impulse is often to fix the problem--or at the very least worry about it! And of course, I have done. I have interjected, lectured, become fearful (and thus, angry) sent kids to their rooms, outlined a homework schedule, planned to speak to principals and teachers, researched private schools, looked up counselors.

And while there is nothing wrong with actually doing any of these things, we can dive so deep into the "parenting" role, that we forget that it is not our job to fix everything for our children, or our lives in general. We have another option: We can step back, and allow wisdom to emerge from the child, or wisdom to emerge from the husband, or wisdom to emerge from somewhere … We don't know where!

In my nearly two decades of working with families, I have seen that when parents overly worry or try to control their children and their children's problems and lives, children often become stressed and worried and depressed themselves. Now, their job is to be "good," and feel good and do well in order to make sure their parents are not worried and stressed out! An unhappy situation for all.

" ... when parents overly worry or try to control their children and their children's problems and lives, children become stressed and worry themselves."

I am not saying it is not okay to seek professional help, or to help our children in our own ways (and certainly some parents neglect their children's problems when they should be paying attention). It is just that so many times, when I have worried about one of my children's issues, I have noticed--very quickly--that as I ramp up about it, the child ramps up (becoming more anxious, digging their heels in, and so forth).

One of my daughters was very afraid of dogs, and this was getting in our way of going to the beach and going to public parks. It was creating conflict with dog owners. I noticed she was influencing her sister, and they were both becoming afraid of animals in general. The problem was obvious whenever we were outside, and my friends kept asking: What are you going to do? They recommended courses of action: perhaps a counselor? A special program?

But I wondered, short of having a dog as an actual counselor, how would it help to just talk to a human being about dogs? Nothing really felt right to me, and so I put my hands in the air, and let it all go. You could say that I prayed. Whatever our religions (or lack thereof) I believe all of us to be spiritually "connected" whether we realize that connection or not. Very simply, I believe that there is a deeper intelligence in life that flows through all of life and is in each of us as well.

"When I'm trying to control life, I'm trying to use a very small mind to control something so vast and unfathomable that one cannot even contain it in thought!"

When I'm trying to control life, I'm trying to use a very small mind to control something so vast and unfathomable that one cannot even contain it in thought!

Eventually, through happenstance, I enrolled my daughter in horseback riding lessons, and although she did learn to ride horses a bit, the riding lessons quickly became about overcoming her fear of dogs. There were dogs at the ranch where the horses were, and one day she told me: "Mommy! I sat down on a bench and a dog came up to me and for some reason I was just calm, and I wasn't afraid!"

Being around the big horses, too, I think, helped her to lessen her fear of animals in general and then finally on one of her last lesson days, a tiny brown puppy showed up at the ranch looking for a home.

"There is wisdom in life that is 'spiritual'--which simply means it is beyond form, it is not contained already in our personal thought systems, in what we already know."

She would become our dog, "Coco," of course, and we struggled with the decision to take her home--with so much fear around dogs in both girls now. But when she got home, Coco became our dog therapist and promptly started working on the girls'  issues, and with great success. She's with us still, and both girls are now doing fine with almost all dogs (big dogs still scare them sometimes.)

Coco

People ask me what spirituality has to do with parenting, and this is what I say: There is wisdom in life that is "spiritual"--which simply means it is beyond form, it is not contained in our personal thought systems, in what we already know--but it is always a benediction and blessing, an Answer. If we can relax more, step aside, and enroll wisdom in our family lives, we notice that its fruits are love, peace, health, connection and harmony.

Ami leads a monthly drop-in class called "Everyday Satsang" for parents, gaurdians and everyone else, through Santa Cruz Yoga at 1010 Fair Ave. Ste. E on Sundays, 2-4 pm. Coming dates are Oct. 25, Nov. 15 and Dec. 13.

This is first of a series of monthly blogs by Ami Chen on parenting, written especially for Santa Cruz Parent. Ami is a professional coach and consultant, as well as global speaker, trainer and author. She is author of The Spark Inside: A Special Book for Youth, and State of Mind in Classroom. She has worked with families and schools for more than 17 years.